photo by Emily Labes
By Emily Labes, Associate Publicist
From the moment that Dame Jane Goodall entered the room, affably declaring that she just realized that she had forgotten to comb her hair today, she commanded the attention of everyone present. As soft-spoken as she is passionate, anyone who has had the privilege of hearing her speak will inevitably wind up as transfixed as a Kindergartener during story time. It’s almost impossible not to pay attention when she speaks. Yesterday, during an interview with The Huffington Post, her messages were twofold and equally important: it’s time to ban GMOs from the global market, and it’s time to put the heart back in science.
The MEDIA CONNECT team has had the great privilege of working with Steven M. Druker, a respected public interest attorney, the Executive Director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, and author of the new book, Altered Genes, Twisted Truth; How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public (Clear River Press, 2015). Druker has found a great friend and supporter in Goodall, who even wrote the book’s foreward, declaring it to be “one of the most important books of the last 50 years.” Yesterday morning, Druker and Goodall sat down with Alexander Kaufman, a reporter from The Huffington Post, and I was fortunate enough to get to sit in on the interview.
Although she spends roughly 300 days a year on the road, Goodall is incredibly generous with what little free time she does have, particularly when it’s to promote a cause about which she cares deeply. So when she graciously volunteered to donate the only free hour she had during her New York City trip to do a media appearance with Druker, we all knew how lucky we were. As soon as they embraced, it became evident how much they genuinely enjoy each other’s company and respect one another.
The pair chatted amicably with the crew as they were given mics and directions on where to look when answering questions. Kaufman dove right in, asking why Druker and Goodall so staunchly opposed GMOs, and what alternatives they would suggest to combat the problems that GMOs purportedly solve. He seemed to take an almost decidedly pro-GMO stance, but Druker and Goodall effortlessly and eloquently answered every question, recalling an impressive amount of dates, data, quotes, and anecdotes in a manner that would have impressed even the most diligent AP History students.
What struck me most was the determination with which both Druker and Goodall spoke in regards to terminating the genetically engineered food (GE) movement. Although I’ve read Altered Genes, Twisted Truth and have had many exchanges with Druker, watching he and Goodall in action renewed my inspiration in their cause. In his book, Druker argues that the marketing and distribution of GE foods is not only immoral, it’s illegal. He gives evidence, citing that even FDA scientists warned of the abnormal risks of GMOs prior to their arrival on our dinner plates. Furthermore, Druker and Goodall offered a more viable, organic alternative to every “benefit” that GMOs are meant to offer.
The chemistry between the two was also thrilling to observe. They played off one another perfectly – a lawyer and a scientist. Although Goodall is the first to admit that she is not necessarily an authority on GMOs, she offered anecdotal evidence regarding animals’ reaction to natural vs. GE feed that bolstered the argument in a whole new way, and Druker was always ready to fill in any blanks.
Kaufman took the last fifteen minutes of the interview to ask Goodall a few questions about topics other than GMOs. When asked about the gender disparity in STEM careers, Goodall gave an answer that – I have to admit – almost made me want to consider a drastic career change. She said that the issue isn’t just that science isn’t appealing to women; it’s that we are taught to think about science in a manner that is contrary to human instinct. She recalled being taught to remain cold and objective when she first started studying. She said young scientists must be trained to stray from this mentality, adding that to study science is to passionately endeavor to discover all the mysteries of our world, and to take joy that there will always be new unknowns to explore.