[Lightmillennium.Org] Welcome to A Quest to Fulfill Hunger of the Body and Mind: Is genetically modified food a solution? We are very honored to be in this forum, to explore the topic of Genetically Modified Foods, GM foods, GMOs, in all its iterations, particularly as they relate to the right to Freedom of Information. As The Light Millennium centers its mission around Article #19 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, earlier this summer we opened up our website with the theme “Freedom of Information in the Genetically Modified Age” and invited submissions on the topic from all walks of life. While we are still in the early stages, we have already gotten some passionate submissions and pledges from people who have been directly affected, and concerned about their and their family’s health, and in some cases, their way of life.
As the curator for this issue I was charged with writing an introductory overview on the topic, and, while I had been against the technology, particularly in light of what it was doing to farmers’ rights, and the question of ownership over living organisms, I don’t think I was really aware of the deep onslaught against freedom of information and expression, especially the way independent scientists were treated when they came up with inconvenient truth and conclusions, or at the great shuttering of the safety regulation process, as this is all proprietary information. The industry was born out of secrecy, as we learn from memos revealed through a law suit that the FDA’s own scientists had sounded many warning alarms about this food, at the time it was the Flavr Savr tomato, in the early 1990s, the first commercially introduced genetically modified food, but these alarms were left unheeded, and the technology was ushered in through a political appointee, with the concept of “substantial equivalence” to be used as its fig leaf in all these years.
Subsequent to that, in the United States, the submitting company conducts all its own safety studies, and as the seeds are proprietary you have to get special permission in order to conduct your own, all this threw a new light on the oft repeated industry mantra: “The majority of studies done indicate that these foods are safe for human consumption.” But what are the nature of those studies, how are they designed, and what are the conflicts of interest? These are all questions that need to be asked.
While the industry makes use of a veil of secrecy that they call proprietary information, it was strange to feel at the same time, while writing this overview, a paralyzing sense of information overload, if you looked at all the unsanctioned fringes. There is just so much to learn about this topic, and so many areas one needs to be an expert in, to really get at the heart of the matter, not only the science of genetic engineering, but the structures of government, the maze of regulatory agencies, world trade agreements, legal and civil liberties questions, plant physiology and the intricacies of viral DNA. I mean, not everyone could know about the Shikimate pathway in plants, or Darwin’s gemmules, though, at the same time, one wonders, and this is where The Light Millennium comes in, why shouldn’t they? The Light Millennium, whose mission is to facilitate the free flow of information and ideas, has a way of encouraging scholarly work from those who do not have the time to be scholars. Even in the most well off countries, everyone is in a constant state of daily rush and stress to make ends meet. Though I believe everyone has the capacity and deep desire to do the research and study . We are all, or should be, students for life. The organization’s mission is to offer a way for people to explore this side of their potential, by issuing calls, giving assignments, creating a network of people all concerned with peace and justice, basically a place where one can return to living a conscious life. It is then that solutions can emerge out of civil society.
Please do visit our website, and consider participating in this particular issue, let us know what you think of what you hear here today. And stop by our exhibit, which is on the first floor of the UN conference building, which also explores these issues, which we have to thank the angels of FOWPAL, the Federation for World Peace and Love, for their beautiful help with the hanging, for the videotaping, and for all their help in sponsoring this event. As well as to Stirring the Pot Productions and Advancing Eco Agriculture, and to all the speakers for their time and effort in being here.
As I say, there is a maze of information we have to make sense. We are thrilled to have six experts to help guide us through these gargantuan problems. In the spirit of honoring the complexity we have also included a glossary in the back of our program, please make use of it during the course of the talks, if you feel yourself getting lost, although we have scientists here, who are also great communicators. As a guideline we gave them all five questions as a loose structure that they could touch on in their talks:
How would you measure the performance of genetically modified foods over the past 20 years?
What alternative solutions do you see to eradicating world hunger?
What are the primary changes you would advocate to how genetically modified foods are handled now?
What effect does biotechnoogy and intellectual property rights have on our right to Freedom of Expression and Information?
What would be your global action plan to promote these solutions, imagining a partnership that could span the world, but especially involve the youth, as they will be the ones in charge of the Post 2015 agenda?
Also gracing our event we are very lucky to have three distinguished Intervention Speakers, Mr. Purnomo A. Chandra, Minister Counsellor Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the UN, and Former Chair of the FAO’s Committee for Constitutional and Legal Matters.
Dr. Tao-Tze Hong, President of the Federation of World Peace and Love,
as well as a representative from the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace
We thank you so much for being here.
Let us proceed to our first speaker, someone we are very lucky to have, he has been on the forefront of defending the consumer’s right to know since the early days of the technology, has been educating the public on various issues to do with gmos and public health, with a very even handed voice, always informed by his brilliant scientific background. Dr. Michael Hansen is a senior scientist with Consumers Union, publisher of the very trusted and relied upon Consumer Reports, and he currently works primarily on food safety issues. He has been largely responsible for developing Consumers Union’s position on safety, testing and labeling of genetically engineered food and “mad cow” disease. Since 2003, he has worked on a multi-state effort to ban the use of food crops to produce pharmaceutical drugs and industrial chemicals. Dr. Hansen has testified at hearings in Washington, D.C., many states, and Canada, and has prepared comments on many proposed U.S. governmental rules and regulations on food safety issues. If there is any sanity in the regulatory world, it is probably because he was involved in the negotiations. He also represents Consumers International, a federation of more than 250 organizations in 110 countries, at Codex Alimentarius and other international fora on issues. He also took part in the landmark IAASTD report, a 4 year interdisciplinary report sponsored by the UN and the World Bank among others, on the state of agriculture today, which reached surprising conclusions that you didn’t hear much about in the mainstream media. We are very lucky to have him here today.
Thank you so much Dr. Hansen for being here.
Thank you so much Dr. Hansen for giving us this incredible overview. We will move now to Stefanie Sacks, who will give us more of a sense of what we as individuals can do with our own personal choices. Stefanie Sacks is a Culinary Nutritionist, author, radio show host, educator, speaker and consultant. She works hands-on with individuals and groups in transition to a healthier way of eating. Sacks has been studying food and healing for 25 years, has her Masters of Science in nutrition education from Columbia University, is a Certified Nutrition Specialist, Certified Dietitician Nutritionist, and is a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Insititute for Health and Culinary Arts. Stefanie’s weekly Stirring the Pot Blog goes hand in hand with her weekly Stirring the Pot Radio Show on Hamptons NPR. The show focuses on food, cooking nutrition and health. She is tirelessly putting out helfpul, loving and soulful information. I am waiting anxiously for her book, WHAT THE FOR ARE YOU EATING: An Action Plan for your Pantry and Plate, (published by Tarcher/Penguin Random House) which is due to come out in January of 2015.
Thank you so much Stefanie for being here.
Thank you so much Stefanie for this detailed and useful guide for our personal choices and empowerment. Right now we’d like to welcome another distinguished guest, His Excellency, Mr. Carlos Garcia, the former Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the United Nations, who continues contributing as a consultant to the analysis, assessment and promotion of the international relations, in particular the multilateral affairs and the United Nations agenda.
During his long standing career in New York, Ambassador Carlos Garcia was in charge of the political, economic, financial, social, peace and security, humanitarian, environmental and human rights issues, having held several positions on behalf of the Latin American and the Caribbean States, such as: President of the General Assembly’s Fourth Committee; Vice President of the Economic and Social Council; Vice chairman of countless committees during the General Assemblies, and other bodies such as the Commission on Social Development, the Commission on the Status of Women; Vice-Chairman of the former Executive Board of IN-STRAW; Vice-President of the Executive Board of UNDP-UNFPA UNOPS in 2011; and as Rapporteur of the Joint Executive Boards field visits to Guatemala (2004) and Azerbaijan (2005). We are very honored to have such a distinguished and experienced diplomat on our panel. And thank you very much for being here to give us your point of view.
Thank you so much for this eye opening perspective and historical context of the technology. The brutal real world effects is difficult to stomach. Our next panelist has an alternative that should leave us with a brighter note of optimism. We are very lucky to have with us Mr. John Kempf, who is the founder and CEO of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a leading crop nutrition consulting company. He is a top expert in the field of biological and regenerative farming, he founded AEA in 2006 to help fellow farmers by providing the education, tools and strategies that will have a global effect on the food supply and those who are growing that supply.
As a farmer who grew up in and remains a part of the Amish community, John has a very special understanding of plants’ functional immunity. He sought out alternative approaches to prevent damage to his crops once they stopped responding to conventional treatments. Well, let me stop here and let Mr. Kempf tell us the rest of this inspiring turnaround and story. We cannot thank you enough for the work that you do, and for being here it to share it in this forum.
Thank you so much John for such a wealth of information and positive outlook on what we can do, straight from someone who has seen the possibilities.
For more ideas on alternatives, we are very pleased to present our youth speaker, Ms. Deborah Carlin, who is a senior at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In May 2015, she will graduate with a dual degree in Environmental Science and Studio Art. This August, she completed a photography internship at the Horticultural Society of New York, where her focus was demonstrating the importance of plants and nature in people’s lives. Deborah is a vegetarian and a long-time advocate for animal rights. It is so great to have you here Deborah to share with us your experiences on your internships and your thoughts and ideas on the future.
Thank you so much Deborah on your inspiring and thoughtful ideas for the future. I cannot wait to see where they will take you. Our next speaker is the Executive Director and founding President of our sponsoring organization today, The Light Millennium, a public benefit, multi-media and culture organization, and as I have said, how I see it, a kind of thought incubator. She has been Executive Producer and Director of the LM’s e-publications in all its aspects, and The Light Millennium’s LMTV Series and Specials, and is the Permanent Representative of the Organization to the UN DPI since its association in 2005. As an advocate for “freedom of expression” and “public benefit media,” she has compiled and e-published over 57 e-issues and produced over 100 original television programs, garnering several awards. Bircan holds a master’s degree in Media Studies form the New School University and BA in Fine Arts from the Mimar Sinan University in Istanbul. Anyone who works with her at the DPI knows that she is a force of nature. Thank you Bircan for all you have done to breathe life and bring this event together.