Transcription: Jeffrey’s Take: USDA GMO Labeling Lawsuit
This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity
Jeffrey Smith (00:06):
Jeffrey Smith (00:08):
I’m with Alan Lewis. I’ve known Alan for a long time. Alan is an amazing advocate. I like to say an activist dressed in corporate clothing, but don’t tell his boss. Alan, you worked for Natural Grocers and you have done some amazing stuff for our food supply. Thank you.
Well, thanks. And it’s great to be here, Jeffrey. I appreciate the invitation and you know, right back at you with those compliments. I’m not sure how long you’ve been doing this, but as long as there have been GMOs, there’s Jeffrey Smith.
Yeah. That’s about it. When it landed, when it started growing in Iowa, I was starting to fight against it 24 years ago. And, we’ve been fighting against the madness of the government, which has aligned itself, joined at the hip with Monsanto, who’s been bought by Bayer, so Monsanto-Bayer. And, what happened in 2016 was Vermont had passed a labeling law that was going to go into effect.
Jeffrey Smith (01:21):
And, the biotech industry is so powerful on the executive branch, and also in the Congress, and even in the and the legal courts, they were able to create and pass a bill, which we call Denying Americans the Right to Know, The Dark Act, that made it impossible and illegal for States to require labeling of GMOs. So, the entire anti-GMO movement, it was like letting the air out of the tire. The Institute for Responsible Technology had over 10,000 activists working at 117 different Tipping Point Network groups; most were working on labeling and it just went shew. But they did something diabolical at the same time. They said, “Oh, the reason we’re going to do it is because we’re going to handle our own. We’re going to make our own GMO labeling law. And, we’re going to take it out of the hands of the FDA and give it to the USDA because we know the USDA, The Agriculture Department, is always run by a pro-GMO guy.”
Jeffrey Smith (02:28):
Villsack was the biotech governor of the year under our previous administration. And, Sonny Perdue was biotech governor of the year. He was also a biotech governor of the year before he was a secretary of agriculture. And, so that they can control the agenda. And, so they did come up with a fake labeling bill. And now you are part of a group, led by Center for Food Safety, suing the USDA over this sham of a bill; this sorrowful, ridiculous, pathetic bill, which means nothing. So people say, “Oh, you have labeling in the United States.” No, we don’t. So Alan, I want to throw it over to you. Why don’t you just tell us: just pick one aspect of this bill, making it ridiculous.
Alan Lewis (03:20):
And, there are two parts to that, if I remember correctly, because the Dark Act rolls off my tongue really easily, but the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act is actually designed to prevent the disclosure of GMO foods. The title is the opposite of its intent and the text of the law. Right now, we’re in a situation where the USDA, under the current administration and Sonny Perdue, has gone several steps further and taken the Dark Act, the actual provisions of the statute, and created the regulations around them and the regulations watered down the requirements to the extent that you really won’t have to disclose anything and there won’t be any enforcement anyway. There’s four points here, and I’m going to just share one and then we can talk a little bit, but the first is the idea that we no longer have GMO or genetically engineered foods. We will not be allowed to describe them that way. They are now bioengineered. I challenge the average citizen to tell anyone what that means or to recognize what that means. So the idea that they’ve created an alternate nomenclature that isn’t readily accessible to the citizens, subject to these laws or the businesses, is the first clue that you have that the intent of the law that was doubled down on the regulations is the opposite of its name.
Jeffrey Smith (05:03):
And, they have a little BE seal where it’s like a smiley seal, this is good. It’s like, ‘healthy farm, BE’.
Alan Lewis (05:15):
Well, the original ones were patterned after the British Petroleum green and yellow sunburst. When I held up the two, I would always get the audience to just laugh in astonishment. But the current version of the logo actually shows a dying flower under a setting sun. And when I point that out to people, I say, this is quite apt considering how GMO cropping systems work.
Jeffrey Smith (05:44):
I love that. We did a contest online for those people who like our Facebook page, Institute for Responsible Technology, we sometimes do contests. And, this was a contest to tell what does BE really stand for? And I am proud of our winner. As soon as I heard it, I went, Oh, that is so,
What was it?
Alan Lewis (06:11):
Very good. So, Natural Grocers has been around for 66 years now and we’ve been deeply committed to transparency and clean, healthy food. So, we were one of the original certifiers running around the farms around our stores, making sure that pesticides weren’t being used, that synthetic fertilizers weren’t being used, and that nothing was commingled on that food before it got to our store. So now we’re in a situation where the government is saying, “if there’s no genetic material in that sugar, in that oil, in whatever the ingredients are in that food, then we cannot even say that it was bioengineered, that it was genetically modified and that it was likely grown with glyphosate in the adjuvants and the other dangerous toxic adjuvants in Roundup.” We cannot tell our customers.
You’re not allowed to say it?
Nope. We’re not allowed to say it because there’s no genetic material.
Jeffrey Smith (07:16):
Well, when you say there’s no genetic material, let’s be clear. It’s no genetic material you can verify that it’s been genetically engineered.
Alan Lewis (07:29):
For the listeners, that is entirely beside the point. By the time you take sugar, let’s say corn for instance, GMO corn, and highly process it and take all the genetic material out, so you only have the sugar molecules, you have already done so much damage to the soil, to the animals, to the environment. All of that stuff has with it the residues of glyphosate and the other herbicides that are being used, like Dicamba in 2,4-D, and they have the residues and the adjuncts. Now, this is really critical, because 24 years ago, when you started, you had a hunch based on your scientific knowledge, that it wasn’t the food itself, right, necessarily, that was going to cause the problem. It was the whole agricultural cropping system and the chemical toxicity that’s developed for 24 years. But simultaneously the science behind the gut biome, our digestive system, our nutritional system, and its direct correlation with complex chronic disease. Boom, Jeffrey Smith was right all along. Is this food dangerous? Well, the food, maybe not. Is everything that it carries with us. It has taken a generation of Americans and humans across the globe and put them into all sorts of complex chronic diseases. It’s debilitating the species.
Jeffrey Smith (09:01):
And I would say it is both, the milieu, it is both the chemicals and the genetically engineered crops themselves. Séralini’s study was classic. He took rats and fed them Roundup-ready corn that had been sprayed with Roundup. They got multiple massive tumors, early death, and organ damage. Fed Roundup alone, they had the same thing, he said was, “Oh, it’s the Roundup alone.” But wait, they fed the corn without being sprayed, the GMO corn, they had the same thing: multiple massive tumors, early death and organ damage. So, it’s the food and the Roundup separately and together.
Alan Lewis (09:39):
Yeah. For people being active and aware of this issue, the 30-year-old argument has been: “We have tens of thousands of studies that cannot show there is harm from the food.” And those studies were all carefully concocted to show no harm from food. To your point, the way that is done, you can successfully do that. But now there are 10,000 studies that show that that food with the residues and the potential new gene-edited recombinant genes in that food are having significant effects on our own genetic makeup in our biome, and causing dysbiosis and complex diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. So, when you hear, “Oh, this food is safe, I’ve got 10,000 studies”, boom, you stop and you say, no, you don’t. And, I got 10,000 more from the last 10 years, that will put you in your grave.
Jeffrey Smith (10:39):
And actually, when you look at their studies, you can deconstruct them and show how, most of the studies they point to are not safety studies, they’re commercial studies. Tey’ll do it on chickens and check out the fat pad of the chickens and that has nothing to do with human safety. The ones that do have to do with human safety, they’re typically designed to avoid finding problems, and yet they still find problems and cover it up, which is another subject for another discussion. But, coming back to this point. I used to work at a GMO detection laboratory, and we would look, using something called PCR, which is a name that people are familiar with now because of COVID, we would use this technology to amplify the amount of DNA and then characterize it. I wasn’t a technician.
Jeffrey Smith (11:25):
I was a VP. So, what we learned was that certain things like high fructose corn syrup, you could not find in the final product. Soy lecithin would be there if you had a whole jar of lecithin, but if it was in the product at the small amounts that you use, you wouldn’t be able to find it. Highly refined oil, you won’t find DNA there. So, you can have a lot of things that have been processed, where you separate out the DNA, proteins, etc. Now, the USDA law says, if you cannot find the DNA in the final product, you don’t have to label it as BE.
Which means that that eliminates 90% of all the products on the marketplace right there. So, all the products with soy oil, lecithin, high fructose corn syrup and hundreds of derivatives of soy, corn, cellulose from cotton, canola oil and cottonseed oil, all of these things will get a pass.
Jeffrey Smith (12:37):
So, if you’re looking for the BE to know that you’re avoiding GMOs, forget it, because if you’re doing that, you’re not paying attention. You’re being deceived. That’s one reason we call this a Sham Bill. You’re being deceived. And it’s a conscious deception. Everyone knows that consumers, when they are polled, survey after survey is consistent, it doesn’t matter that it’s not in the final product. People want to know if it was used. In fact, Europe used to have that rule that if it wasn’t in the final product, you didn’t have to label it. And there was a revolt and they changed it.
Alan Lewis (13:19):
Right. So, they double down on that, the inconvenient truth now. 24 years ago you couldn’t detect that stuff or you couldn’t detect it reliably or you couldn’t quantify how much was in there. But with Quantum Topology, you can go down to three parts per trillion and we can find this genetic material. And that’s part of the Dark Act scam is that instead of putting a low detect level on there of one part per billion and say, “if you can find this genetic material and this amount, then you need to label it.” But they’re not doing that. They’re setting a broad standard. And I don’t remember quite what it is, but it’s very high relative to the detection capability today. And then they’re taking a wholesale approach and saying, “we know that all of these commodities are going to test below our high residual limit, so we’re going to put them on the don’t need to disclose list.” And that’s where you’re going to see a tremendous amount of fraud, where there are lots of those commodities and highly processed ingredients that still have that genetic material in there.
Jeffrey Smith (14:29):
All right. So now we have a situation where most items are excluded. Anything from gene editing is excluded. Gene editing has so many dangers, some unique dangers that the old stuff of genetic engineering doesn’t have.,
Alan Lewis (14:48):
Not to mention gene-edited animals and microbes, which is a whole new fun game.
Jeffrey Smith (14:52):
So, when you do gene editing, you put in a siter and an assassin. The siter finds the place in the DNA when the assassin cuts it. And what happens is it stays there and then it continues to do work. So, you can create a little cell, genetically engineer it and test it. And then a year later it’s still been working the whole time and it’ll continue to work. So, there are problems with gene editing that are so dangerous, and yet it is excluded completely. So, all the new GMOs are excluded. So now you have this very thin number of products that require some sort of notification or disclosure. So, the first way they disclose is “let’s put BE on the thing and confuse people.” But there’s another way that we can confuse and obscure and delay and make it very hard for customers to figure out what’s going on. And that is the famous QR code.
Alan Lewis (15:56):
The famous QR code, a bunch of randomly placed dots, which are a code for a reader, in that is hidden the site address for a website page that supposedly has a disclosure on it. But a couple of things I pointed out to the USDA during the comment period is that I’m sitting in my laptop right now. If I had that product label in my hand with the QR code, it does me no good. I cannot scan it sitting in my laptop. I said, “You have to put a human readable URL on that bottle.” And, in fact, that was more or less mandated in the law. And it’s one of the things that the regulation from Sonny Perdue and this administration has just made a mockery of the intent of the law, they made it so hard to find out. Even if you want to scan that code or want to find it out, and you think it’s GE or BE, you can’t, right? And then, other people have to send a text or call a phone number and get a recording. They did everything they could to eliminate the possibility that the regular consumer wearing a mask, trying to keep their toddler happy, trying to shop in a grocery store, would ever be able to find out the information they’re entitled to.
Jeffrey Smith (17:22):
I’m going to give the good news after this, by the way. There’s really good news about this fake labeling bill. I’m not sure if you would agree with me. So, there’s also discrimination in the QR code. If it only shows you through the QR code, then it’s saying: we’re only catering to those people that have a smartphone and are shopping in an area that has access. So, we’re not talking about a certain age group that doesn’t use it or economic groups that don’t use it. So, there’s a discrimination. And, then you have to have the time, not only to figure out how to do it, but also then once you get it, you get on the website and you have to find it.
Alan Lewis (18:02):
You can speak English too. And, you know, I don’t know what percent of the population is excluded based on that, but there’s a lot of these disclosures being a native English speaker that I can’t understand anyway. They’ve taken every step they can.
Jeffrey Smith (18:21):
So, are we done with the sham piece? Because it’s so bad, it’s like toxic. I’m just wanting to hold it at a distance and say, “this is what Monsanto’s USDA created.” Are we ready to go to the good news?
Alan Lewis (18:40):
Sure. Let’s have some good news, because I can go on with the bad news for a lot longer. So, I’ll hand it off to you.
Jeffrey Smith (18:45):
Okay. Anyone who hears this realizes that the only way that you can verify that something is non-GMO is to use a verifiable non-GMO claim. Some companies are going to make the claim that they are non-GMO because they do not require labels by the USDA. So, they could be using 100% genetically engineered soybeans to make soybean oil, a hundred percent, and they could say it’s not GMO because it has no GMO in the final product, according to the USDA. So. they’ll twist it. People have already done that for years and we call them out on it. So what this means is that those companies that have pushed the USDA to try and obscure the fact, so that they can put on a non-GMO label or they can put on a QR code or whatever, anything that is simply self-labeled as non-GMO becomes suspect.
Jeffrey Smith (19:56):
And so, it forces the food industry to now pay for and participate in a trusted third-party verification, like the Non-GMO Project, which we endorse and support, because no one’s going to believe companies because the non-GMO label is not defined generically. So, some people could say non-GMO because it doesn’t require labeling by the USDA. We would argue that that is false and fraudulent. Some would say non-GMO because they simply asked their farmers if it’s non-GMO but never checked, or sometimes it’s an affidavit, sometimes it’s a weak test, sometimes it’s a strong test, sometimes they have a high rejection threshold. It’s a wild west out there. When Cheerios said “we’re non-GMO,” I called them up. I said, what do you mean non-GMO? And they said let me check: It’s proprietary. You’re telling us It’s non-GMO, but you don’t tell us what it means. “I’m sorry, it’s proprietary.” And I started asking the questions.
Jeffrey Smith (20:53):
“What type of testing do you use? Is it just affidavit?”
“I’m sorry, sir. It’s proprietary.”
So, it tells everyone that since we can’t trust the USDA and we can’t trust companies, we run the other way. It also tells you that some companies will put QR codes on their package for other information. Now, people are going to say, “Oh, if it’s a QR code, it’s part of the scam.” It means that they’re just trying to hide the fact that they’re using GMOs and they will be penalized for having supported this fake labeling bill. Because a lot of the companies supported this fake labeling bill. So, another thing that was interesting, the end result is if we can educate consumers about the ridiculous nature of the USDA system, it not only means that we can ignore it completely, but if you’re simply going for non-GMO, you know what to look for. And, if you’re listening to me, you’re also going for organic because organic does not allow the use of Roundup and other toxic chemicals. And so that’s really where you want to go.
Alan Lewis (21:59):
So, on that note, on the good news: when you look at COVID and the general consumer population response, people are so refocused on immune defense and staying healthy. And, you see that the sales of organic and Non-GMO Project Verified products are far above the increases shown by regular conventional supermarkets where people are shifting their restaurant shopping to buying ingredients to cook at home. And that is a big piece of good news is that, even with all of the fear and financial pressures that COVID is presenting to most people, they’re redirecting that energy toward, “How can I protect myself in the long run, from more environmental toxins in this general toxic assault from the agrochemical industry.”
Jeffrey Smith (22:53):
It’s amazing. So, you can’t share your numbers because you’re a private company and you wouldn’t do that. I will brag about you by the way. Natural Grocers, all the produce, 156 stores,
Alan Lewis (23:09):
157, but you are correct. We only sell Certified Organic produce.
Jeffrey Smith (23:14):
Can you say that one more time please, Alan?
Alan Lewis (23:16):
We will only sell Certified Organic produce. No, asterisk there. That’s just the truth. It says it on the front of our stores, and our stores are Certified Organic handlers, so we’re not a contaminant in our trucks and our backroom and our scullery or in our displays.
Jeffrey Smith (23:36):
Congratulations on that. I bragged about you and your company. And, you have a dairy standard. When people have this general anti-corporation thing, I go, no, you don’t understand. There are those of us who are really into creating healthy food and a healthy world. And some of us are activists, but some of us are in business.
Alan Lewis (24:10):
Some of us are activists, and that’s the leadership at Natural Grocers. I don’t get to be on here talking with you because I’m sneaking around. This is what I’m asked to do by my leadership and the owners of the company. So, it’s just tremendous, and we’re not alone. There are thousands of other independent retailers, independent natural products retailers, that will do the same thing. We actually work together and collaborate on these issues, as you well know, the stores like INFRA and Good Earth and NPCC, for that reason. There’s a lot of strength in numbers and we give ourselves a lot of courage.
Jeffrey Smith (24:47):
It was Good Earth and the Berkeley Natural Grocers and El Cerrito Natural Grocers, which is not your company, that pioneered the Non-GMO Project, which then went to the retailers, which then became something that is now on billions and tens of billions of dollars worth of materials. Edward says high fructose corn syrup is a real serious health risk. GMOs and deadly pesticides, etc. No good food left unless we have a separate supply of oxygen under an airtight dome. Well, I talked to someone who did research to find that there was mercury in high fructose corn syrup, that’s like another wake-up call.
Alan Lewis (25:40):
You know, we haven’t allowed high fructose corn syrup in any food that we sell since it was invented. And it’s one of the banned ingredients. If you bring us a product that has it in it, we’re like, “sorry,” because there’s 10 others that don’t, and that thing with us and whole foods and the other natural foods; setting that minimum standard of those banned ingredients, that’s the basis of the natural products industry. Yet, the dietician’s union, they’re all for it, but that’s what a sponsorship by Pepsi and Coke will do for you.
Jeffrey Smith (26:15):
Oh yeah. Don’t talk to me about dietitians. So John says, “This is worse than the virus, it’s going to be going on and on and on and affects your health without us even knowing it.” Well, yeah, a lot of our stuff points to more than 30 diseases on the rise and linked to GMOs and Roundup use. All right. So, I want to give people an interesting way of being an activist. First of all, for years we have been pushing non-GMO. And so, some people believe that non-GMO is more important than organic and that they don’t realize that organic does not allow the use of GMOs, but it also doesn’t allow the use of Roundup. So, it is a higher, more exalted category. And there’s even a possibility of having a Non-GMO Project Verified and organic on the same label. And there’s an advantage to that. “Why?”, you say. Say why, please.
Alan Lewis (27:15):
Well, because consumers respond to that butterfly. And from that perspective, if you’re already organic, adding the non-GMO butterfly on there is a very cost-effective and efficient way to communicate that.
Jeffrey Smith (27:28):
And, the Non-GMO Project requires testing to verify that you are consistently below the 0.9% action threshold.
Alan Lewis (27:41):
I was just on the board call today, and the budget for that surveillance testing is really high, but it’s so critical to keep everybody aware of the hidden threats.
Jeffrey Smith (27:51):
So, you’re on the board of the Non-GMO Project.
And so if you can get both organic and Non-GMO Project verified, it means that if there has been contamination that it’s more likely to be found if it has Non-GMO Project Verification, because organic does not require testing. If there is contamination, it is usually very small.
Alan Lewis (28:15):
Yeah. I mean, it’s a difficult subject, because I’m such a big supporter of the Organic Seal. But I can tell you from the consumer’s perspective, having both is a one-two punch. It’s hard to beat it.
Jeffrey Smith (28:28):
So, my activism here is this: I was in a supermarket and I overheard two people talking and one said, “Which is more important, the organic or the non-GMO?” And she said, “Oh, it’s non-GMO.” And I said, “You know, would you like to know something? Would you like to know the truth about this?” She goes, “Yes.” And then I explained it. And, of course, I got consent before I gave her the truth and set her straight, and she said she will change her opinion completely. But, I said it nicely. I said it in a friendly way. And it completely changed her buying habits. She no longer will look for non-GMO over organic. She understands that having the two together are the best. But in this case, the activism is if someone ever gets caught thinking that it’s non-GMO because it doesn’t have a label saying, Oh, we have mandatory labeling in the United States.
Jeffrey Smith (29:31):
Therefore, if it doesn’t have the BE or the QR code, you can eat it and it’s non-GMO. Then you could say, I may have fought too until I listened to this Facebook Live, but it turns out there’s a problem. Do you want to hear it? Get the consent. If someone’s in a bad mood, they don’t want to hear it. Don’t start, don’t keep talking. Get the consent. And then say, “It turns out it was basically a Monsanto-written bill. Almost all the GMOs are hidden and exempted.”
Alan Lewis (30:00):
It’s very sad to have to tell customers and friends that they can’t trust the government, can’t trust the USDA. And, this is the bill, that USDA will have to pay over the long run, is that their authority and credibility is so thin right now, for organics as well as GMOs, because they’ve allowed organics to scale up and use CAFOs and this kind of thing, But, it’s heartbreaking to tell people you can’t trust the government. But essentially that’s what maybe we put it differently. Be skeptical when the government says that GMOs are labeled because 90% of them aren’t.
Jeffrey Smith (30:42):
I am skeptical when the government says: dot dot dot. Having been in the game for so long, having read the actual memos between Monsanto and the EPA, having read the memos of people, you know, it’s pretty amazing. I mean, I think the people listening here realize it was Monsanto’s former attorney Michael Taylor, who set the policy of the GMOs in the United States for the FDA saying no testing or labeling was necessary and then went to work for Monsanto after that. And then back to the FDA. So, I think we have knocked this nail into the ground. Is there anything else you want to share before we let people go shop healthy?
Alan Lewis (31:25):
Well, it’s kind of good news, but the chickens have come home to roost on the biotech, agrochemical industry. This epidemic of complex chronic diseases among people under 30 that coincides with the consequences of their practices, they know the writing’s on the wall and they’re trying to find regenerative systems and make money off of this, that, or the other, and pull back from there. So, if citizens and shoppers just remain diligent, and buy the things that they know are safe or safer whenever they can, we win this battle. But, the collateral damage among the sick people that grew up, from conception to young adulthood, being contaminated by these chemicals and by these genetic materials they’re ingesting it, it’s a historic tragedy.
Jeffrey Smith (32:24):
Yes. I agree. Thank you. And I do enjoy our talking together. We’re always getting together at expos which had been canceled and we’re getting together at events where we’re both speaking. And I appreciate hearing your perspective of what’s happening in the food industry, because being in the food industry, even though you’re on the organic natural side, you’re aware of the others as well in a very deep way. You’ve given me insight into how the turning is occurring, how the turning and the thinking is occurring in the conventional food industry. And it’s good to know that they realize that their time is up, and they need to make change.
Well, I’m glad I left you with some optimism there and you’re just a goldmine of information and inspiration, so I appreciate you.
Thank you so much, Alan. Okay. BE means Buy Elsewhere. QR code, that will be our next contest. What is QR code? Quickly run! I’ll go with that. Alright. I’ll say goodbye and safe eating.
Jeffrey Smith (34:20):