Monsanto, the FDA and the Convention against Corruption
An online campaign to remove Michael Taylor, a former executive and lobbyist for agribusiness giant Monsanto, as senior advisor at the Food and Drug Administration, is exceeding all expectations. With an original goal of 75,000, the petition as of today has over 220,000 signatures.
“President Obama,” the petition reads,
I oppose your appointment of Michael Taylor, a former VP and lobbyist for Monsanto, the widely criticized genetically modified (GM) food multinational, as senior advisor to the commissioner at the FDA. Taylor is the same person who as a high-ranking official at the FDA in the 1990s promoted allowing genetically modified organisms into the U.S. food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety or risks. This is a travesty.
Michael Taylor exemplifies the revolving door between the food industry and the government agencies that regulate it, and more generally between private industry and public policy-makers. An attorney for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1970s, and then in the 80s, a private lawyer at the D.C. law firm King & Spalding, where he represented Monsanto, Taylor returned to government as Deputy Commissioner for Policy for the FDA from 1991 to 1994. He then went back to private industry as Vice President for Public Policy at Monsanto from 1998 until 2001.
Before President Obama appointed him to the FDA in 2010, Taylor was a Senior Fellow at the think tank Resources for the Future, where he published two documents on U.S. aid for African agriculture, both of which were funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.
As the documentary “The World According to Monsanto” makes clear, the conflicts of interest inherent in the revolving door between agribusiness and regulatory agencies produces notoriously bad policy, such as the approval of bovine growth hormone in the food supply without proper testing.
“Taylor was in charge of policy for Monsanto’s now-discredited GM bovine growth hormone (rBGH),” the online petition points out, “which is opposed by many medical and hospital organizations. It was Michael Taylor who pursued a policy that milk from rBGH-treated cows should not be labeled with disclosures. Michael Taylor and Monsanto do not belong in our government.”
Because of the potentially disastrous effects of the revolving door on public policy, the practice is banned under international law.
As a state party to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the United States has agreed to taking measures to prevent conflicts of interest and corruption in both the public and private sphere.
Each State Party shall, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its domestic law, endeavour to adopt, maintain and strengthen systems that promote transparency and prevent conflicts of interest.
Each State Party shall endeavour, where appropriate and in accordance with the fundamental principles of its domestic law, to establish measures and systems requiring public officials to make declarations to appropriate authorities regarding, inter alia, their outside activities, employment, investments, assets and substantial gifts or benefits from which a conflict of interest may result with respect to their functions as public officials. …
Preventing conflicts of interest by imposing restrictions, as appropriate and for a reasonable period of time, on the professional activities of former public officials or on the employment of public officials by the private sector after their resignation or retirement, where such activities or employment relate directly to the functions held or supervised by those public officials during their tenure.
Not surprisingly, rather than using his position of power in the FDA to provide stringent oversight over Monsanto’s business practices, Taylor is instead going after the agribusiness giant’s competitors, namely small dairy farms that produce fresh milk.
As CREDO points out,
While factory farm operators are getting away with serious food safety violations, raw milk dairy farmers and distributors across the country have been subjected to armed raids and hauled away in handcuffs.
The Food and Drug Administration is running sting operations followed by “guns-drawn raids usually reserved for terrorists and drug lords” as part of a crackdown on unpasteurized milk. Meanwhile, the FDA is letting the highly consolidated industrial meat and factory farm industry off the hook despite growing problems. …
Whether or not you think unpasteurized milk is a good idea, it’s clear that the FDA under Michael Taylor has its priorities wrong. When industrial agribusiness sickens thousands of people, it’s absurd for the FDA to target Amish farmers producing fresh milk, much less to engage in “guns drawn” enforcement raids.
To add your name to the petition to fire Michael Taylor, click here.