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A Conversation With... Darrell Rogers
Communications Director for the Alliance for Natural Health-USA
Interviewed by Sam Rafoss and Mandi Babkes, ATH Editors of Holistic Nutrition
Communications Director for the Alliance for Natural Health
Michelle Gregg, ATH Senior Editor: Hello all. Thanks so much for being here. I’m Michelle Gregg, Senior Editor for All Things Healing and we have a very exciting conversation in store for you today. We’ll be bringing to light that gray area between big business, some newly proposed legislation that will dramatically affect nutritionists as well as our own personal health, and nutrition options as individuals. Joining us today to discuss this is Darrell Rogers, the Communications Director for the Alliance for Natural Health-USA, and you’ll hear us refer to that as ANH. Darrell has worked in public policy advocacy, public affairs, and nonprofit management for eight years. He has both Senatorial campaign and Capitol Hill experience, and he’s worked for some of the most recognized and accomplished nonprofit organizations in the world. Previous to his position with the Alliance for Natural Health-USA, Darrell was a political affairs specialist with one of the largest political consulting firms in Washington DC. Darrell, a warm welcome to All Things Healing. I know we’re all eager to hear what you have to share with us today.
Darrell Rogers, the Communications Director for the Alliance for Natural Health-USA: Great, thanks for having me.
Michelle Gregg: Absolutely. Interviewing Darrell we have two of our editors on the ATH Holistic Nutrition page. Sam Rafoss, an ATH veteran editor, is a woman of many hats. She’s a board certified holistic nutritionist with a thriving private practice; she’s also a teacher, a speaker, a mentor, and a wife and mom of 3 daughters. Sam is joining us today from Calgary Canada. Welcome Sam!
Sam Rafoss, ATH Editor-in-Chief on Holistic Nutrition: Thanks, Michelle.
Michelle Gregg: Next we have Mandi Babkes, also a board certified nutritionist. Mandi is the proprietor of her own business, Holistic Health with Mandi, where she provides nutritional counseling, Quantum Reflex Analysis and is a raw and living foods chef and coach. Mandi is joining us from Pennsylvania… welcome to you Mandi!
Mandi Babkes, ATH Editor-in-Chief on Holistic Nutrition: Hi, thank you!
Michelle Gregg: Wonderful, you guys! Sam and Mandi, I know you have a lot questions to ask Darrell today, so you all please feel free to get started.
Sam: Okay, Darell. So, the Alliance for Natural Health-USA is part of an international organization which advocates for access and choice in regards to health care – can tell us more about it and your role as the Communications Director?
Darrell: Sure, the ANH is a non-profit advocacy group. We work here in Washington DC and around the country to protect access to natural health options–for consumers to choose the health options they prefer, to protect practitioners and also to support the natural product industries. Without them, we wouldn’t have the vitamins and supplements and the access to organic natural foods that we all so need and desire. The ANH was actually started probably about a decade ago; we are the US affiliate of an international organization. It’s dedicated to sustainable health. We frequently talk about sustainable agriculture, sustainable food, environmental sustainability. Very rarely do people talk about sustainable health. The ANH is dedicated to a sustainable health model through good science and good law. I am the Communications Director. My role is to promote the organization, our message, our campaigns so that we can have real success in policy and in the immediate world with our campaigns to protect natural health options. So that is my quick elevator speech about ANH and what I do.
Mandi: Great, so... Recently the ADA (American Dietetics Association) has sponsored legislation in over 40 states that will require nutritionists to complete a dietician program in order to practice nutritional therapy. What are the differences between nutritionists and dieticians and can you tell us how will this legislation will impact practitioners?
"Recently, the ADA has introduced legislation... that seeks to establish the ADA exam for dietetics as the only way to practice nutritional therapy."
Darrell: Sure, just to give a little more background. There are currently 40 states that require different licensing and practicing schemes. Recently, the ADA has introduced legislation in California, in New York, in New Jersey, in Nevada and each piece of legislation is a little different, but generally they all seek to accomplish the same thing and that is to establish the ADA exam for dietetics as the only way to practice nutritional therapy. It’s not just that you have to take the dietetic exam to call yourself a dietitian. If that was the case then I’m sure many people would not have problem with it—that would be a kind of licensing; that would be a kind of title piece of legislation for people to title themselves as dietitians. The problem is this legislation defines "dietitian" as anyone practicing nutritional therapy. So, therefore, anyone that is a PhD nutritionist, that has any certification from the CBNS, or other certification boards, the medical board can say, “Well, you’re practicing nutritional therapy and by our law you have to take the ADA dietitian association’s exam because you’re practicing nutritional therapy.” There are big questions right now for the wellness coaches, for natural foods coaches. There are big questions on how these rules and regulations get developed by states, about who this is going to apply to and about who this is not going to apply to. The real threat here is the ADA is practically a subsidiary of the junk food and pharmaceutical industry. They make no qualms about hiding that information on their website. They’re sponsored by Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, Mars... the big pharmaceutical companies are all significant contributors to the ADA. Is the ADA trying to monopolize and redefine nutritional therapy as only as they practice it? That would put a serious strain on the public’s ability to access nutritional information that is not provided by a private entity like Coca-Cola, that is not licenced and regulated and practiced by agents of the pharmaceutical and junk food industries. So, while it seems very arcane, these little pieces of legislation that get passed or attempt to get passed in many different states, the real problem is that these little pieces of legislation, those one or two sentences, can completely redefine who gets to practice nutrition, what nutritional therapy really is, and how the ADA is working to monopolize the actual process of providing nutritional information to citizens.
Sam: So, that talks about the practitioner. How would this legislation - or why would it affect the users who choose to use natural health practitioners?
This legislation, if passed, would limit your access to nutritional therapists that are not part of the ADA and their junk food sponsors. There would even be the question as to whether nutritionists would even be able to practice without taking the ADA exam.
Darrell: In some of this legislation that the ADA attempts to pass, at least the one in California, there was a question about the use of the term nutritionist - it could not be used except if you were a registered dietitian or a dietitian. You couldn’t practice nutritional therapy, it would be called "dietetics" - which are two completely separate modalities for treating and for using nutrition and they’re completely different philosophies. So, it’s trying to squeeze two or multiple philosophies into one licencing scheme. The way this would affect everyone out there that’s interested in natural health, to have access to nutritional therapists that are not part of the ADA and their junk food sponsors, is that there’s a serious question of whether nutritionists can even practice in some of these states without taking the ADA exam. There’s another big question—there are 70,000 ADA members that do everything from create menus and food programs for hospitals, for schools, for companies. If these people do not have the most basic understandings of the problems with high fructose corn syrup, the problems with a high saturated fat and also Genetically Engineered foods and non-organic foods, and they just look at the food pyramid and say everybody is getting exactly what they need—that casts a blanket over all of our health as public citizens. It’s the issue of trying to access your nutritionist; they might not even be able to practice in their states if these pieces of legislation do pass, and also on a wider scale, 70,000 ADA certified nutritionists and their junk food sponsored programs are going to be the ones that are creating the meal programs for your parents when they’re in the hospital, for your kids when they’re in schools. So, it’s a big impact on public health.
Mandi: It sounds like it. So, concerning all this, it kind of appears that it’s just a lack of education and that we’re not being fully informed. How can we make sure our health information is not tarnished by this big industry bottom line?
" ...the two ways I think are most effective are to vote with your dollar and to know that the ADA is sponsored by junk food and pharmaceutical companies. The ADA has worked to defeat multiple pro-health, pro-environmental issues across this country. If Coca-Cola says BPA in their Coca-Cola cans is okay, then the ADA says BPA in cans is okay. They are simply a spokesperson for the junk food and pharmaceutical industries."
Darrell: Two ways. Well, there are probably multiple ways, but the two ways I think are most effective are vote with your dollar, and then simply know that the ADA is sponsored by junk food companies; they are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. The ADA has worked to defeat multiple pro-health, pro-environmental issues across this country. If Coca-Cola says BPA in their Coca-Cola cans is okay, then the ADA says BPA in cans is okay. They are simply a spokesperson for the junk food and pharmaceutical industries. So, your listeners now know that you know that I know that whenever we see the words ADA we should immediately be sceptical with what they’re telling us - so vote with your dollar. We know that our local farmer’s markets, our organic food, and top rated vitamin and dietary supplements - we know that these are provided by people and companies that are truly dedicated to providing and believing in access to natural health; that do believe in non-GMO food and in eating organic, and wellbeing. So, vote with your dollar, your farmer’s markets, your organic businesses. And also, take action. The Alliance for Natural Health, ANH-USA.org, has everything on the site that individuals need to take action in their states to defeat the ADA’s attempt to monopolize nutritional therapy. So vote with your dollar, take action, stay informed, stay engaged, continue to share information through your social networks - I mean, we have tools available to use: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, internet, e-mail - that we can communicate to hundreds, if not thousands, instantaneously. Pass this information on; find out what’s effective and then pass it on to your social networks. That’s how we’ve built the organization and that’s how we’ve been successful in defeating the ADAs legislation, particularly the one in California most recently. So, stay engaged, vote with your dollar, and visit the Alliance for Natural Health dot org.
Sam: So that leads into my next question which is what action steps our readers and listeners can take to protect their rights? Is there anything you can add to that list, Darrell, or can you expand on any other ideas?
Darrell: Certainly. One of the biggest problems I found when I started working with the ANH, particularly this issue with the ADA attempting to monopolize nutritional therapy was - well I went out there and tried to find, where are all of these nutritionists? Where are all of these certified nutritionists? Where are all of these PhD nutritionists who have practices? Where are their associations? Where are their organizations? I found out that they kind of missed the bus on organizing, on staying together, on using the internet, and using social media sites to stay organized, to stay up to date. They are very academic, which is fantastic because we need them to provide the field the best research available. But they weren’t as well organized as the ADA. They certainly did not have the money or capacity. So, I do implore all people who are interested in healthy, organic lifestyles - particularly people who are practitioners - to join organizations, to stay informed, to find out what other practitioners and other nutritionists in your state are doing, because there likely are going to be issues that come before your state legislators. So, make sure you have those networks of professionals, those networks of people and also your customers, your consumers. They want to make sure that they can maintain that access to their practitioners, to make sure that they are informed. Have e-mails lists within your office; have websites with social media availabilities so that people can stay up to date. It’s those associations and it’s those informal groups of professionals that can really make our lives a whole lot easier when we are fighting these issues at a state level. Because sometimes these bills will pop out of nowhere and there are fifty states, plus the district of Columbia, and if these bills come up and we have to scramble to find out well, who are the nutritionists, who are the naturopaths, who are the folks in these states - and nobody has a website and nobody has an association, it’s really hard to find those grass roots. So, I implore all the practitioners listening to stay involved. Stay engaged and to know what is happening in your state.
"I do implore all people who are interested in healthy, organic lifestyles - particularly people who are practitioners - to join organizations, to stay informed, to find out what other practitioners and other nutritionists in your state are doing, because there likely are going to be issues that come before your state legislators... There is strength in numbers."
Sam: I so agree with you; that was such a great point to bring up. As you were talking about it, I was thinking, “This is what we are starting to do,” even here in Canada and I see it more with Mandi and the groups in the states and I’m so excited that we’re all starting to do this because—yes—we do need to be out there as a collective group.
Darrell: You most certainly do. There is strength in numbers and people really do want to hear from those practitioners. There’s nothing more frustrating--when we were working in Nevada where ADA had just sponsored their bill there recently, there was no Nevada Association of Nutritionists. We had to go out and literally call health food stores to find out if they had a registered nutritionist on staff, or did they know of one to help fight this. It makes our jobs a whole lot tougher and makes the campaign more difficult when there isn’t an organization within the state itself. We can provide the resources and the tools, but the folks have to be there and they have to be engaged and organized because no longer can you live in an insular world and practice nutritional therapy and natural health. No practitioner is an island anymore. What you are doing is almost a political statement and with that you have to make sure you are working with other like-minded people to protect what you do and how you do it.
Sam: So true.
Mandi: So true. I’ve been familiar with the ANH and am a member. It certainly shows, and has always shown, that you are so dedicated and committed and on the ball with all of these campaigns. Once, because I know it’s going to happen, you’ve found success with this campaign with the ADA, is there anything else that you would like our readers and listeners to know, anything else you would like us to have them do, or show them to do, to support these movements?
Darrell: Sure, well first off, thank you very much for having such a vote of confidence in us that this is going to happen!
"We're opposed to Genetically Engineered food... the best way to reduce the amount of GE food on our plates is to mandate the labeling of it. Americans would not eat genetically engineerred food if they knew it was genetically engineered."
Darrell: But liberty needs eternal vigilance and just because you get a win does not mean that win cannot be taken away - so even with every victory you have to maintain a sense of security around it. So that is what we will continue to do. After the ADA campaign,and this is something that we’re working on right now kind of in conjunction with it, but I think we are getting close to a whole societal tipping point as the ANH is working with many other organizations on Genetically Engineered food labeling. We're opposed to GE food, but we think the best way to reduce the amount of GE food in our diets, in our country, and on our plate is to mandate the labeling of it. Every poll I’ve seen, over ninety percent of Americans would not eat genetically engineered food if they knew it was genetically engineered. That is the truth. The Monsanto’s of the world know that, so they are going to do everything they can to make sure that we are not allowed to tell other people that the food they’re eating is genetically modified or engineered. All it takes - we don’t need 100% or 51% - is just five percent. If we can get an initiative on a ballot in a large state, like a California, like a New York - if we can get a mandated labeling of GE foods, that could tip the scales in our favor. Because when manufacturers are putting their products together and they are sending so many to California, and may have to create a special label for CA, they might just go ahead and label all of them as genetically engineered with genetically modified ingredients. We found that there are less genetically engineered ingredients in food in Europe because there is labeling and people will avoid it. Companies will actually have to provide—imagine this—non-genetically engineered foods for their customers! We found that once customers are informed, they will not choose that food and companies will have to provide something else. So, we are working with two other organizations that I definitely want to mention because they are absolutely fantastic: The Organic Consumers Association and the Institute for Responsible Technology. Those institutes along with ANH are working on the GE foods issue to make sure, one, that GE foods are not approved and also that if GE foods are approved that they are labeled as such because we do see labeling as a way of removing a lot of the GE foods from the market and the supermarket shelves. Once the ADA campaign is done and we have a clear victory, we’re on to the GE foods. But I think those two campaigns, because they’re so tied to nutrition and access to organic, healthy foods, do go hand in hand.
Michelle: Hey, Darrell, could you mention those two organizations again and specifically the second one? I didn’t get a real clear name on the second organization you mentioned.
Darrell: It’s the Institute for Responsible Technology and the other one was the Organic Consumers Association.
Michelle: Great. Alright, I think that’s a wrap, ladies and gentleman. Do any of you have anything else you’d like to add before we close?
ANH vs. ADA
Darrell: I just want to thank you so very much for having me on to get to talk about our campaign and the importance that access to organic foods and access to non-corporate junk food sponsored nutritional information is, because the ANH believes that if you don’t have access to real information, to information that is not coming from a marketing department of a soft drink company, that real health can suffer and we are going to continue to work to make sure that people that are dedicated to real healthy lifestyles can maintain their practices and individuals can maintain their access to them. So thank you so much for having me on.
Michelle: Well, thank you so much for being here, all three of you. And you have to know that there is so much more to discuss around this. We hope that we can invite you back and talk more about this topic if you’re willing. That would be wonderful.
Darrell: I would love to.
Michelle: Yes, great! The three of you have given our readers and listeners quite a lot to think about, to incorporate into their lives, and hopefully to take action on. ATH’ers out there, if you want to know more about the Alliance for Natural Health in the U.S., please visit www.anh-usa.org and for those of you in Europe please visit www.anh-europe.org. There, you’ll find out more about ANH, learn about their on-going campaigns and how you can take action. If you’d like to further discuss anything you’ve heard or read here today, please go to our Holistic Nutrition page and contact Sam and Mandi from the little Editor’s Corner that’s in the top right hand of the page. Also, go to our Holistic Nutrition Forum and start a conversation or join a conversation that’s there—I’m sure Sam and Mandi will be on the lookout for you! Once again, thanks Darrell for taking time to join us and thanks to Sam and Mandi for asking the important questions… until next time everyone, be well!
Have a comment or question? Visit our Holistic Nutrition Forum to start or join a conversation.
About Darrell Rogers
Darrell Rogers is the Communications Director with the Alliance for Natural Health-USA. He has a Masters degree in American Government from The Catholic University of America and has worked in public policy advocacy, public affairs, and nonprofit management for eight years. His political background is highlighted by Senatorial campaign and Capitol Hill experience. A native of New Jersey, Rogers graduated from William Paterson University and quickly started his Washington, DC career working for some of the most recognized and accomplished nonprofit organizations in the world. Previous to his position with the Alliance for Natural Health-USA, Rogers was a political affairs specialist with one of the largest political consulting firms in Washington.
About the Alliance for Natural Health-USA
The Alliance for Natural Health USA (ANH-USA), is part of an international organization dedicated to promoting sustainable health and freedom of choice in healthcare through good science and good law. We protect the right of natural-health practitioners to practice and the right of consumers to choose the healthcare options they prefer. Since 1992, we have worked to shift the medical paradigm from an exclusive focus on surgery, drugs, and other conventional techniques to an “integrative” approach incorporating functional foods, dietary supplements, and lifestyle changes. We believe this is the way to improve health and extend lives while reducing the costs of healthcare back to a sustainable level.