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Aug. 9, 2006
Sex and Cloning = same result? American Dietetic Association Thinks So
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) released their position on biotechnology this year. Like a defense lawyer with the plaintiff on the stand, they brought the hammer down. By the power vested in the ADA, they hear by declared biotechnology safe, and asked that dietitians everywhere follow the dictatorship doctrine and spread the news like wild fire.

Yikes! Hold up! Safe? Genetic engineering has only been tested on rats. Fewer pesticides sprayed? Hardly, since sales of one of the most toxic pesticides out there have increased for soy bean application. Potential to lessen nutrient deficiencies? How, when it destroys nutrient diversity, makes all crops identical and strips the soil. Increasing farmer yields? That's a whole other problem.

From the position of the ADA, the plaintiff takes a hit while the defense manipulates the information and presents only part of the story. Sad but true.

In their position statement, the ADA defined biotechnology into 3 areas:

  1. Traditional plant breeding

  2. Fermentation & enzyme purification

  3. Genetic engineering (GE foods)

Putting plant breeding into the same definition as genetic engineering is misleading—it's like lumping sexual intercourse and cloning into the same category. In plant breeding, one seed is allowed to pollinate with another to increase variety and diversity—just like dog breeding. In genetic engineering (GE), man splices DNA and artificially inserts it into the DNA of another organism—that's like taking the gene responsible for Julia Roberts' great smile and inserting it into your own egg. Dog breeding and acquiring Julia Roberts' smile are two, totally different things.

Sound natural? I didn't think so. But the real question the ADA addresses is whether "it's safe for human consumption?" In other words, can our bodies stomach GE foods without getting ill? Seeing how studies have been short term and only completed on rats, safety is a valid question.

Giving a brief explanation of their scientific approach to evaluating the safety of GE foods, ADA acknowledges many uncertainties and recognizes that "absolute safety is not achievable." The "scientific approach" they used to back their case was a very narrow assessment and not one a leading defense lawyer would congratulate them on.

Like most assessments and articles about GE foods, it falls short, ignoring some of the greatest uncertainties that require attention before taking over the majority of the farm land and compromising organic foods with GE crops.

There could be value to genetically engineered crops, but it's  too soon to know if it's safe, not only for human health, but also the rest of our farm land, and our eco-system.

The ADA also decided that the Precautionary Principle is not sound science and cannot be used to pass judgment on such innovation. The Precautionary Principle basically proves that it's safe and clears up the majority of the uncertainty before moving forward. It may not be scientific, but it's sensible and has a stronger case than the so-called scientific "defense."

The ADA calls upon its dietitians like disciples to spread the good news (in light of uncertainties)—"GE foods are fine, perhaps better"—embrace GE foods (and forget what it might do to your environment, smaller farmers and nutrient diversity):

"Here are all the tools of persuasion you will need my dietitians", says the ADA, " go forth and convince the consumer to accept it without question."

As a dietitian and an ambassador of whole food, I can not support this position today and will not tell you to support it either. 
Posted by:
Tara, the RD
Food Matters

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