Crops Subsidized with Our Tax Dollars Are Making Us Sick


In the US, we subsidize the growth of commodity crops such as corn and soy. These crops are feed to livestock or industry creates ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and oils that are put in the junkiest foods we consume (sodas, French fries etc.). This is why crummy junk food is cheaper than fruits and veggies and other healthy foods.

New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that Americans who consume these foods weigh more, have a higher level of inflammation, and are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

So in essence, our tax dollars are paying for food that makes us sick! It would be nice if they subsidized the growth of fruits and veggies instead.

You can see the original research here and also an article about the issue here in Mother Jones.


Copyright 2016 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

4 Ways the Food and Drug Administration Is Not “Protecting and Promoting Your Health”

fda-logo11by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

A few weeks ago I happened to catch an episode of the radio show, This American Life, which focused on the how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dealt with problems related to acetaminophen, also know as Tylenol.

In a nutshell, it took the FDA over 30 years to let us know that taking too much of this medication can cause severe liver disease and death. Historically, Tylenol was thought to be the safe pain reliever and one that we should “trust.” Truth be told, taking just two extra strength Tylenol tablets over the maximum daily dose of 8, can cause liver failure.

Why did it take the FDA so long to inform the public of the health risks associated with Tylenol? According to a review of the FDA process, a lack of financial resources and a heavy workload caused the delay.

Ironically, days before I listened to this episode, I was thinking about a few other perplexing FDA positions. While their tagline is “protecting and promoting your health,” there are many instances where their actions are anything but. Here are four such examples.

1. Food Additives 

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine (JAMA Intern Med) found that between 1997 and 2012 all of the members on panels to determine if a food additive was safe had ties to the industry that created them, either as an employee or consultant. One has to wonder, with such an infiltration of industry in the decision-making process, if these additives are truly safe to consume.

Additionally, the FDA allowed companies that created food products to determine whether or not a food additive was generally recognized as safe also known as GRAS. In some cases, these companies did not even notify the FDA of this determination!

Food politics guru Marion Nestle, PhD, wrote the commentary for the article. Not one to mince words, she says:

“How is it possible that the FDA permits manufacturers to decide for themselves whether their food additives are safe?”

How indeed.

She also says:

“…financial ties with food and beverage companies are now recognized as influences on federal dietary guidelines, opinions of nutrition professionals, and the interpretation of nutrition studies.”

The article concludes with the authors urging the FDA to address the lack of independent review and the ubiquitous financial conflicts of interest in GRAS determinations. Let’s hope the FDA follows this advice.

2. Fecal Implants

Fecal implants, also known as fecal microbiota therapy (FMT), are a procedure whereby stool from a healthy donor is inserted into the colon of another. Yes, fecal implants sound really gross. But they save lives and are actually more effective for curing difficult cases of Clostridium difficile (C. diff)–which can cause diarrhea, cramping, colitis, and death–than really expensive antibiotic pills. They have also been found to be helpful, or in some cases cure, other gastrointestinal conditions, such as ulcerative colitis, a debilitating condition that causes inflammation of the colon and bloody, frequent diarrhea.

However, in April 2013 the FDA decided if feces were preventing, treating, or curing a disease, then feces should be classified as a drug. The FDA did not approve fecal implants for therapeutic uses. Any doctor who wanted to use them would have to fill out an investigational new drug application. In response, many doctors stopped doing fecal implants, even though they were found to be 90 percent effective for C. diff.

Just a few months later the FDA changed their mind, due to strong push-back from the American Gastroenterology Association. They allowed fecal implants for use in people with C. diff who were not responding to standard antibiotic treatment.

I find it interesting that the FDA wants a lot of regulation for feces, a substance that appears to be helping many people, yet they are lax about so many other things. Of course, precautions need to be taken such as screening for HIV, hepatitis, and parasites. However, at a time of diminishing returns with drugs for many gastrointestinal diseases and no chance of an actual cure, why not allow fecal implants, especially when they have the potential to help so many people who are suffering?

3. Antibiotics in Animal Feed

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the FDA is still dragging its feet to ban the use of antibiotics in factory farming. A recent FDA report reveals that 80 percent of antibiotics are given to industrial farm animals. Why give these animals low doses of antibiotics? So they will get fatter faster and to prevent health problems caused by the extreme confinement and filthy conditions they are forced to endure.

Although there is a clear-cut link between the use of antibiotics in farm animals and antibiotic resistance, the FDA continues to allow their use. Instead of banning the practice, the FDA has called for industry to voluntarily stop the practice. According to Marion Nestle, the problem has only gotten worse. The Centers for Disease Control states that 2 million people are sickened each year by drug-resistant bacteria and 23,000 of them die. Since part of the problem is the use of antibiotics in animal feed, it seems like a no-brainer to stop this practice. The FDA has had over 30 years to take action on this, but has not as of yet.

Apparently, banning the hundreds of antibiotics used in factory farming would be “lengthy and cumbersome” so a volunteer approach was the option chosen by the FDA.

One would think that 23,000 Americans dying each year would trump industry desires and long appeals.

4. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

I have written before about the fact that the FDA does not do its own safety assessments or studies on GMOs before they are approved for use. Instead, the companies that create the crops do their own safety assessments, which the FDA only reviews. In other words, it is the opinion of companies such as Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, Bayer CropScience, Dow Agrosciences, or Syngenta that are driving the approvals. This is a win-win for companies that stand to make a buck on GMOs, but is a lose-lose situation for us, the very people the FDA is supposed to be “protecting.”

The FDA is worried about poop, a basically free substance that can cure C. diff and potentially other inflammatory bowel diseases, but is fine with adding food additives, antibiotics, and GMOs to our food supply without adequate testing or conflict-of-interest-free determinations.

What is wrong with this picture? A lot. And it is the American people who will be paying the price.

Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

Is the Movement to Label GMOs Anti-Science?

by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

No gmo 2One of the criticisms I hear about the movement to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is that it’s anti-science. Some even go so far as to say it’s an assault on science. While I can’t speak for the entire movement, I can say that the lack of research in humans and troubling findings in some animal studies is enough to make me question the safety and necessity of GMOs.

The research related to GMOs can be hard to sort through. One study may find health problems in animals, but then proponents and biotech scientists say the study is flawed. But are there any scientists that question the safety and effectiveness of GMOs?

Michael_Hansen_ResizedOver the past few months, I have spoken with scientist Michael Hansen, PhD, who is an expert on genetically modified crops. Dr. Hansen works for the Consumers Union, the safety and advocacy arm of the organization Consumer Reports. Consumers Union is not funded by agribusiness, or other multinational companies tied to the biotech or food industry. Therefore its opinions are not influenced by industry money.

Dr. Hansen has testified at many hearings in support of GMO labeling both nationally and internationally. And he has been interviewed on a lot of television and radio shows, including the Dr. Oz Show, which aired on March 26, 2013. He is willing to answer some of my questions about GMOs, also know as genetically engineered crops.

1. Does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do safety testing on genetically modified crops?

No, they do not. Nor do they require any companies to do safety testing of their genetically engineered (GE) crops. The FDA policy on GE was introduced as a deregulatory initiative in 1993. It is based on the notion that genetic engineering is an extension of traditional plant breeding and should be regulated in the same way. In other words, no requirement for human safety testing; instead there are voluntary safety consultations.

2. What are voluntary safety consultations?

The companies that create GE crops do their own food safety assessments, which the FDA reviews. At the end of the consultation process the FDA sends a letter to the company. Here is an excerpt from one letter which says, “Based on the safety and nutritional assessment you have conducted, it is our understanding that Monsanto has concluded that corn grain and forage derived from the new variety are not materially different in composition, safety, or other relevant parameters from corn grain and forage currently on the market, and that they do not raise issues that would require premarket review or approval by FDA.” [emphasis added]. A version of this sentence is in all 97 “safety” consultation letters.

In other words, the FDA does not state its own opinion about the safety of GE crops. It only states what the company believes.

3. What are the potential health risks associated with Genetically Engineered Crops?

Human safety concerns may arise from genetic engineering due to the introduction of new allergens, an increased level of naturally occurring allergens, plant toxins, or changes in nutrition. GE crops may also have a negative effect on the gut and peripheral immune response. A meta-analysis of animal feeding studies involving GE crops suggests that they cause liver and kidney problems. And a new well-designed, long-term feeding study has found that pigs consuming GE corn and soy had significantly higher rates of severe stomach inflammation and females had significant thickening of the uterus.

In addition, GE plant material is finding its way into the human body with unknown health effects. A study found the toxin from GE corn in 93 percent of maternal and 80 percent of fetal blood samples. Clearly, more research is needed.

4. The Séralini study published in October, 2012, has gotten a lot of criticism. Do you think it has merit?

Yes, I do. The study was a follow-up to Monsanto’s 90-day feeding study on its NK603 corn. The Séralini study, which continued for 2 years, found that female rats fed this GE corn died 2-3 times more quickly, and developed mammary tumors more often than controls that ate non-GE corn. Male rats fed the GE corn had liver and kidney problems at higher rates than controls, and more large tumors than rats fed non-GE corn.

The study received a lot of media attention. It was viciously attacked in the media by pro-GE and industry-affiliated scientists in what appears to have been an orchestrated campaign.

The two main criticisms were that they used too few rats per group and that they used a strain of rat that is prone to mammary tumors as they age. Both criticisms are off base.

The Séralini study used 10 rats per group, the same number of rats that Monsanto used in their 90-day feeding study to look at key biological parameters. If ten rats are too small a sample size to demonstrate health problems, how come ten rats are a sufficient sample size to demonstrate no safety concerns?

As for the type of rat used, Séralini used the same strain, Sprague Dawley (SD), that was used in the Monsanto feeding study on its NK603 GE corn and its 2 year feeding study looking at the safety of glyphosate. Why is use of SD rat’s bad when Séralini uses them, but okay when Monsanto and other biotech companies use them?

If Séralini’s study is flawed, then so is Monsanto’s, and the safety of their GE corn should be reassessed.

5. Have GMOs helped to feed the world, reduce the use of pesticides, or increase yield as proponents have promised?

No. Dr. Charles Benbrook’s work has shown that GE crops in the U.S. have lead to a dramatic expansion in pesticide use, particularly herbicides. Indeed, over the past 16 years there has been an increase of about 404 million pounds more herbicides used on GE crops, compared to non-GE crops. Work by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman has shown that genetic engineering doesn’t really increase crop yield.

6. Why do you think foods with GMO ingredients should be labeled?

There are a lot of uncertainties related to genetically engineered crops including potential allergens and unknown health risks. If these foods are not labeled, it will be very difficult to identify an unexpected health effect resulting from eating a genetically modified food. For more information, see here.

Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.


Bernstein, I.L., Bernstein, J.A., Miller, M., Tierzieva, S., Bernstein, D.I., Lummus, Z., Selgrade, M.K., Doerfler, D.L. and V.L. Seligy. 1999. Immune responses in farm workers after exposure to Bacillus thuringiensis pesticides. Environmental Health Perspectives, 107(7): 575-582. At:

Gupta, A. et al. 2006. Impact of Bt cotton on farmers’ health (in Barwani and Dhar District of Madhya Pradesh). At: and

Gendel, S.M. 1998. The use of amino acid sequence alignments to assess potential allergenicity of proteins used in genetically modified foods. Advances in Food and Nutrition Research, 42: 44-61.

Vazquez-Padron, R.I., Moreno-Fierros, L., Neri-Bazan, L., de la Riva, G.A. and R. Lopez-Revilla. 1999. Bacillus thuringiensis Cry1Ac protoxin is a potent systemic and mucosal adjuvant. Scandinavian Journal of Immunology 49: 578-584.

Finamore, A., Roselli, M., Britti, S., Monastra, G., Ambra, R., Turrini, A. and E. Mengheri. 2008. Intestinal and peripheral immune response to MON810 maize ingestion in weaning and old mice. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, 56: 11533-11539. At:

Séralini, G-E, Mesnage, R., Clair, E., Gress, S., de Vendômois, JS and D. Cellier. Genetically modified crops safety assessments: present limits and possible improvements. Environmental Sciences Europe, 23: 10. At:

Kuiper, HA, Kleter, GA, Notebom, HPJM and EJ Kok. 2001. Assessment of food safety issues related to genetically modified foods. The Plant Journal, 27(6): 503-528.

Carmen, JA. et al. 2013. A long-term toxicology study on pigs fed a combined genetically modified (GM) soy and GM maize diet. Journal of Organic Systems, 8(1): 38-54. At:

Aris, A and S Leblanc. 2011. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reproductive Toxicology, 31(4): 528-533.

Séralini, G-E. et al. 2012. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 50: 4221-4231.

Bardocz S, Clark A, Ewen S, Hansen, M, Heinemann J, Latham J, Pusztai A, Schubert D and A Wilson. 2012. Séralini and science: An open letter. Independent Science News. At:

Benbrook, C. 2012. Impact of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the U.S. -the first sixteen years. Environmental Sciences Europe, 24:24.

Gurian-Sherman, D. Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops. Union of Concerned Scientists, 2009.

Is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Committed to Telling Americans the Truth About What They Are Eating?

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.

eat right

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, 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.