Climate change and environmental damage with photo of Jeffrey Smith
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Wise Words

Articles
Feb 29, 2024

Wise Words

Jeffrey Smith: Preserving the Nature of Nature

Articles
Apr 20, 2024
by Kelcie Ottoes
 

Microbes are essential for human and planetary health. These single-cell organisms exist everywhere—from the bottom of the ocean to inside the body—forming symbiotic relationships with their environs. Soil microbes can increase crop yield, nutrient density, carbon sequestration and water retention, while microbial networks in forests shuttle vital resources that support trees. In the ocean, microalgae produce much of the world’s oxygen. Our bodies have more microbes than cells, and the likelihood of developing a chronic disease is closely linked to gut microbiome composition and activity.

Scientific understanding of these vital microscopic creatures is in its infancy, and human tinkering threatens their existence and ours, according to Jeffrey Smith, a leading spokesperson on the dangers of genetically modified organisms (GMO) and champion for the preservation of the “nature of nature” for more than 25 years. “We’re still discovering what the microbe army does on our behalf, unseen,” he says. “There are around 1 trillion microorganisms, and I’m told we’ve characterized far less than 1 percent, but we’re kind of in awe of the magic that they perform every day.”

Smith’s activism began with a lecture by a genetic engineer that blew the whistle on biotech giants like Monsanto that were preparing to plant genetically engineered crops. Once introduced, GMOs would cross-pollinate, reproduce and be a permanent part of the food supply, the engineer warned. As a marketing expert, Smith knew that without the right messaging about the dangers of GMOs, companies developing and marketing modified crop seed would likely succeed with their plans, endangering the health of consumers. He made it his mission to educate everyone about the harmful effects of GMOs, including toxins, allergens and genetic hazards.

Celebrated neuroscientist and pharmacologist Candance Pert once described Smith as the “leading world expert in the understanding and communication of the health issues surrounding genetically modified foods.” Smith has written two books, including the bestseller Seeds of Deception, released five movies, spoken in 45 countries and trained tens of thousands of people to advocate for life without GMOs.

He also founded the Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT), a nonprofit dedicated to protecting nature’s genetic integrity and biological evolution by preventing the outdoor release of GMOs and toxic agricultural chemicals into the food supply. According to an October 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center, about 50 percent of U.S. consumers believe that GMOs are worse for people’s health than foods with no genetically modified ingredients. IRT played a role in that education.

More recently, Smith has turned to a new threat: gene editing of microorganisms with commercially available, inexpensive CRISPR kits that anyone can try, and are even part of some high school science programs.

While most genetically engineered microbes are expected to die in the wild, their potential impacts are unknown and unpredictable. Smith worries that a home hobbyist will unintentionally create and set free a modified organism that imperils oceans, soil, forests or humans. “What's very concerning is what we may do to the microbiome,” he explains. “By genetically engineering microbes with novel traits, we are introducing unpredictable outcomes that are unretractable. We’re risking human health and the environment with each release.”

To save the planet’s smallest and most essential organisms, Smith is seeking worldwide awareness, engagement and new domestic laws through his for-profit company Protect Nature Now. Ultimately, his aim is to unite leaders around the globe to stop the uninhibited tampering with microbes and protect the integrity of microbiomes that positively contribute to human health, regenerative agriculture and environmental conservation.

The last piece of saving our microbes, Smith says, is creating a curriculum so that future generations can learn to protect and respect microbes, too. “People always ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ And my answer is, it depends on what a person’s abilities, resources and interests are,” he explains. Smith encourages individuals to become educated about GMO risks, share the message, demand that lawmakers protect vital resources and financially pressure GMO food manufacturers by consuming organic products.

 

Kelcie Ottoes is a content writer for sustainable businesses, specializing in blog posts, case studies and white papers.


Original article published at Natural Awakenings

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