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VIEWPOINT: Academy in ‘big trouble’

By CAROLE BARTOLOTTO

(Editor’s note: Here, follow selected portions of a commentary received by The Delmarva Farmer, which completes the frame of the GMO-non-GMO debate in this country.
The commentary was authored by Carole Bartolotto, a registered dietician, and blogger (Healthy Eating Rocks) and a health consultant for Kaiser Permanente in Pasadena Calif.
It was Bartolotto, who prior to being dismissed from a special work group for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, alleged that Jennie Schmidt of Sudlersville, Md., and Marianne Edge Smith, another noted dietician, should be removed from the Academy’s advisory group for conflict of interest. Schmidt is a former national finalist in a contest sponsored by Monsanto.
An online petition is now circulating to remove Schmidt and Edge Smith and to reinstall Bortolotto on the academy work group.
Schmidt’s commentary on this situation was published in last week’s Delmarva Farmer. In recognition of the GMO/non-GMO debate, which currently embroils the farm and food industry, we offer the flip side of the issue.)


(April 30, 2013) I think the academy is in big trouble and they know it. I think their conflict of interest policy is terrible.
I don’t think someone who takes money from a company that creates or promotes GMOs can really be objective.
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.
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. Jennie flat-out said she does test fields/plots for Monsanto.
• The evidence review was not going to link to the position paper. And it would only include only human studies, not animal. The problem with this is that there are just a few human studies that I know of.
•The position paper was going to be written by Christine M. Bruhn, PhD, a vocal supporter of genetically modified foods and against labeling.
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, 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 three e-mails 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 more than three weeks, but I heard nothing.
And that is why I decided to talk to The New York Times.
(Editor’s note: Bartolotto stressed that she was responding as a health professional and not as a spokesperson for any organization and that she does not know Bridget Morris, whose name is attached to the petition as the sponsoring agent, “After the (New York Times) article came out, I got a message from her on my facebook page asking if it was OK that she started an online petition. I said, sure, why not?” Bartolotto said.
Her bottom line: “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.’”)