Katie Couric Speaks with Eric Schlosser and Dr. David Kessler About Food Safety, GMOs and More (VIDEO) | Civil Eats

Katie Couric Speaks with Eric Schlosser and Dr. David Kessler About Food Safety, GMOs and More (VIDEO)

CBS Evening News’ Katie Couric spoke with former FDA Commissioner and author of The End of Overeating, Dr. David Kessler, and Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser for her online discussion this week, called @KatieCouric. The topics ranged from portion sizes to school food, the push back from industry on Couric’s segment last week on non-therapeutic antibiotic use in agriculture, and to other issues of food policy and food safety. The discussion is nearly fifty minutes long, and well worth watching. Here are a few highlights:

Couric confesses to complete ignorance about GMOs, asking Kessler and Schlosser to explain the basics. After each of them break down crossing the gene barrier and uncertainty around novel proteins, Schlosser had this to say about GMOs and cloning:

There is the whole issue is informed consent. If you know this is a radical new medicine, a genetically modified medicine, you have the choice whether you will take it or not. My real opposition to genetically modified organisms in agriculture is that its been introduced on a wide scale without any real public debate, and without any labeling…the GMO companies like Monsanto have fought tooth and nail against labeling. The same is true for cloned animals which are now just entering the food supply… if these are such wonderful things, you’d think they’d want to label it.

He later circled back around to this subject, adding:

Ultimately we should be following a precautionary principle. If you are going to introduce new technologies into our food system, particularly if you are not going to label it, the burden of proof that its safe should be on you, the company that is doing it… One of the things that I find most disturbing about genetically modified foods is the farmers who buy, for example, Monsanto seeds, have to sign a document when they do that they will not allow these seeds to be handed over for independent research. There is almost no independent research being done on these genetically modified seeds. I’m not saying that they’re dangerous, I’m not saying that people are going to be getting sick as a result. But we need much more research on the health impacts of these new technologies, and the research should not be done by the companies that are manufacturing them and profiting from them.

Dr. Kessler spoke about the change in the way people are viewing food in this country:

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I think there is a movement afoot, and its not fully here, and I think it’s evolving. But I think we realize that understanding where our food is from, making sure its real food, that its not highly processed, I think those are values that will serve us well, not only with regard to obesity, but also what tastes good and what we can enjoy.

Couric’s last question was about realistic solutions to changing the American relationship to food. Schlosser responded by saying, “I’d like to think that getting these food companies on board, and giving them the incentive to produce healthier food, could speed the process up… its not putting [food companies] out of business, its changing their food practices.”

Couric then asked about what incentives they have, and Kessler said, “They’ll change when we change, and when we make known what we want.”

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Kudos to Couric for asking basic questions and getting experts on who can explain these very important issues to the general public.

You can watch it all here:

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Paula Crossfield is a founder and the Editor-at-large of Civil Eats. She is also a co-founder of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. Her reporting has been featured in The Nation, Gastronomica, Index Magazine, The New York Times and more, and she has been a contributing producer at The Leonard Lopate Show on New York Public Radio. An avid cook and gardener, she currently lives in Oakland. Read more >

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  1. Thanks- nice summary of this interview. I find the 'pushback' from industrial animal ag organizations very interesting... they've worked so hard to keep people from seeing 'behind the scenes' of how animals are raised for meat/ eggs/ dairy, in this country... & now that the (multitudinous) problems with it are coming to light [thanks in large part to Food Inc, Eating Animals, Fast Food Nation, & similar, along with news coverage like Couric's original segments on antibiotic resistance), they're all up in arms about people knowing what's actually going on, with U.S. food production... I find it fascinating that among interested parties (informed consumers/ small-scale organic farmers/ microbiologists/ etc.), it's *only* folks with a financial stake in the current status quo DON'T see huge problems with the way we're doing things! Hmmm, what a coincidence!

    Current industrial animal ag practices cause tremendous health, environmental, and ethics problems; mismanaged profit-motive-at-all-cost biotechnology (Monsanto, this means you!) is breaking stuff in ways we don't fully understand/ can't fix, with *zero* accountability... an educated consumer base is the only antidote!

    For further reading, check out:

    http://www.ecovore.org/blog/?page_id=71
    http://www.ecovore.org/blog/?p=647

    When it comes to our food supply, ignorance is NOT bliss!
  2. Marisa Avalos
    This website is pure gold!! If only the media would emphasize MORE of these points about food policy, GMOs and everything thats involved with it, like the fact that big business doesnt give a crap about Joe Blow and what his family eats so long as they can take his money for their substandard, questionable, additive loaded "food". But then again, why would the media want to emphasize this point,when they themselves have a tie to conglomerate america, they are all intertwined ecomonically together. A more paternalistic stance has to be taken, but oh no, wait, civil liberties will be threatened!! Meanwhile the obese, heart diseased population continues to grow and drain our resources. Make healthy foods economically viable!!!! for goodness sake it can be done!

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