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A Dismissal Raises Questions About Objectivity on Food Policy

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

The politics of genetically modified food has created a rift in a policy-setting committee of the influential Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that demonstrates the difficulty in finding anyone - anywhere - who doesn't already have an opinion on the issue.

A dietitian working on a panel charged with setting policy on genetically modified foods for the academy contends she was removed for pointing out that two of its members had ties to Monsanto, one of the biggest makers of genetically modified seeds.

"Perhaps it is possible for someone who works for an organization that creates or promotes G.M.O.'s to be objective, however, that would be hard to do," Carole Bartolotto, a registered dietitian in California, wrote in a Feb. 6 e-mail to an academy executive.

The academy cited her failure to disclose a consulting practice she lists on her blog as its reason for dismissing her, though she insists it is a business in name only.

Ryan O'Malley, a spokesman for the academy, declined to discuss the dispute except to say in an e-mail that the issue was "ongoing" and would be discussed internally on Thursday.

The incident arises at a time of growing consumer awareness and debate over genetically modified foods - with more than 30 states considering labeling laws - and rising pressure on companies to reduce their use of genetically engineered ingredients.

Last fall, the dietetics academy, which has 74,000 members and whose endorsement is coveted by companies and advocacy groups alike, found itself embroiled in the war over a California ballot initiative that would have required labels on foods made with genetically engineered ingredients.

The official voters' guide had listed it among a group of scientific organizations and associations that had "concluded biotech foods are safe." 
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