Jeffrey Smith is a dance teacher and a long-time woo promoter who made a big career when he decided to join the anti-GMO movement. He used to be big on Yogic flying and Transcendental Meditation, and was a candidate for the Natural Law Party in Iowa. Nowadays he bills himself as a "leading consumer advocate" and is rather secretive about his past. Notably, he does not appear to have any training in biology. He runs a PR outlet called Institute for Responsible Technology. Its main activity is spreading contrived, unscientific FUD about genetically modified crops. The Institute is supported by donations from over a dozen organic food companies and is promoted by the alt-med woo site NaturalNews . Smith sits on the board of John Fagan's Genetic ID company, and appears to have connections to the Maharishi cult (which Fagan is also a member of).
Smith wrote two books which are a perennial go-to source for the anti-GMO activists: Seeds of Deception and Genetic Roulette. Both books argue that genetically modified foods are all harmful, and the biotech industry is colluding with regulatory agencies and genetic scientists to hide these risks from the public. Naturally, a substantial amount of Monsanto-baiting is involved. To source his claims, he uses very questionable research from the usual ideologically motivated suspects, including Árpád Pusztai, Gilles-Eric Séralini, Terje Traavik, and Irina Ermakova. There is a distinct scarcity of peer-reviewed papers in his sources, and those which he does cite are gross outliers, often suffering from poor methodology.
The underlying narrative of the books — that GM foods are dangerous, and the danger stems from DNA modification rather than the specific traits introduced — can be deconstructed by anyone with a high school level grasp of biology. We eat DNA every day, in various mixtures, since practically all dishes contain material from multiple species of living organisms — for example, a hamburger contains at least seven.[note 1] Before being absorbed, all this DNA is broken down to short fragments during digestion. Therefore, eating a tomato with a fish gene can be expected to be about as dangerous as eating a fish in tomato sauce. Any possible danger must be limited to the specific introduced trait, so no useful statements on safety can be made about GM crops in general; the assessment must be done on a case-by-case basis. This position is shared by all respectable scientific bodies.
- Extensive refutation of Genetic Roulette
- Jeffrey Smith's anti-GMO powerpoint presentation, and a point-by-point rebuttal
- Tommorow's Table: Dr. Oz asks who can we trust when it comes to Genetically Engineered Crops?
- Jeffrey Smith's official biography
- Biofortified: Who is Jeffrey Smith?
- "Caught in Headlights Of the Biotech Debate; A Gene-Testing Lab and Its Critics"
- WHO: 20 questions on genetically modified foods
- ICSU report on GM food
- Smith's Upcoming Movie's Website