People against Monsanto raises public awareness and demands government checks and balances over food safety

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People against Monsanto raises public awareness and demands government checks and balances over food safety
Taylor Monsanto, Deputy Commissioner for Foods. Courtesy of fda.gov

By Jen Nicomedes

“With the presidential inauguration officially in place, President Obama finds himself back in the spotlight on a four-year-old Food and Drug Administration (FDA) appointment of Michael R. Taylor.

“When Taylor was appointed as America’s food safety advisor in 2009, shocked outcries from consumers and consumer groups made waves across the country. Protesters claimed that the appointment created a dangerous conflict of interest between Taylor’s controversial ties to Monsanto and his role as policy advisor for the food safety of the American public.

“Monsanto is a publicly traded American agricultural biotechnology corporation, and perhaps more famously known for being at the forefront on GM food. Prior to Taylor’s role at the FDA, he served as the company’s vice president on public policy and chief lobbyist in 1998-2001. He was in charge of Monsanto’s now-discredited GM bovine growth hormone (rBGH) – injected into cows to increase milk supply, which was heavily opposed by many medical and scientific organizations.

“Harsh criticism over Taylor’s appointment continued when he was named deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA in January 2010 – a position created along with the new Office of Foods. His office is responsible for ensuring food labels contain clear and accurate information, overseeing strategy for food safety, and planning new food safety legislation. He is the first to ever hold this position.

“Consumer advocate and writer Jeffrey Smith decried in his opening statement in an he wrote on The Huffington Post, “The person who may be responsible for more food-related illnesses and death than anyone in history has just made the US food safety czar. This is no joke.” He further exacerbates, “What have we done?”

“Smith also cited that as now reveal, there were hundreds of memos and research papers from FDA scientists raising significant concerns over the introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods. New diseases, toxins, nutritional deficiencies, hard-to-detect allergens, and the rise in certain cancer types may be the repercussion of what has become the most “radical and dangerous change in our food supply.”

“As the public continues to leverage the social media platform such as Twitter, Facebook, the internet, and film documentaries, more and more people are jumping on the band wagon to raise awareness on the current state and reality of our food safety, health, and agriculture in the U.S.

“Taylor is quoted on the FDA website saying, “I am fully committed to working with my FDA colleagues to make the changes necessary to ensure the safety of America’s food supply from farm to table.” But this isn’t enough for the American public.

“In recent weeks, an online petition calling for the removal of Taylor is gaining steam.

“Signon.org is one such example. The petition named “” was launched by Frederick Ravid, a concerned citizen residing in Atlanta, Ga. The petition calls Taylor’s appointment an example of “the fox guarding the chickens.” Ravid writes, “President Obama, 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 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 risk. This is a travesty.”

“At this writing, there are just over 450,000 signatures of its 470,000 goals.

“Millions of Americans, as well as numerous call-to-action protest groups are demanding accountability and a system of checks and balances from President Obama. Groups such as Occupy Monsanto, Organic Consumers Association, Truthout.org, The Cornucopia Institute, and Care 2 Causes are making enough noise to attract political, social, and economic debate while recruiting and empowering millions of enthusiastic supporters.

“Will the American public be heard? Will Taylor’s oust be set as an example of what governance over our food will look like in the future? In the eyes of millions of concerned consumers, will justice, sustainability, and democracy prevail?

“Time will tell. In the meantime, Americans will continue to raise awareness by talking boldly about it. And the public will be watching.

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