Reviewed in the United States on August 19, 2015
There's a war going on, people, and according to this book, it's between bio-engineers, the industry that supports them including many major chemical and herbicide corporations that seek to dominate the world food business, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), and even the FDA that is supposed to protect you --- all of them on one side -- versus you on the other. That is you, your family, and your legal right to expect that the food you buy in the grocery stores of America has been tested and is safe.
This is one of the most important books of the last 50 years. "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth" is the story of how America (and Canada) ended up far down a sinister road regarding genetic engineering of our food supply. Anyone who dares question Monsanto ("the world's most evil corporation," according to its critics) and the other big chemical and bio-engineering companies that have muscled into the food business, has usually been attacked, no-holds-barred, by those companies and their minions. In their arrogance, they would discredit any of those who dare to criticize them and their methods. They sneer at them as "kooks" and brand them "anti-science." Politicians who make election promises to force the labeling of GMO foods are soon paid off and silenced. The people in various States launch propositions to require labeling of GE foods -- not to ban them, mind you, but simply to fulfill your right to know what's in your food so you can make an informed choice -- and industry promptly spends millions of dollars to prevent that from happening. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the member chemical giants now up to their wallets in the food biz, and well-loved companies you wouldn't suspect to be behind any attempt not to tell you what's in their products (including Coke and Pepsi -- say it's not so!), spend hundreds of millions of dollars to prevent such legislation from coming to pass. So far they have been successful in their attempt to keep you deeply in the dark. Why would they do this to you? The manufacturers are already required to tell you even if there is sugar in your food or drink, for instance, or high-fructose corn syrup. So why not just tell you some of the ingredients are genetically engineered (GE) material? What is all the fuss about?
Good question -- and in this book, Steven Druker provides the answers.
For example, about 90% of the American corn crop is now GE, which means so is the corn syrup derived from it -- and this ubiquitous sweetener is already in a host of products you probably eat and drink. So why should you not be told? The simple truth is, these companies suspect that even those shoppers who unthinkingly pop box after box of processed food and beverages into their carts might balk if they were told that "food" was a genetic creation -- created by scientists wielding gene guns in laboratories.
The proponents of genetically altered food will try and tell you that what they do is no different than what happens in nature when natural selection occurs. Or perhaps it's just like grafting, where the branch of one peach tree is grown on the root stock of another. But according to Druker, these are blatant lies. Genes from one species don't just happen to arrive in the DNA of another species. Never. Not possible. You can't shoot an eel gene into a salmon, say, and call the unusual fish that results, "GRAS" -- Generally Recognized as Safe. And when you graft the branch of a tree onto another root stock, you create a clone -- not an species that previously did not exist in the history of the world. To make a genetically altered creature, you must take a gun -- it used to be a literally .22 pistol -- coat the bullet with genetic material, and fire it into a mass of DNA. You have no idea if it's going to work, and usually, it doesn't. It's a highly unusual scenario -- again, never before occurring on our planet. And even in those rare cases when the gene does "take," the scientists have no way of knowing where in the DNA sequence that gene has been randomly inserted. That alone can created a poisonous and disastrous outcome. Druker presents hard evidence of an epidemic that that already occurred this way. Many Americans became very sick. Some died. Oh, you're surprised? Don't remember this from the news? Well don't be. Read the book. You'll find out why.
Druker presents many disturbing and sometimes infuriating stories of "how the venture to genetically engineer our food has subverted science, corrupted government, and systematically deceived the public."
The author of course knows he will be attacked and his reputation impugned, with good reason, and he has taken significant steps to make that difficult. He is a lawyer by training, and a meticulous researcher. In spite of the formidable foes he faces, their deep pockets and well-documented intimidation tactics, he has a league of renowned scientists on his side as well, and he stacked up hard evidence over the course of many years. His book reveals the flawed science and sometimes scandalous lies used to foist untested, genetically engineered material, right onto your dinner plate.
Druker, the "reluctant activist," once sued the FDA for breaking the very laws that were set up to protect the public from potentially unsafe, untested food substances. He lost the case because of a most suspect and peculiar ruling by the judge -- but in the process, he gained access to a priceless trove of the FDA's own documents. These prove, in the words of the agency's own scientists, that untested genetic crops may have grave consequences on public health. However, in pursuit of a lucrative bio-engineering industry, and in blatant disregard of laws that were put in place to protect you, this evidence had been largely suppressed. Don't be surprised if you become angry when it becomes abundantly clear that the food and beverage industries have made all of us their guinea pigs in what has become the greatest untested manipulation of our food source in the history of humanity.
"Altered Genes" can be heavy going, there's no denying that. Druker was careful to prepare his arsenal before he fired his salvo at federal agencies and the multinationals that have staked out your family's food as their own multi-billion dollar profit center. He meticulously backs up each claim with footnoted evidence. However, that material is worth wading through if you have a concern over what is in the "food" you and your loved ones consume, while you have been deliberately kept in ignorance by the industries serving it up. Still, if you find it difficult to take it all in (and so did we), there is a summary online. Search the title of the book, find the website, and look at "Additional Material." At this writing, there is only a one-page executive summary. But this is a new publication and there's a promise on the site that a chapter-by-chapter synopsis will soon be available. While the author in his enthusiasm really wants you to read the whole book word for word, we think for your average reader, that will be unlikely. We encourage Mr. Druker, please, in subsequent editions, provide a list of key points to be covered at the beginning of each chapter -- and at the end, provide the chapter summary with page references. In this way, those who want to know but can't eat their way through the whole thick tome, can access the salient points. Also, please consider putting out a Condensed Version, so that the work will find a place in popular non-fiction -- and also, that the overworked staffs of various presidents, senators, congressmen and other politicians, might actually get through it. The Condensed Version might be 100 pages of summary and story, beginning with a list of the scientists and agencies that stand behind "Altered Genes." This could be made available at a discounted price, in bulk, to the various concerned citizens and foundations that could circulate it to their political representatives with a better hope that it might at least be skimmed.
Skim through some of the detail if you must and you'll be amazed and even sickened by the way in which a new industry and its scientists, intoxicated with the prospect of untold riches and the domination of the international food markets, lied to politicians and greased the wheels with massive amounts of money to buy favor, bypassed even the laws intended to protect you, and finessed their way into the grocery stores of North America. (The world domination scenario has hit some serious snags, though, as companies led by Monsanto are increasingly encountering formidable opposition on continents and in countries outside the USA). Druker's book is also a disturbing expose of the FDA and the way it has been either circumvented or co-opted by the very industries it is supposed to monitor. The judge in his case even acknowledged his evidence proved this -- but threw it out on a technicality.
Unfortunately, we suspect that most people won't bother to read this important work. There are concerned citizens and support groups who are very aware, of course -- the people behind the various movements to force the labeling of food that contains GMOs. But for those who need quick summaries and catch-phrases (including mainstream media), this will be very heavy going. The various corporations, on the other hand, continue to wage the multi-million dollar fight to prevent the GMO labeling movement from finding success, even when various States insist that it will happen. On the federal level, they've secured politicians who serve their desire for you never to be told which "food" you buy has been genetically tampered with. Your ignorance of what you eat, feeds their profits.
However, we can all hope that in the end, industry will be forced to tell you when your food is GE, or contains ingredients that have been engineered. Most regrettably, it may take a public health catastrophe before that happens. Even then, and we hope we're not being too cynical, but it's very likely that most people won't bother to read the list of ingredients on the side of the box. They'll ignore the small words to the effect that "this product contains genetically modified ingredients." They'll assume that if it's in the stores, it's been tested for safety -- wrongly so, according to Druker. They'll go right on eating it.
The argument put forward by industry that it would cost too much for them to label genetically engineered food is ridiculous. As noted, companies are already required to list more than 300 ingredients, so what is one more item on the label? Certainly, it's an insignificant cost factor. The evidence is already all around us. Just take a look at the shelves of a giant grocery seller like Costco, for example. IF it's so inordinately expensive to put "GE" on a label, why is it so very affordable for thousands of other companies to tell you in big letters, "this product contains no GMOs" or -- better yet -- "Organic" -- in large type? Did all that ink bankrupt those often far smaller companies? You figure it out.
At the end of the day, it appears that the American food and beverage industries are determined to keep genetically engineered ingredients in your food. They say that there are billions of hungry people in the world and only genetically produced food can feed them. A fine altruistic, philanthropic stance. But is it true? There is no compelling evidence whatsoever. Also, very obviously, they expect those hungry people to have no say in the fact that the chemical companies segueing into the food biz intend to make them eat their untested genetically engineered matter. Like Macbeth, the multinationals are guilty of "vaulting ambition." But their hubris and world schemes overleap anything Shakespeare could even have imagined.
A better idea might be to support local farmers around the globe with better traditionally produced hybrid (by time-honored cross pollination), and especially heritage, seeds -- farmers who provide for their own communities. That would be genuinely philanthropic and would created a truly sustainable model -- local self sufficiency. If you think this is a random idea, consider this. Bill Gates massively funded foundation prefers the chemical giants' model for countries like Africa. This means genetically modified seeds, huge factory farms on the American scale requiring 1st world equipment, and billions of gallons of herbicides led by Monsanto's RoundUp (with it's suspected carcinogen, glyphosate), soaking into the crops and the land. On the other hand, there's Warren Buffet's son Howard, a US farmer by trade and choice, who thinks the answer for Africa is very different. He wants better drought tolerant hybridized seeds that can be distributed to African farmers. They will feed their families and communities using little more than shovels and some 3rd world irrigation techniques.
We already know which way the industrial giants in the food biz want to go. These are cutthroat industries, all about money rolling in, and market domination. Control of the international food seed markets gives the companies, and the governments from which they come, world dominion without the need for wars, military or diplomacy. Cut off the food supply, and you have instant capitulation. Those who grow Monsanto's patented seeds are not allowed to save them. This subverts the oldest and most time-honored practice farmers have practiced for tens of thousands of years, since humanity created agriculture in the first place. Growers in the countries Monsanto dominates are required to purchase new batches of genetically altered seed, at high cost, each and every year. Failure to do so, at the price and terms the chemical giant dictates, bankrupts the farmer and ends his business.
If you think the chemical giants have any truly altruistic bone in their corporate bodies, consider how they behave. They most ardently desire to prevent even you, a fellow citizen, from knowing which foods on your grocery shelves have GMOs in them. They pursue their misguided course in the face of the millions of citizens who loudly voice their right to know. The FDA, for its part, seems to have no stomach for the fight to inform you of exactly what in your food has been genetically modified.
On June 2, 2015, Dr Mercola, purveyor of "the #1 Natural Health Website" in the world, wrote an online article entitled "A Challenge to Monsanto," in which he published author Steven Druker's challenge to the makers of the herbicide RoundUp who also own the patents on many genetically engineered crops, to refute any of the facts in his book. Apparently, that ultimatum has gone unanswered.
Unfortunately, the book can leave you feeling angry, frustrated and powerless -- at the mercy of great forces far beyond your control. However, there is hope. There are things you can do. For one, with books like this, you can educate yourself, then pass your copy around. And you can take Dr. Mercola's advice: "[D]eciding to eliminate GE foods from your diet and replacing them with locally grown organics is among the most important health decisions you can make for yourself and your family...."
Read "Altered Genes, Twisted Truth" and you may come to agree with Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE and UN Messenger of Peace (who wrote the Foreword), that "...Steven Druker is a hero. He deserves at least a Nobel Prize."
We predict that there will be a flood of books, documentaries, and other media productions that will illustrate these issues in ways that will be more accessible to the public. A movie about Steven Druker's law suit against the FDA would be a start. However, all of them will no doubt quote and acknowledge the significant body of research in "Altered Genes." It is the giant on whose shoulders they will stand.
A must-read. Recommended.