A few months ago Monsanto Puerto Rico developed a new initiative to educate the public about nutrition, following the US model of the Leaders Engaged in Advancing the Dialogue Network (L.E.A.D. Network).  We invited two very well known Puerto Rican dietitians, Sandra Ortiz and Rayna Hichez- Coste to become part of this network.  They visited Monsanto headquarters in Chesterfield and Creve Coeur, Missouri and they are sharing their experience with us:

Rayna Hichez-Coste, LND

Nutrition plays a vital role in our lives. Through food, our body gets all the nourishment it needs to obtain optimal health. That is the reason why we should take into account several factors when choosing our foods. Some of the factors influencing our lifestyle and our choice of food are our culture, religion, customs, tastes and preferences, availability and the accessibility that we have from the wide range of food products on the market.

As a health professional, I have a commitment to educate the community with information based on scientific evidence. I must be objective and always go one step further. That is why I decided to take the opportunity to investigate and educate myself in what has been one of the most controversial issues regarding food of the last century: Genetically modified foods and modern agriculture.

After I did a review of literature, as is expected of a dietitian, I felt like there was some more to learn. And what better way than to get the information than from the source? During this research process, I accepted the challenge of being part of L.E.A.D. Network in Puerto Rico, which gave me the opportunity to travel to St. Louis, Missouri for the purpose of visiting the Monsanto Company headquarters, along with one of my colleagues in Puerto Rico, Sandra Ortiz, R.D.  I took an electronic notebook with me where I had a list of questions I wanted to ask. Although I must confess, I did not use them, because all my questions were answered by taking a tour of the facilities in Chesterfield Village and receiving information from Monsanto experts, where Milton Stokes, R.D. served as our host.

We visited the laboratories and saw the work that scientists do.  This visit helped me to achieve a broader view about growing food in large quantities. I learned about entomology, I enriched my knowledge about agriculture and learned to differentiate the various types of crop and the advantages and disadvantages of cultivating them. The experience was positive and I urge all who are interested to learn more about genetically modified food and modern agriculture, and encourage people interested in this topic to visit these facilities.

Sandra Ortiz-Rosado, LND, CAWM, DE, CECD

Since the eighties, biologists have used genetic engineering in crops to express new characteristics. There have been many claims about the positive and negative effects of crops that have been developed through genetic engineering.

Those of us who are educated in the health field have to be ruled by objectivity and scientific evidence, which is what gives us the necessary tools to advise and educate on best practices; not myths, legends or subjective thoughts.

Like drugs, agrochemicals are regulated products that have to go through rigorous exams before reaching the market. They must be approved by competent authorities and regulatory agencies who are the ones that determine if they are harmful to the environment or to human health.

Through the search for more information about this topic, I became involved in the L.E.A.D.  Network and visited the Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri.  This experience was very informative since I was able to learn many different aspects about modern agriculture.

I have learned that scientific authorities around the world, including the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, have reported that food crops developed through genetic engineering are as safe as those that are not developed through this technology. In addition, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest scientific society and publisher of the journal Science, says these are the crops that have been most thoroughly tested, before being used in our food supply.

In short, before making conclusions based on fear and misinformation campaigns about the safety and benefits of these crops, I invite you to take the opportunity to question and educate yourself on the subject. I can understand that there are people who want to avoid genetically modified ingredients, but I think it is wrong to mislead and scare about the safety of these crops, without a scientific, objective, serious and strong base.

I leave you with this question:  If we are open to technology in other aspects of our lives and there are other practices that are willing to adopt without clear evidence that they are safe, why not take advantage of the power of technology to make progress in farming? After all, farming is the basis of our diet!