Throughout our books, we constantly point out how the Bush administration catered to Monsanto and other Big Food companies. For example, the reason for pushing GMO foods was advanced on behalf of the biotech industry when President George W. Bush in a 2003 speech asked the World Trade Organization to break Europe’s ban of GMO foods because American farmers were losing $300 million a year.
Europe refused to lift the ban on GMO foods because the U.N. and noted researchers have all confirmed that GMO foods are dangerous to humans and other crops. Studies by the Universities of Wisconsin and Arkansas have established that if American farmers grew traditional organic foods there would be a greater foreign market for their sales including Europe.
Despite all of the evidence contrary to the U.S. government’s position on GMO plants and food, Vice-President Dan Quayle introduced the FDA’s final policy on genetically modified biotech products in support of Monsanto in 1992. He referred to the new policy as “regulatory relief” for the industry. At the same time, the FDA acknowledged that its policy was to “to foster” U.S. biotechnology. What better way “to foster” bio-policy than hiring the biotech industries’ own employees to carry out their agenda. Nothing changed under President Clinton and nothing has changed under the Obama administration.
According to Ronnie Cummings, “The Obama’s Administration, like the Bush and Clinton Administrations before him, has become a literal ‘revolving door’ for Monsanto operatives.” On the campaign trail in 2007-2008, President Obama’s campaign policy challenged agribusinesses’ control over the regulatory powers of government (the FDA and USDA) claiming he would restore that power to the people.
When President Obama took office, he chose his team of food and farming leaders directly from the biotech companies and their lobbying, research and philanthropic fronts. Obama made former governor of Iowa, Tom Vilsack, a pro-biotech “honk” for Monsanto, his choice for Secretary of the USDA.
Another such industry insider is Michael Taylor. During Mr. Taylor’s tenure as Deputy Commissioner in the 1990s, references to the unintended negative effects of bioengineering were deleted from policy statements over the protests of career agency scientists. Michael Taylor also approved the use of Monsanto’s rBGH on dairy cows despite rBGH being banned by nearly every other nation because data proved it was unsafe. Recent events in the federal courts in Ohio confirm its lack of safety when used on dairy cows.
After completing his assignment for Monsanto and his other former biotech clients, Taylor was rehired by Monsanto as Vice-President for Public Policy at a substantial increase in salary. A fox being rewarded for robbing the public’s henhouse.
President Obama, despite Michael Taylor’s clear conflicts of interest with Monsanto, appointed Mr. Taylor to the position of FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods. By this appointment, President Obama has let Monsanto and the biotech industry know they’ll have plenty of friends and supporters within his administration.
Congress is no better than the White House. According to Food and Water Watch, Monsanto and the biotech industry have spent “more than half a billion dollars ($547 million) lobbying Congress since 1999″. In 2009, the biotech industry spent $71 million lobbying. Monsanto still employs over a dozen lobbying firms, as well as maintaining their own in-house lobbyists to advance their causes on a daily basis.
According to Helena Bottemiller of Food Safety News, “Sources familiar with the negotiations at USDA, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Food Safety News they believe the White House asked Vilsack to drop proposed regulations so the administration would appear more friendly to big business.”
Among the other industry insiders appointed to positions intended to protect consumers is Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center. He is now the director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Islam Siddiqui, Vice President of the Monsanto and Dupont-funded lobbying group, CropLife, created to promote pesticides was appointed to be the Agriculture Negotiator for the US Trade Representative. The purpose of the appointment was to “hammer” European nations to remove bans on the use of Monsanto’s genetically modified plants in Europe. Documents recently released by Wikileaks exposed the Monsanto-backed plot to intimidate European leaders.
Rajiv Shah former agricultural-development director for the pro-biotech Gates Foundation (a frequent Monsanto partner), served as Obama’s USDA Under-Secretary for Research Education and Economics and Chief Scientist and is now head of USAID.
Elena Kagan, while serving as President Obama’s Solicitor General, took Monsanto’s side against organic farmers in the Roundup Ready alfalfa case, before her appointment to U.S. Supreme Court.
Ramona Romero, corporate counsel to DuPont, has been nominated by President Obama to serve as General Counsel for the USDA. These are but a few of the industry foxes running the henhouse responsible for protecting consumers. If you wonder why food labels are so deceptive or why consumers can’t convince the FDA to mandate labels on genetically modified foods, you only need to look at the people responsible for making those decisions. The deck is stacked against Americans.
Americans might as well petition Monsanto and other Big Food companies directly to put labels on packages and reduce the amount of harmful chemicals in their food. After all, all of these political appointees take their marching orders from Monsanto and other Big Food companies, not the President. Worse yet, the President and other presidents before him have elected to defer these decisions to Monsanto and others.
The media fails to print any negative articles on the hazards of GMOs and Roundup pesticides. But they do print articles that support the goals of Monsanto’s GMOs and other biotech issues. You rarely see noted authors and industry critics interviewed in the media including such luminaries as Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser or Jeffrey M. Smith. The media are owned by Big Food cohorts such as Rupert Murdoch, The Walt Disney Company, General Electric and Comcast. Hardly the liberal eastern media that Richard Nixon railed against.
Because of their political influence, the recently introduced bill in Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs has literally no chance of passing. While California passed legislation banning many practices commonly used in factory farms, it is virtually impossible to imagine a national bill to protect consumers from the negative aspects of confining animals in ankle-deep manure and force feeding them GMO Bt corn, hormones and antibiotics.
Since the 2010 Supreme Court decision that gave big corporations the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on campaign contributions without disclosing their source, it is unlikely that Big Food’s hold over the FDA and USDA can ever be broken. As er point out in our books, the swing vote in the campaign contributions’ case was cast by Justice Clarence Thomas, a former General Counsel for Monsanto. He may be the biggest fox in the government henhouse.
What can we do about it? Very little unfortunately. But groups like the Organic Consumers Association are actively fighting these issues and we need to support them. This is not about politics. No matter your political party or political interests, it is in your best interests to unite and support any group that champions truth in labeling, increased independent testing of foods and drugs and the appointment of either independent or consumer-oriented scientists and researchers to key positions in the FDA and USDA.
We suggest making the positions of Secretary of the USDA and Commissioner of the FDA independent offices responsible to the people and not the executive branch of government which is polluted with campaign contributions and “due bills” to contributors. A political platform based upon a BAN THE FOXES FROM THE HENHOUSE policy would serve our country well.
It worked in California when the citizens tired of governors appointing insurance company employees to the position of Insurance Commissioner. After the Commissioner’s office was put on the ballot for the people to elect, insurance rates dropped immediately. It’s not too late to foster change. It can be done if citizens unite for the common good to protect our children and generations that follow from the chemicals in food and the bacterias, chemicals and viruses used in genetically modified plants.