By Richard Keller, AgProfessional Editor


One of the most staunch activists against biotech and genetically modified crops lives right in the middle of biotech corn and soybean country. Jeffrey M. Smith, who is described in references on the Web as an author and filmmaker, lives in Fairfield, Iowa. 


Let me use the author's Web site or the Institute for Responsible Technology Web site, which are linked in many ways, to describe him.


"International bestselling author Jeffrey M. Smith is the leading spokesperson on the health dangers of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). He documents how the world's most powerful Ag biotech companies bluff and mislead critics, and put the health of society at risk. His first book Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating became the world's best-selling and # 1 rated book on GMOs. His second book, Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, is the authoritative work that presents irrefutable evidence that GMOs are harmful. It includes 65 health dangers, linking GMOs to toxic and allergic reactions, thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ studied in lab animals."


Smith and the institute are based in Fairfield, Iowa, the home of the U.S. meditation group followers of the deceased Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Smith gains plenty of publicity living in a town of less than 10,000. Last week, he was given more than an hour to spread his view that GMO's are killing all forms of life, including humans, and destroying the planet. He was a main guest on the late-night radio radio talk show, "Coast to Coast AM with George Noory."


On the radio, Smith told stories about death and destruction from GMOs. One claim was that farmers in India raising cotton traditionally allowed their cattle to graze on the cotton plants once the cotton bolls were harvested. In recent time, when cattle were allowed to graze on GMO cotton plants, the cattle died. The loss of their cattle and loss of so much of their livelihood then drove these farmers to commit suicide, according to Smith.


Smith and the institute also are promoting October as Non-GMO Month and a nationwide Non-GMO Day 10.10.10, with the claim that the month and day will be the time for independent retailers, co-ops and other natural food grocers to educate everyone about the dangers of GMOs and promote natural foods.


As I've contended in previous editorials, the distribution of misinformation and events organized by those against conventional family farming or "corporate farming" are winning the war with outrageous claims. They receive the majority of media attention with their outlandish actions and name calling. An obvious example is how family farms are consistently now labeled corporate farms in the media.


The days of outlandish actions and sound bite speeches maybe didn’t do farmers good in the past, but at least farmers and ranchers tried. I remember the National Farmers Organization publicity events that included "tractorcades," dumping of milk and slaughter of livestock.


Many farmers and ranchers contend that agriculture is not losing the war against anti-agriculture activists. But I look at the state and community laws being passed forbidding the planting of GMO crops, outlawing gestation crates or mandating specific ethical livestock production practices. I also look at restaurant chains claiming they cook with eggs from cage-free chickens and only use "natural foods."


I have a goal of spurring reaction and discussion whenever I write an editorial. Responses usually show the polar division between conventional and organic agriculture advocates. I'm prone to one-word name calling but it's often countered with paragraph-long name calling — the same meaning just taking up a lot more space.


Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population claims farming as an occupation. I still contend that farmers and ranchers of this nation that are such a small percentage have to find new ways to be heard and influence policy as we move forward.