Last spring, I had the good luck to get my hands on a copy of Caitlin Shetterly’s new book in manuscript form. I raced through it and immediately wrote the following quote for the back cover: “Riveting from beginning to end, Modified reads like a hard-hitting investigative thriller. Shetterly is a thorough, even-handed journalist and a clear, persuasive writer. Ground-breaking and explosive, this is a book for everyone who wants to understand what they are feeding themselves and their families. Reading it has opened my eyes and changed the way I buy food.”
After several months of avoiding cornstarch and paying closer attention to honey than I ever have before, I’m happy to have the chance now to ask Caitlin a few questions about the book—why and how she wrote it, and what it’s been like for her to research and publish an in-depth exposé of a highly controversial subject.
You started writing this book as an investigation into your own illness. How did the project expand into the larger story of GMOs?
Initially, as you say, I was really just filling a notebook with my feelings and thoughts and frustrations about an illness that had pretty much leveled me for four years. It appeared autoimmune in nature—headaches, rashes, exhaustion, pain, and limb tingles being some of the hallmarks—yet no one could could diagnose it, despite years of testing for every conceivable malady.
Finally, an immunologist told me he had a theory about GMO corn, which is ubiquitous in our American foodscape. He said that he thought he had been seeing an uptick in people’s immunogenicity since the advent of the GMO, and he believed that there was something about either the pesticide bred into GMO corn (and soy), the herbicide tolerance, or the two combined that was derailing peoples’ immune systems.
Well, this was a radical idea. One that shocked me. In fact, if I’m honest, I had no idea what a GMO even was! So I opened this dark closet and peered in and I saw so much that was interesting and scary and confusing and didn’t make sense about how we grow our food… and I wanted to know more. I was hooked.