by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD
A few days ago, an article appeared in the New York Times entitled, “Food Politics Creates Rift in Panel on Labeling,” by Stephanie Strom. It was about my dismissal from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics work group for not disclosing a business that I don’t even have.
The work group was tasked to review the evidence related to food technologies, including genetically modified foods. I was happy to be a part of the group because I have seen how industry uses these position papers to support their stance. Last fall in the state of California, we had a proposition on the ballot that would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The state voters’ guide incorrectly said that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had concluded that “biotech foods are safe.” However, the Academy’s position was expired, so they actually had no position. The Academy issued a press release about this, but it was too late. The voter guide was already mailed to over 18 million registered voters. And Prop 37 lost. This is why I wanted to be on the group. I was hoping to prevent this from ever happening again.
Being on the work group was an interesting experience. Right off the bat, I had some major concerns, including the following:
- Two members, Jennie Schmidt and Marianne Smith Edge, disclosed their ties to industry groups such as Monsanto.
- The evidence review was not going to link to the position paper. And it would only include human studies, not animal. The problem with this is that there are not very many human studies to review.
- The position paper was going to be written by Christine M. Bruhn, PhD, from UC Davis, a vocal supporter of genetically modified foods who is against labeling. UC Davis has strong ties to Monsanto.
I mentioned some of my concerns with the group and I also sent an email to an Academy employee involved with the project about the potential conflicts of interest. Because of my concerns, members of the group were asked to fill out the Academy’s disclosure statement again and disclose any money they might have received.
On March 22, 2013, I received a letter saying I was dismissed for not disclosing my consulting business, listed on my blog, healthyeatingrocks.com. I was shocked to say the least, especially since I do not have a business. At some point I would like to pursue one, but I am too busy with my full-time job and family obligations.
I sent the Academy 3 emails explaining that I do not have a business, that I did have questions, and would like to talk. Since the dismissal letter specifically stated, “Please contact us if you have any questions,” I was expecting a response back. I waited for over 3 weeks, but I heard nothing
And that is why I decided to talk to the New York Times.
Then the Academy posted a statement that was filled with inaccuracies.
I did not refuse to “disclose any and all conflicts of interest.” Why would I disclose something that does not exist? I did disclose however, that I received $135.00 from two sources that were relevant to the project, as they required.
The Academy also says that “She was simply asked, repeatedly, to disclose this information and she declined to do so.” However, it was my questioning of the group’s policy to include people on the committee with ties to industry that led to the Academy’s request for more information from the entire group, not only me. And I complied with their request.
It was clear their minds were made up. A nonexistent business, not disclosed, was a bigger concern than two people who are involved with industries that would directly benefit from an evidence review and position paper with a positive slant toward genetically modified foods.
All of this posturing takes away from the real issue: Is it appropriate to have people involved with the biotech industry, which could benefit from the outcome, sit on a biotech-related work group? I don’t think so. Additionally, I found it alarming that the Academy was intent on moving forward with a position paper, written by Christine M. Bruhn, PhD, to be published before the evidence review was complete. She wrote the Academy’s 2006 position paper, which said that GMOs “…enhance the quality, safety, nutritional value, and variety of food available for human consumption and increase the efficacy of food production, processing, food distribution, and environmental and waste management.” I am guessing her 2013 version will offer up more of the same.
Sadly, it is the American people who are the losers in this situation because they will probably not get clear, unbiased, and balanced information about what to eat from the organization that represents the largest group of nutrition-related health professionals in the country.
Considering that we have no long-term evidence showing that genetically modified foods are safe for humans, the most responsible position the Academy could take would be to say, “The long-term health effects of genetically modified foods are unknown. Until and unless we know more, at minimum, they should be labeled.”
Is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics committed to telling Americans the truth about what they are eating? I, for one, am not convinced. What do you think?
Thanks to all the people who have supported me. Your kind works and notes of encouragement have meant so much to me. Someone even started a petition to get me reinstated to the work group!
Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.
I was very disappointed to read the New York Times article. It is outrageous that this type of behavior is going on at the Academy. I returned to school a few years a go to become a Dietitian. I have repeatedly been disappointed by the sponsorship of the speakers at meetings. I am based in Louisiana, and most of the speakers are backed by Dairy, Cattleman’s Association, Corn Refiners, or artificial sweetener industry. I’m glad that you spoke out about your dismissal. The integrity of the academy is at risk by this type of behavior. The public should be able to expect clear and unbiased information about the safety of GMOs, and it is very clear that the committee was not doing this. Keep up the great work!
Thank you Jessica! I am happy to know that so many dietitians feel the same way that I do!
Jessica please share this with every registered dietitian you know!
Carole! I am sorry that you had such terrible experience, but keep up the good work. Not everyone is about the money and God bless you for your honesty and sincerety in helping others to make better choices.
Thank you !!
None of this comes as a surprise, remember the reaction to Michele Simon’s report And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: New Report from Eat Drink Politics (http://bit.ly/WIFpww)…
This is the sort of crap that some people are finally waking up to and realizing you can’t trust “experts” anymore. There’s too much money and politics at stake. To trust someone else these days on what to eat is risky and if it doesn’t pass the common sense test, better safe than sorry.
Welcome to the Corporate States of America. This is done all the time with Pharmaceuticals. Just try to get a long term study of the efficacy of the vaccination schedule – Why bother when we already ‘know’ (wink, wink) that it’s safe.
I’ve been an ADA-AND member 22 years and have tried to keep my membership to work at improving things from the inside through two AND groups AODA and HENDPG but I’m feeling the need for an exodus. I want to put my money and energy into something I believe in, and I don’t believe in or trust what has happened to AND. They are running as a dictatorship not a democratic membership organisation and they are behaving in too many ways that I disagree with. Changing our name, adding credentials without thorough consultations, partnering with unhealthy food and beverage organisations – not listening to the membership which should drive all our actions.
it seems the best message to AND would be to either have a takeover and remove whom ever is behind these unhealthy decisions, or to have a mass exodus of everyone who believes in nutrition through healthy food and water systems and leave AND to the monsanto pepsi coke mars dietitians.
We RDs who believe in healthy food and water can start the American Dietetics / Nutrition Association or some such name that represents American RDs and registered nutritionists. Maybe a recognised reputable body already exists?
I am with you Stacia. I will not be renewing, but I do like HEN. Maybe we could create another organization or do our own conference. We could certainly do a list serv. Do you have any ideas? I am all ears.
Carole, I sincerely feel for you. AND for the public. But for you, it may be the catalyst you need to break away from a crooked, misguided organization you don’t agree with.
I’ve learned enough from reading health information over the past 2-3 years to not trust any organization associated with health. The American Dental Association still recommends mercury in fillings, the AMA pushes statins ad nauseum and the psychiatric association wants to put more of our kids on addictive meds for problems caused by unhealthy diets. And the dietetics association still has the food pyramid upside down. The really horrible thing about some of these organizations is they’re determined to root out any members who disagree or use alternative treatments. Money and politics, politics and money. That’s what they’re all about now, not serving the American people.
Thank you so much. I could not agree more on every point! So much focus on drugs and not enough on lifestyle and diet.
As a healthcare provider this information is valuable to the public, we see this all the time with the big pharma , we need to spread the word and start a movement on behalf of True healthy , eating and healthy living …..for our selves , loved ones, patients and the generations to come. Time to speak up !!!!
I am sorry to hear you were dismissed. It is appalling how the truth is the farthest thing they (meaning all parties trying to keep the truth quiet) want the public to know about what is going into our bodies. I have spent the last year and a half being caregiver to a friend (and veteran) recovering from cancer. An opportunity presented itself for me to begin homesteading in Florida with a large garden. My plan is to grow all my own organic foods, to eat and store on the property. I’m actually documenting my journey and struggles through my own blog (both good and bad) which you can find here if you choose to visit. http://hernandohomesteader.blogspot.com
I have become an armchair activist of sorts, spreading the word on the dangers of GMO foods and I tell everyone I know to avoid them at all costs.
I hope you find far better work, with even better prosperity and continue to oppose the “un-truthers” out there.
My very best regards,
Over 20 years ago i approached a Monsanto Dietitian at an ADA conference and asked her if she understood the ramifications of what Monsanto was doing with seeds and GMOs. “We’re feeding the world” was her replay. That is their mantra. It’s pervasive.
I hope you will make more news headlines. Stand your ground. Be strong and go forth to spread the truth.
The whole “feed the world” claim is particularly annoying, especially considering that we grow a ton of GMO crops in this country and yet 16 million children live in households that struggle to put food on the table.
Carole – thank you for your integrity and courage in speaking up! It is so disheartening to know that an association (Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics) whose purpose is supposedly to promote health and well-being through good nutrition would be siding with (actually, promoting) the biotech/chemical industry. GMOs are diametrically opposite to that goal on so many levels. It would seem that the organization, like our corrupt government, has been bought off.
I have lost all respect for this organization!
Westlake Village, CA
So have I Susan, thanks for your comment!
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