fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

GMO activist to speak in Medford

Independent filmmaker, author and activist Jeffrey M. Smith, whose work zeroes in on potential environmental and health risks associated with genetically modified crops and foods, is scheduled to speak in Medford Thursday evening.

Smith, who founded the Institute of Responsible Technology in 2003 to educate policy makers and citizens about genetically modified foods, will speak at 7:30 p.m. in the Central Medford High School auditorium, 815 S. Oakdale Ave.

The issue of genetically modified food continues to be debated around the world. Like Smith, some say the crops pose a risk to the environment, the organic food industry and people's health.

Others say crops can be genetically engineered to withstand insect pests and drought, produce higher yields to feed a growing population and develop other favorable characteristics.

Smith's first book, "Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating," was published in 2003, and his second, "Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods," was published in 2007.

Smith has also released multiple films surrounding the topic. The latest is a documentary called "Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives," based on his 2007 book.

Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door, or $8 in advance for students and $10 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at www.jclac.org. His appearance is being sponsored by the Ashland Food Co-op and Project Rogue Valley.

The bulk of Smith's work has been labeled as biased against the biotechnology industry and, specifically, herbicide and genetically engineered seed producer Monsanto Co. His claims against genetically modified organisms are refuted by the majority of the science community, which he refers to as "pro-GMO bias."

Smith argues that genetically modified crops often contain toxins that can harm people, animals and the soil. He said most studies that are pertinent to genetically engineered food and its health and environmental side effects are funded by the companies that make them.

"They have bad science down to a science," he said. "There are risks associated with GMOs. "… No one should think, simply because it's been used in millions of acres, it must be safe."

Smith said the current push by some residents in Jackson County to ban genetically engineered crops is a step in the right direction.

Through its Natural Resources Advisory Committee, Jackson County has been exploring the feasibility of adopting an ordinance that would ban the use of genetically modified seeds in the county.

The committee is expected to make a recommendation to county commissioners as early as January 2013.

The Ashland City Council voted unanimously last month to send a letter asking Jackson County commissioners to take whatever action they deem necessary to protect organic farming in the county from genetically modified crops.

A petition drive to put a ban on GMO crops to a vote of county residents is being pursued by GMO Free Jackson County.

The Jackson County Farm Bureau opposes banning GMOs, saying such crops are pest- and herbicide-resistant and can reduce the use of pesticides. Farm Bureau spokesman Ron Bjork has said many local farmers are eager to plant Roundup-tolerant alfalfa in their fields because it will produce better crop yields.

Some genetically engineered plants have been altered with natural insecticides that exist in other plants.

In August, the Phoenix Grange voted unanimously to support GMO-Free Jackson County's efforts to ban genetically modified crops here.

A recently published two-year-long study by French scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini showed that mice fed a diet of Monsanto's genetically modified maize that had been sprayed with Roundup, the company's brand of weed killer, were prone to die earlier than unexposed mice. The Monsanto maize-fed mice developed tumors and showed symptoms of other health problems, the study found.

Portion's of Seralini's study, which appeared in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, have been refuted by the science community. According to the news agency Reuters, the European Commission has asked the European Union's food safety authority, EFSA, to verify the results of Seralini's study.

"It is absolutely essential that a community examine the results of this study," Smith said. "If there had been responsible governance at the federal level, then we would not even have had GMOs introduced in the mid 1990s, because the experiments were not done then, and they are still not being done."

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.