Alexis Baden-Mayer, Esq.
Organic Consumers Association
Friday, July 24, 2009
Genetically modified foods are not safe. The only reason they’re in our food supply is because government bureaucrats with ties to industry suppressed or manipulated scientific research and deprived consumers of the information they need to make informed choices about whether or not to eat genetically modified foods.
Now, the Obama Administration is putting two notorious biotech bullies in charge of food safety! Former Monsanto lobbyist Michael Taylor has been appointed as a senior adviser to the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner on food safety. And, rBGH-using dairy farmer and Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff is rumored to be President Obama’s choice for Under-Secretary of Agriculture for Food Safety. Wolfe spearheaded anti-consumer legislation in Pennsylvania that would have taken away the rights of consumers to know whether their milk and dairy products were contaminated with Monsanto’s (now Eli Lilly’s) genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH).
Please click here to send a message to President Obama, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (oversees FDA) demanding Michael Taylor’s resignation, and letting them know that you oppose Dennis Wolff’s appointment.
About Michael Taylor
Michael Taylor is a lawyer who has spent the last few decades moving through the revolving door between the employ of GMO-seed giant Monsanto and the FDA and USDA. Taylor is widely credited with ushering Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) through the FDA regulatory process and into the milk supply — unlabeled. A Government Accounting Office (GAO) investigated whether Taylor had a conflict of interest and or had engaged in ethical misconduct in the approval of rBGH. The report’s conclusion that there was no wrongdoing conflicted with the 30 pages of evidence that Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) described as proof that “the FDA allowed corporate influence to run rampant in its approval” of the drug.
Taylor is also responsible for the FDA’s decision to treat genetically modified organisms as “substantially equivalent” to natural foods and therefore not require any safety studies. The “substantially equivalent” rule allowed the FDA to ignore evidence that genetically engineered foods, including soy, are in fact very different from natural foods and pose specific health risks.
In November 2008, Tom Philpott reported that Taylor was among President-Elect Obama’s “team members” looking at energy and natural resources agencies, including USDA. In March 2009, President Obama announced the creation of a White House Food Safety Working Group to improve and coordinate the government’s approach to the nationwide food safety crisis. Agri-Pulse reported that Taylor was “the leading candidate to staff the White House [food safety] working group.” While anti-GMO activists, including the Organic Consumers Association, protested — OCA members sent 13,435 letters to USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack, who co-chairs the Food Safety Working Group with HHS Sec. Sebelius — Taylor laid low. He was nowhere to be found at the White House Food Safety Working Group’s May 13th Listening Session. But, the rumor proved true. On July 7, 2009, the FDA announced that Taylor had joined the agency as senior adviser to the commissioner.
As Philpott describes in a July 8th article, Taylor’s food safety agenda is to “shift much more of the burden for funding food-safety operations to the state and local level” and to promote HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) systems where the points in a process that pose the most risk are identified and “fixed” with remedies like ammonia washes and irradiation. Taylor’s approach — putting a few bandaids on an industrialized food system gone wrong — is in direct conflict with organic practices and is likely to unduly burden small producers.
Taylor has long been hostile to real food safety. While working as a lobbyist, Taylor authored more than a dozen articles critical of the Delaney Clause, a 1958 federal law prohibiting the introduction of known carcinogens into processed foods, which had long been opposed by Monsanto and other chemical and pesticide companies. When Taylor rejoined the federal government, he continued advocating that Delaney should be overturned. This was finally done when President Clinton signed the so-called Food Quality Protection Act on the eve of the 1996 elections.
About Dennis Wolff
Dennis Wolff is the Secretary of Agriculture for the State of Pennsylvania. Wolff also is a dairy farmer and owns Pen-Col Farms, a 600-acre dairy cattle operation. Wolff has championed agribusiness interests as Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture, including banning local dairies from marketing their products as free of Monsanto’s rBGH. Wolff is a member of the Agriculture Technical Advisory Committee to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO has been largely credited with forcing so-called “free trade” on farmers and consumers around the globe, undermining national sovereignty and food safety. Finally, Wolff was a strong proponent of the “ACRE” initiative (Agriculture, Communities and Rural Environment), which gives the Pennsylvania state attorney general’s office the authority to sue municipalities over local farm ordinances deemed to exceed state law, depriving communities the right to ban toxic sewage sludge, factory farms, and GMOs.
Aside from having absolutely no experience in meat inspection, the chief food safety responsibility of the USDA, Dennis Wolff should be rejected for any post within the Obama Administration for the hostile position he has taken, as Pennsylvania’s Agriculture Secretary, against consumers’ right to know what is in our food. According to the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Wolff:
* Tried to ban all labeling of dairy products that didn’t use genetically engineered growth hormone (rBGH or rBST). This was an outright violation of freedom of speech of the dairy processors and the farmers who supplied them.
* Said that consumers were “concerned or confused” about the labeling and said his department received “many calls” about it. Yet when a New York Times reporter asked him about this, Wolff couldn’t provide any surveys showing consumers were confused and could not come up with the name of ONE CONSUMER who had complained.
* Held one meeting of the so-called Food Labeling Advisory Committee and said they recommended the labeling ban. Yet the committee never voted on anything and never made any recommendations specific to dairy. Moreover, the group most affected by the rules and most opposed to them, the PA Association of Milk Dealers, was never even invited to the meeting.