This New Year’s I had the opportunity to interview Dara Jones as a follow up to my review of her book, Foreign Invaders, An Autoimmune Disease Journey through Monsanto’s World of Genetically Modified Food. Jones' book was published on Kindle in early December.
Foreign Invaders is partially a story of Jones’ own journey toward improved health by avoiding GM food and transitioning completely to organic food, but the book is more than that, and comes across as a dissection of the complex intersection between American health care, food policy, and industrial food supply.
Dara Jones experienced “real food,” as she calls it now, on her grandmother’s farm in Arkansas, where her grandmother kept a large garden and poultry. But as she developed an urban career, describing herself as a classic overachieving “Type A” personality, Jones left that sustainable life behind. She became ill in 2009, and after battling autoimmune disease for years without significant improvement, she finally tried strict dietary measures: organic food, lots of vegetables, no GM food. And she got better.
I asked Jones why she wrote Foreign Invaders. Her answer was simple: to help others dealing with the same or similar issues of autoimmune disease that she has faced. She pointed out in the book and also in our discussion that 1 in 5—1 in 5!—Americans suffer from some type of auto-immune disorder.
Jones also wanted, as a personal goal, “to write a book that made a difference,” and found a willing publisher and writing coach in Angela Lauria of the Author Incubator.
Although her focus is on auto-immune disease, when I asked if there were other serious concerns, the author noted research that suggests GM food primarily hurts the digestive tract, a part of the body closely related to whole body health.
Most of the research she found was European, not American; both in the book and in our interview, Jones reiterated concern several times over the funding mechanisms for research, noting that 65% of today’s US scientific research is funded by corporations with vested interests.
But there is more to her purpose for writing. Jones discussed how profoundly disturbed she was by the information she discovered during her research process. She came from a tradition like most of us, trusting that government policy and controls had resulted in a reasonably safe food supply and saw individuals who were highly concerned about GMs as over-reactive and emotional. But the process of her health journey and of her research into the scope of biotech in our food systems left her, in her own words, “overwhelmed.” She said that she had to get some distance to write, but that the process of writing ultimately helped.
One of the more uplifting moments in our conversation was Jones’ statement that she saw as extremely positive—even in the face of overwhelming corporate control—the growing interest in local food and organic food—that there is “hope for change if enough know.”
Jones ‘s illness was severe. She lost her quality of life; at some points she was unable to get out of bed. It was not until she changed her diet that she got better—and this was done through her own efforts, not through medical care. Our food supply impacted her personally. She almost died.
While Foreign Invaders is targeted primarily to those like Jones with auto-immune disease, all of us should be concerned.
Most of us don’t think about what’s in our food when we zip through that fast-food drive for a burger and fries, but 1 in 5 Americans with auto-immune illness suggests that something is going on and that more of us are going to encounter health concerns.
Those active in the “healthy food movement” are alarmed at recent government actions.
Last Friday the USDA recommended approval of broad deregulation of herbicide use for a brand of GM seeds, labelled “agent orange seeds” by food activists.
Earlier Thursday a bill was filed in Congress to fast-track trade agreements, allowing the White House to negotiate details without full transparency and allowing complex agreements to pass with just an up or down vote by Congress.
This bill, if passed, will most certainly assist the Trans Pacific-Partnership, a contentious trade agreement with opposition ranging from union members to food activists, the latter fearing that the TPP will hurt European resistance to GM foods. In addition it will give the White House and current administration great ability to impact our food supply without public review.
What was it, Jones said? Yes-- “overwhelmed.” That word fits, given the above.
Perhaps those in support of organic and non-GMO food will lead the counter-culture movement of the coming generation of Americans—but only if enough read works like Foreign Invaders.
Thank you, Dara Jones, for writing this book.