Monsanto, McDs, Coke and Friends Mis-Educate Registered Dieticians About the “Benefits” of Processed Food

Truthstream Media
by Daisy Luther

 In the most mind-boggling conflict of interest you may have seen in quite a while, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) has put out a “fact” sheet on the “benefits” of processed foods for the members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

First, here’s a little background on the cast of characters in this little propaganda drama.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) is “the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals” and is made up of registered dieticians and dietetic technicians. Their mission states, “The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is a multidimensional organization that strives to improve the nation’s health and advance the profession of dietetics through research, education, and advocacy.” The group claims to be ” the public’s and news media’s best source for the most accurate, credible and timely food and nutrition information” and they are committed to the ongoing education of their members and the general public.

The International Food Information Council

The IFIC is “your nutrition and food safety resource”, allegedly committed to helping out both consumers and professionals. According to their website, ”The International Food Information Council Foundation provides food safety, nutrition, and healthful eating information to help you make good and safe food choices.”

The IFIC sounds absolutely awesome until you learn who their sponsors are: ”IFIC receives funding from the usual suspects — including, but not limited to, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, General Mills, Mars, McDonald’s, Monsanto, PepsiCo, Red Bull, and Yum! Brands (this last being the parent company of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, and WingStreet).”

The Dietitians for Professional Integrity

Finally, we have our heroes, a group of rebel dietetic professionals. Dietitians for Professional Integrity stand for everything that is right about the field of nutrition and dietetics. They promote real food for real health. Their mission:

We are a group of concerned dietetics professionals advocating for greater financial transparency, as well as ethical, socially responsible, and relevant corporate sponsorships within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.


This website was created to let you know more about who we are and why we do not think Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and other Big Food giants should sponsor the country’s largest nutrition organization.


Our efforts are guided by professional integrity. We believe the American public deserves nutrition information that is not tainted by food industry interests. Those of us who co-founded Dietitians for Professional Integrity are nutrition experts first and foremost; we went to school to help people achieve better health through food, not to help multinational food companies sell more unhealthy products. (source) 

Hey – The “Experts” Say that Processed Food is Not That Bad!!!!

The IFIC has put together a propaganda handout/”fact” sheet, “What Is A Processed Food? You Might Be Surprised!” for the benefit of the members of the AND. (Read it and weep RIGHT HERE.)

The professional watchdog group, Dietitians for Professional Integrity, points out the blatant dishonesty of the flyer.

[The “fact” sheet] … perfectly demonstrates how food industry front groups spin science in an attempt to assuage public concerns about their clients’ products.


Titled “What Is A Processed Food? You Might Be Surprised!”, this ‘fact sheet’ mentions that breakfast cereals, like frozen vegetables and roasted nuts, are processed. They conveniently fail to mention that, unlike most breakfast cereals, the freezing of vegetables and roasting of nuts does not obliterate nutrients. Nor do frozen vegetables and roasted nuts contribute artificial dyes, artificial flavors, chemical additives, or partially hydrogenated oils to people’s diets.


IFIC also relies on a familiar food industry tactic — absurdly tying modern-day processing techniques to traditional ones. “Food processing began about 2 million years ago, when our ancestors put flame to food”. Of course, heating food has nothing in common with partially hydrogenating oils, making aspartame, or turning corn into high fructose corn syrup. The food industry is aware that people are increasingly concerned with hyper-processed products, and trying to link the term “processed food” to chopping a carrot or cooking a piece of fish is one way of perpetuating deception. (source)

The flyer is also quick to laud the many wonders of corn (one of the major sources of toxic GMOs in the North American food supply) and to patronizingly try to convince us that we completely misunderstand the noble purposes of the food industry. They are trying to actually serve up food that is fresher by processing it until it is chemically unrecognizable as food.

Back in January, the AND received harsh criticism from another industry watchdog, Eat Drink Politics, because of corporate conflicts of interest.

Public health attorney and author Michele Simon asks: Are America’s nutrition professionals in the pocket of Big Food? While the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 74,000-member trade group partners with the likes of Coke and Hershey’s, the nation’s health continues to suffer from poor diet.


The largest trade group of nutrition professionals—the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—has a serious credibility problem. In a damning report released today, industry watchdog Eat Drink Politics examines the various forms of corporate sponsorship by Big Food that are undermining the integrity of those professionals most responsible for educating Americans about healthy eating.


The report details, for example, how registered dietitians can earn continuing education units from Coca-Cola, in which they learn that sugar is not a problem for children and how Nestlé, the world’s largest food company can pay $50,000 to host a two-hour “nutrition symposium” at the Academy’s annual meeting. (source)

This is a clearcut case of the foxes telling the chickens how to best build their henhouses. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can maintain no credibility whatsoever when they are being “educated” by Big Food, who is not at all interested in consumer health, but only in health of their bottom line. AND likely started out as a positive organization dedicated to good health, but they were sidetracked along the way by all of the money that Big Food threw in their path.

If you wonder why the public is so confused about what constitutes good nutrition you need look no further than the propaganda being spouted by these so-called “experts” and beacons of ”continuing education.” There is a real problem when the people sponsoring the nutrition lessons are the very purveyors of GMO crops, potato chips, soda pop, and fast food.

Many people are out there trying valiantly to make the best possible choices for their families on limited budgets, but they must combat the constant disinformation on product labels that herald phrases “all-natural”, “heart-healthy”, and “low-fat”. These folks are being deliberately deceived by food manufacturers, but even worse, by professional societies like the American Medical Association, the American Heart Association, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, all so the rich can get richer while the poor get sicker.

PepsiCo’s Naked Juices Have to Drop ‘All Natural’ Label After $9 Million Class Action Lawsuit

Natural Society
by Christina Sarich

While government agencies like the FDA keep stalling on demanding rigorous scientific testing of numerous questionable ingredients, GMO foods, and the correct labeling of such foods, PepsiCo has recently agreed to settle out of court for $9 million over a class action lawsuit that claimed ‘natural’ and ‘non-GMO’ on their bottles was misleading since they are made with GMO ingredients, as well as synthetic and ‘unnatural’ items.

The plaintiffs in the suit claimed that PepsiCo gave the “the false impression that the beverages vitamin content is due to the nutritious fruits and juices, rather than the added synthetic compounds such as calcium pantothenate (synthetically produced from formaldehyde)” and “Fibersol-2 (a proprietary synthetic digestion-resistant fiber produced by Archer Daniels Midland and developed by a Japanese chemical company), fructooligosaccharides (a synthetic fiber and sweetener), and inulin (an artificial and invisible fiber added to foods to … increase fiber content without the typical fiber mouth-feel).”

The amount of synthetic additives in Naked juices are quite possibly more than anything ‘natural’ at all. It certainly isn’t a ‘100% juice” smoothie as the labeling on the bottle currently states. Naked juices contain up to 11 different chemicals including: niacinamide, d-alpha tocopherol acetate, cyanocobalamin, and pyridoxine hydrochloride, just to name a few.

And as you may have expected, of course Pepsi Co donated more than $2.5 million dollars to help defeat Proposition 37 in California that would have required companies like Pepsi to label all products that contain GMOs in any form. The ‘Right to Know” ballot was defeated due to special interest groups like Syngenta, Dow, Monsanto, Pepsi Co, and others who helped finance its demise.

If you would like to avoid PepsiCo altogether since they are actively trying to push GMO foods and chemical laden drinks on the public while trying to pass them off as ‘health’ food, you might have a hard time ignoring the company – they are in over 200 countries and make everything from Pepsi Cola to Frito Lay Chips, Tropicana Juices, Quaker Oates and Gatorade. But learn of what they create, and you can steer clear. You can also email PepsiCo’s Senior Director with your opinion about their GMO and unnatural products. The Organic Consumers Association has created a simple way to do send a message to the senior director of Communications, Mike Torres.

If you want real juice, try putting some organic apples, lemons and kale in a juicer. No corporate lies need to be added to the recipe.

Genetically-Engineered Trees?? Yes, and Why Humanity Should be Petrified

Living Maxwell
by Max Goldberg

The more time that you spend in the organic industry, the more you learn about what is truly going on and what you find is pretty scary.

While I try to remain as optimistic as possible, the reality is that the organic industry is under a constant existential threat from genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

Even though organic food has never been more popular, nearly 80% of the food on supermarket shelves contains GMOs and organic farmland is shrinking, a very worrisome trend. While 64 nations around the world require GMOs to be labeled, the U.S. does not. Why?

Because the ag-biotech industry has “purchased” agricultural policy in our country, by spending $572 million on campaign contributions and lobbying from 1999-2010.

Furthermore, we have a President who is fully on board the GMO-train, despite having made a campaign promise in 2007 to label GMOs.

Since taking office, not only has President Obama NOT labeled GMOs, but his administration has approved every single GMO-application that has been submitted to the USDA.

Among many others, one of the real problems with GMOs is that they contaminate everything around them. So, nature as we know it is disappearing, and our children’s food supply is going to be one big science experiment fraught with huge unknown risks.

Yet, if you think the ag-biotech industry is solely concerned with controlling the world’s food supply, think again. As I wrote about a while ago, there is now genetically-engineered grass.

But what should really frighten all of us, because of the huge ecological risks, is the emergence of genetically-engineered trees. Yes, genetically-engineered trees.

Genetically-engineered trees are very different than GM-crops, such as soybeans or corn, because they can last for decades or centuries in the wild. Furthermore, they have the potential to spoil native forests, destroy organic ecosystems, are very flammable, and will further deplete our already small and precious water supply. (The U.S. Forest Service has released findings that certain GE-trees would use twice the water of native forests.)

Humanity relies on these native forests to serve as the “lungs of the Earth,” by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. If this were somehow jeopardized, how would we survive?

ArborGen, the leading company in this space who has has a request pending with the USDA to commercialize genetically-engineered, freeze-tolerant eucalyptus seedlings and is run by ex-Monsanto executives, doesn’t seem concerned at all about any potential side effects or risks. They see GE-trees as a way to produce paper in a more cost-effective manner, regardless of the dire environmental consequences.

To learn more about what is going on with genetically-engineered trees and the recent protests that took place in North Carolina, I STRONGLY URGE you to read this eye-opening article in Z Magazine by clicking HERE.

WHAT CAN YOU DO

There are a few immediate things that you can do to help stop the ag-biotech industry from destroying our forests and ultimately our food supply.

1) Sign the petition to stop GE-trees on the Global Justice Ecology Project’s website and donate to this organization.

2) Buy fewer paper products.

3) Donate to Washington State’s GMO-labeling intiative called I-522. This is a MUST-WIN state for us, and I will be writing about this more over the next few months.

It is imperative that we not rack up two critical losses, with last year’s Proposition 37 in California and now this Washington state ballot initiative. The future of GMO-labeling in the U.S. is truly at stake here.

Related:  EU plans 2-year carcinogenicity study on NK603 maize

Former Pro-GMO Scientist Speaks Out on the Real Dangers of Genetically Engineered Food

Mercola . com
by Dr. Mercola

Who better to speak the truth about the risks posed by genetically modified (GM) foods than Thierry Vrain, a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada? It was Vrain’s job to address public groups and reassure them that GM crops and food were safe, a task he did with considerable knowledge and passion.

But Vrain, who once touted GM crops as a technological advancement indicative of sound science and progress, has since started to acknowledge the steady flow of research coming from prestigious labs and published in high-impact journals – research showing that there is significant reason for concern about GM crops – and he has now changed his position.

Former Pro-GMO Scientist Cites GM Food Safety Concerns

Vrain cites the concerning fact that it is studies done by Monsanto and other biotech companies that claim GM crops have no impact on the environment and are safe to eat. But federal departments in charge of food safety in the US and Canada have not conducted tests to affirm this alleged “safety.”

Vrain writes:

“There are no long-term feeding studies performed in these countries [US and Canada] to demonstrate the claims that engineered corn and soya are safe. All we have are scientific studies out of Europe and Russia, showing that rats fed engineered food die prematurely.

These studies show that proteins produced by engineered plants are different than what they should be. Inserting a gene in a genome using this technology can and does result in damaged proteins. The scientific literature is full of studies showing that engineered corn and soya contain toxic or allergenic proteins.

… I refute the claims of the biotechnology companies that their engineered crops yield more, that they require less pesticide applications, that they have no impact on the environment and of course that they are safe to eat.”

“The Whole Paradigm of Genetic Engineering Technology is Based on a Misunderstanding”

This misunderstanding is the “one gene, one protein” hypothesis from 70 years ago, which stated that each gene codes for a single protein. However, the Human Genome project completed in 2002 failed dramatically to identify one gene for every one protein in the human body, forcing researchers to look to epigenetic factors — namely, “factors beyond the control of the gene” – to explain how organisms are formed, and how they work.

According to Vrain:

“Genetic engineering is 40 years old. It is based on the naive understanding of the genome based on the One Gene – one protein hypothesis of 70 years ago, that each gene codes for a single protein. The Human Genome project completed in 2002 showed that this hypothesis is wrong.

The whole paradigm of the genetic engineering technology is based on a misunderstanding. Every scientist now learns that any gene can give more than one protein and that inserting a gene anywhere in a plant eventually creates rogue proteins. Some of these proteins are obviously allergenic or toxic.”

In other words, genetic engineering is based on an extremely oversimplified model that suggests that by taking out or adding one or several genes, you can create a particular effect or result. But this premise, which GMO expert Dr. Philip Bereano calls “the Lego model,” is not correct. You cannot simply take out a yellow piece and put in a green piece and call the structure identical because there are complex interactions that are still going to take place and be altered, even if the initial structure still stands.

Serious Problems May Arise From Horizontal Gene Transfer

GE plants and animals are created using horizontal gene transfer (also called horizontal inheritance), as contrasted with vertical gene transfer, which is the mechanism in natural reproduction. Vertical gene transfer, or vertical inheritance, is the transmission of genes from the parent generation to offspring via sexual or asexual reproduction, i.e., breeding a male and female from one species.

By contrast, horizontal gene transfer involves injecting a gene from one species into a completely different species, which yields unexpected and often unpredictable results. Proponents of GM crops assume they can apply the principles of vertical inheritance to horizontal inheritance, but according to Dr. David Suzuki, an award-winning geneticist, this assumption is flawed in just about every possible way and is “just lousy science.”

Genes don’t function in a vacuum — they act in the context of the entire genome. Whole sets of genes are turned on and off in order to arrive at a particular organism, and the entire orchestration is an activated genome. It’s a dangerous mistake to assume a gene’s traits are expressed properly, regardless of where they’re inserted. The safety of GM food is based only on a hypothesis, and this hypothesis is already being proven wrong.

Leading Scientists Disprove GMO Safety

Vrain cites the compelling report “GMO Myths and Truths” as just one of many scientific examples disputing the claims of the biotech industry that GM crops yield better and more nutritious food, save on the use of pesticides, have no environmental impact whatsoever and are perfectly safe to eat. The authors took a science-based approach to evaluating the available research, arriving at the conclusion that most of the scientific evidence regarding safety and increased yield potential do not at all support the claims. In fact, the evidence demonstrates the claims for genetically engineered foods are not just wildly overblown – they simply aren’t true.

The authors of this critical report include Michael Antoniou, PhD, who heads the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King’s College at London School of Medicine in the UK. He’s a 28-year veteran of genetic engineering technology who has himself invented a number of gene expression biotechnologies; and John Fagan, PhD, a leading authority on food sustainability, biosafety, and GE testing. If you want to get a comprehensive understanding of genetically engineered foods, I strongly recommend reading this report.

Not only are GM foods less nutritious than non-GM foods, they pose distinct health risks, are inadequately regulated, harm the environment and farmers, and are a poor solution to world hunger. Worse still, these questionable GM crops are now polluting non-GM crops, leading to contamination that cannot ever be “recalled” the way you can take a bad drug off the market … once traditional foods are contaminated with GM genes, there is no going back! Vrain expanded:

“Genetic pollution is so prevalent in North and South America where GM crops are grown that the fields of conventional and organic grower are regularly contaminated with engineered pollen and losing certification. The canola and flax export market from Canada to Europe (a few hundreds of millions of dollars) were recently lost because of genetic pollution.”

American Academy of Environmental Medicine Called for Moratorium on GM Foods FOUR Years Ago

In 2009, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine called for a moratorium on GM foods, and said that long-term independent studies must be conducted, stating:

“Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. …There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation…”

Despite this sound warning, GM foods continue to be added to the US food supply with no warning to the Americans buying and eating this food. Genetic manipulation of crops, and more recently food animals, is a dangerous game that has repeatedly revealed that assumptions about how genetic alterations work and the effects they have on animals and humans who consume such foods are deeply flawed and incomplete. Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant claims genetically engineered crops are “the most-tested food product that the world has ever seen.” What he doesn’t tell you is that:

Industry-funded research predictably affects the outcome of the trial. This has been verified by dozens of scientific reviews comparing funding with the findings of the study. When industry funds the research, it’s virtually guaranteed to be positive. Therefore, independent studies must be done to replicate and thus verify results.

The longest industry-funded animal feeding study was 90 days, which recent research has confirmed is FAR too short. In the world’s first independently funded lifetime feeding study, massive health problems set in during and after the 13th month, including organ damage and cancer.

Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta rarely if ever allow independent researchers access to their patented seeds, citing the legal protection these seeds have under patent laws. Hence independent research is extremely difficult to conduct.
There is no safety monitoring. Meaning, once the GM item in question has been approved, not a single country on earth is actively monitoring and tracking reports of potential health effects.

It Might Take More Than One Bite to Kill You …

“One argument I hear repeatedly is that nobody has been sick or died after a meal (or a trillion meals since 1996) of GM food,” Vrain said. “Nobody gets ill from smoking a pack of cigarettes either. But it sure adds up, and we did not know that in the 1950s before we started our wave of epidemics of cancer. Except this time it is not about a bit of smoke, it’s the whole food system that is of concern. The corporate interest must be subordinated to the public interest, and the policy of substantial equivalence must be scrapped as it is clearly untrue.”

Remember, Vrain used to give talks about the benefits of GM foods, but he simply couldn’t ignore the research any longer … and why, then, should you? All in all, if GM foods have something wrong with them that potentially could cause widespread illness or environmental devastation, Monsanto would rather NOT have you find out about it. Not through independent research, nor through a simple little label that would allow you to opt out of the experiment, should you choose not to take them on their word. As Vrain continued:

“The Bt corn and soya plants that are now everywhere in our environment are registered as insecticides. But are these insecticidal plants regulated and have their proteins been tested for safety? Not by the federal departments in charge of food safety, not in Canada and not in the U.S.

… We should all take these studies seriously and demand that government agencies replicate them rather than rely on studies paid for by the biotech companies … Individuals should be encouraged to make their decisions on food safety based on scientific evidence and personal choice, not on emotion or the personal opinions of others.”

At present, the only way to avoid GM foods is to ditch processed foods from your grocery list, and revert back to whole foods grown according to organic standards.

Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods

While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people’s initiative 522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:

“Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn’t required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn’t have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.

Doesn’t it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.

I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers.”

Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn’t have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let’s not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.

No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.

If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.

For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.

Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.

Top US Healthcare Giant: GMOs Are Devastating Health

Natural Society
by Anthony Gucciardi

Just days after a leading genetically modified organism (GMO) researcher spoke out against GMOs and how many pro-GMO ‘scientists’ are in bed with Monsanto or carry their own GMO patents, the largest managed healthcare provider in the United States is now publicly speaking out against GMOs. In a recent newsletter, the Kaiser Permanente company discussed the numerous dangers of GMOs in a recent newsletter and how to avoid them.

Explaining how GM ingredients have been linked to tumors and organ damage in rats in the only lifelong rat study available, the newsletter highlighted how the only real long- term research indicates that GMOs are a serious health danger. The newsletter, which you can view here, states:

“Despite what the biotech industry might say, there is little research on the long-term effects of GMOs on human health. Independent research has found several varieties of GMO corn caused organ damage in rats. Other studies have found that GMOs may lead to an inability in animals to reproduce.”

Top Health Giant Says Buy Organic for Proper Health

The newsletter then goes on to tell readers how they can avoid GMOs in their food through buying high quality organic and looking for other non-GMO indicators. It is important to remember the organic labeling meanings when shopping organic, however, which this newsletter unfortunately does not address. Make sure you know which ‘level’ of organic you are consuming:

Products labeled ‘100% organic’ – These items are made with 100% organic ingredients and are the highest quality organic products you can purchase. No GMOs are allowed.

Labeled ‘organic’ — These products are to contain at least 95% organic ingredients overall. Still no GMOs are allowed.
‘Made with ‘organic ingredients’ — This is the lowest form of organic content. This label is only required to contain 70% organic ingredients, meaning that the remaining 30% can be conventional. The conventional items, however, are not allowed to contain GMOs. These products don’t qualify for the USDA seal, whereas the previous two do.
You can also look for the ‘Non-GMO Verified’ logo on food items to be sure that they are GMO free.

But why does a major corporation care that you are eating GMOs? Well the fact of the matter is that the research (and common sense — eating pesticide factories mixed with the DNA of viruses isn’t going to end well) indicates GMOs are causing problematic health conditions across the board. Of course the issue lies in the fact that GMOs are not immediately considered as a cause and actually influence disease through a series of complications that are not easy to trace. But as the only lifelong study has showed us, 50% of male and 70% of female rats died prematurely when consuming GMOs.

And the bottom line is that this is costing Kaiser Permanente. If members of the healthcare juggernaut were to switch to high quality organic foods free of GMOs, pesticides, mercury-containing high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners, then Kaiser would be dishing out millions upon millions less for healthcare costs.

More and more organizations and individuals alike are speaking out against GMOs and the effects of GMO consumption as the evidence becomes more and more clear on a daily basis. Perhaps next time Monsanto tries to push a new outlandish creation into the food supply they will be met with crushing opposition thanks to a global increase in awareness

Codex Committee: “You Can’t Tell People that Food Prevents Disease!”

Alliance for Natural Health

Not even nutrient-related disease! Our executive director’s gripping report from the front lines.

As we discussed last week, ANH-USA represented US consumers at the international Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses, which met last week in Germany. Our executive director, Gretchen DuBeau, reports that the committee made a number of decisions that may well affect natural health in the US.

Here in the US, we have been debating various issues concerning natural health: Will we retain access to a wide variety of dietary supplements in high-nutrient-level dosages? Will we be able to access nutritious, healthy foods, or will selection and quality diminish because of industry or government control? Will we finally achieve mandatory labeling for GMOs? We naturally think that, if we are able to convince our policymakers, our rights will be protected. But we could be wrong. We have to keep a close eye on what happens overseas too.

Codex, which was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is creating international guidelines for member nations to follow. And while these guidelines are supposed to be voluntary, it is conceivable that our country’s food policies could be overridden by international trade law. At the very least, the wrong international guidelines won’t make it easier to keep the right ones here.

One of the most significant outcomes from this meeting would have the effect of squelching free speech even further. In relation to principles underlying food fortification for the prevention of diet-related illness, the committee members emphasized that language indicating that food prevents disease is forbidden and they are opposed to claims that may “mislead”—even if the claim is true. Happily, the US delegation disagreed, and said that while the US has similar policies about food claims, by definition the nutrients in food prevent nutrient-related diseases! The Botswana delegation agreed with us, pointing out that iodine prevents goiter, so therefore nutrients do prevent disease, yet Botswana nevertheless reinforced the ban.

This is at the heart of ANH’s work. We are here to educate consumers about the role that food, supplements (including nutraceuticals), and lifestyle play in optimizing health. And now we are seeing the beginning of international policy preventing health claims related to natural health products and foods. It’s difficult to educate consumers when international leaders are forbidding the discussion!

In another extremely troubling decision, the Codex Committee adopted extremely low Nutrient Reference Values for labeling purposes—that is, the intake levels of essential nutrients deemed adequate to meet most people’s minimal nutritional needs. They are roughly equivalent to our “Recommended Dietary Allowances,” in that RDAs indicate the daily dietary intake level of a nutrient considered sufficient by the Food and Nutrition Board to meet the requirements of 97.5% of healthy individuals in each life-stage and gender group. These new NRVs are far too low to be effective at preventing disease, according to most natural health experts, with even higher nutrient values needed to optimize health—though it was stressed that the actual values weren’t important because they are “just for labeling purposes.”

The committee also adopted single values—what some supposed “average healthy person” might need. And of course that doesn’t work! Children, young people, men, women (with different needs if pregnant), the elderly, and people with a multitude of nutrient deficiencies or excesses, food sensitivities, dietary needs, and illnesses—each would need a very different dosage. So we would advocate a range of values, which can take into account bioindividuality—the “systems biology” approach that considers the great variability in individuals’ genetic backgrounds.

Also under discussion were NRVs associated with reduced incidence of non-communicable diet-related diseases, or NRVs-NCD. Regarding those, the committee said, “Governments are encouraged to use the NRVs-NCD, or alternatively, consider the suitability of the general principles below, including the level of evidence required… in establishing their own reference values for labeling purposes for nutrients associated with diet-related non-communicable diseases.” In other words: member countries should adopt these standards precisely, or at least follow our guidelines if you need to tweak them to your needs.

Did you see that phrase, “including the level of evidence required”? At least here we find an upside: the committee proposed a broader scientific standard than the one it had been using previously. Instead of the “gold standard” of random-controlled trials (RCTs), both WHO and FAO now use something called the GRADE system, which takes into consideration all levels of evidence, including clinical, giving more weight to evidence that is more conclusive. And Codex is inclined to agree with this broader standard. This is extremely positive, as natural health products rarely have patent protection and therefore cannot afford hundreds of millions of dollars for RCTs, but may have an abundance of clinical evidence.

Of course, everyone’s big question is harmonization on supplements—that is, whether the US will accept the limits Codex creates for supplements (in terms of dosages and product availability). Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that one. The US delegation made it clear that our country intends to stay flexible—to create our own standards and use our own science, indicating no intention to harmonize at this time. Legally, we are not bound to harmonize. But we are subject to World Trade Organization (WTO) sanctions should conflicting national policy creates trade disputes.

This is unlikely to be an issue, but there have already been conflicts. For example, in 1985 the European Union enacted a ban on the production and importation of meat derived from animals treated with growth-promoting hormones. In 1989, the EU banned the import of US beef produced with growth-promoting hormones, dramatically reducing beef exports to the EU. In 1996, the US claimed that the EU ban adversely affected trade and because their standards exceeded those set by Codex, the WTO should intervene. It did, and a WTO panel ruled in the US’s favor, allowing the US to begin collecting tariffs on $116.8 million worth of imports from the EU—the amount that it lost each year due to the ban.

In other words, while a country may not be obligated to adopt a Codex standard into domestic law, international trade pressures, especially from powerful countries, could create pressure to do so. This is a particular threat when it comes to dietary supplements. Although the US may be able to maintain access to high level nutrients in its supplements, much of the rest of the world will not. And the weight of a standard accepted by 185 countries is almost certain to give determined anti-supplement legislators like Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) reasons, at some point, to introduce a new bill to harmonize.

Of further concern is the fact that Codex is creating principles for food fortification—adding folic acid or calcium to food—which, as we’ve reported, can in some cases be dangerous. For example, it is dangerous to fortify with calcium without any of the essential co-factors. In addition, this is a band-aid approach to treating nutrient deficiencies instead of focusing on the real problem. We need to address farming practices that are destroying the nutrient content of soil and leading to less nutritious food.

What about GMOs (genetically modified organisms)? Europe is not friendly to GMO, so could we gain some ground there? If this meeting is any indication, the answer is likely to be No. The issue of banning GMOs in children’s cereals was quickly dismissed because of a “lack of science” supporting the claim that GMOs are dangerous. We noted that there were dozens of “experts” in the room ready to support GMO.

Here again we have the international trade dispute problem to consider: If state bills requiring GMO labeling were to pass, and it eventually became federal law, and Codex prohibited such labeling, there would absolutely be a WTO dispute and the international standard would be hard to beat.

This meeting revealed the usual problem of the infiltration of special interests. This threatens to outweigh what appears to be positive intent on the part of many participating in the process. The underlying—and most relevant—question is, “Who benefits from harmonized standards on everything from infant formula to fortification of foods?” Answer: the largest companies in the world. Their interests are represented here, but the consumers of the world are not. The tagline on many Codex documents is “safe, good food for everyone,” but the point that was stressed over and over again at this meeting is that “we are here to facilitate trade.”

As Codex continues through its creation and approval process, it is taking on a life of its own that, despite the current intent of the US to maintain independence, may meet us at our front door and demand entrance.