Blog post

Apparently, President Obama is considering appointing Michael Taylor to head the new Food Safety Working Group. Who's Michael Taylor? From Food Politics (care of Jill Richardson):

Mr. Taylor is a lawyer who began his revolving door adventures as counsel to FDA. He then moved to King & Spalding, a private-sector law firm representing Monsanto, a leading agricultural biotechnology company. In 1991 he returned to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Policy, where he was part of the team that issued the agency's decidedly industry-friendly policy on food biotechnology and that approved the use of Monsanto's genetically engineered growth hormone in dairy cows. His questionable role in these decisions led to an investigation by the federal General Accounting Office, which eventually exonerated him of all conflict-of-interest charges. In 1994, Mr. Taylor moved to USDA to become administrator of its Food Safety and Inspection Service... After another stint in private legal practice with King & Spalding, Mr. Taylor again joined Monsanto as Vice President for Public Policy in 1998.

The man has moved in and out of roles at the federal government and Monsanto so many times he probably has whiplash.

So what's the big deal? (I'm not going to opine on Monsanto here, other than to say that I know quite a few people who think Monsanto is the most evil corporation in the world, and that's even after this AIG debacle.) Well, two things:

The first is that I find it puzzling, to put it lightly, that Obama would choose this guy to help ensure food safety. Here's what Taylor recently said:

FDA is in "bad shape" and the FSIS meat and poultry inspection system is "obsolete," Taylor said. "We're spending a lot of government money to do inspections that could be done by someone else," he said. "We need to complete the transformation of FSIS as a food safety agency, away from inspection to a science-based public health agency."

Yes, because it's been proven just how effective is lack of rigorous monitoring and regulation on the part of the government. We need more of less. Taylor was also responsible for writing the rBGH labeling guidelines for the FDA. The guidelines specifically prohibited dairies from stating that their products contained or were free of rBGH. Sounds safe to me.

Second, the appointment of Michael Taylor to the Food Safety Working Group would really belie Obama's pledge not to appoint lobbyists to positions within his administration. And this would not be the first time. Am I shocked? No. But this is not merely a matter of a politician going back on a pledge or dancing around the edges.

The AIG/bank bailout fiasco shows just how crippled the Obama Administration can be by conflicts of interest. Secretary Geithner has failed miserably at asserting the federal government's authority over the corporations to which we've handed out hundreds of billions of dollars. The banks aren't lending, and AIG and Citigroup are using our tax dollars to provide private benefits to some of the <insert preferred curse word here> who got us into this mess.

As Josh Marshall eloquently states, the real issue behind the AIG bonus debacle isn't the money.

There's no end of puffed up outrage and opportunistic posturing over the on-going revelation of the AIG bonus scandal. But some line has been crossed. And it's worth thinking really clearly about just what that line is. What is so damaging about this isn't the money -- which is almost trivially small compared to the many hundreds of billions we've already committed. The problem is what appears to be the president's mortifying impotence in the face of bankers and financiers who created the problem.

Appointing people who have close ties to--and, in many cases, have actually worked for--the industries they are responsible for regulating, is a losing proposition. Whether or not Geithner and other Obama appointees are intending to serve private corporate interests over those of the nation, their close relationships and possible conflicts of interest certainly don't help.

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Reader Comments


vandana Shiva Video

From: seedheads, May 6, 2009 08:07 AM

Check out what Dr.Vandana Shiva says about backyard food gardens...

also watch out for..

From: amicus curiae, Apr 19, 2009 06:10 AM

Seminis seeds, Monsanto owns them, and they sell under a LOT of brand names, giving these hidden companies your money is supporting the (lotsa expletives) at Monsanto !

HR 875, safety in our food supply or trojan horse?

From: josepaint, Apr 18, 2009 04:07 PM

HR 875 proposes to regulate food safety, but in the end, because of the broad nature of the wording in this proposed legislation, seems to not exclude anybody from definition as a food producer. If anybody producing food can be subjected to the laws in this thing, it is a disaster.

It then becomes an attack on small, organic food producers,home gardeners, and subsistence hunters. Farmers markets come under attack from a federal administration who's head offices can be populated by big agribusiness lobbyists and allies.

If this law only targets large interstate agribusiness, who do need to be regulated, I support it wholeheartedly. But if that is the case it should be explicit as such. IT IS A LAW. Any wiggle room will be exploited by those with the means and motivation to do so.

Shades of Adam Curtis' "The Trap", a brilliant BBC 3hour mini series where he shows how in the name of protecting freedoms and safety, the public ends up losing both. Any story I hear now that shows the weakness in the food supply I now suspect is softening us up for this draconian and cruel legislation, just when we need the opposite.

We need biodiversity, sustainability and self reliance, not brutal penalties for small food producers.

I believe seeds of change is

From: Anonymous, Mar 24, 2009 08:13 PM

I believe seeds of change is owned by the mars candy bar company. /check into it.

Monsanto has as many days left as the US Currency...

From: Anonymous, Mar 23, 2009 05:15 PM

With the US government monetizing its debt, I can't imagine the US greenback being worth much even within a year's time. That means that any corporation with a US base, whether it is Proctor and Gamble, General Motors, IBM or Monsanto has many days left to live as 'persons'. Don't worry too much about Monsanto they drank their own kool-aid and think that they will survive this economic upheavel. Worry about the things you can effect, and that includes laying hold of heritage/organic seeds, learning how to garden, seed save and preserve food. Things are going to get ugly for a while, take care of your own home and community and don't worry so much about the feds.

get your seeds now

From: Seedhead, Mar 23, 2009 06:50 AM

Hey peeps!

After returning from the organic seed growers conference, the sense in the room was that the natural seed supply just is not there anymore - these companies have managed to eliminate the majority of the natural seeds on the planet. Do not delay - get your hands on your own heirloom, open-pollinated seeds to ensure your own food security in the years ahead. This is a problem that is going to start getting more and more attention.

There are some great sources for these types of seeds:

(this garden project will send you a free packet of heirloom seeds)

good luck!

I could cry

From: Vicky, Mar 20, 2009 08:25 PM

This is another sad and dreadful move on Obama's part. I don't know which is worse, disappointment with Obama or the ***[you put in the adjective]*** overreach of Montsanto. The lock on the food supply fully vertically integrated has been on the horizon for many years. To then add regulations that benefit them under the guise of public consumer protection is the final insult.

This is so like Bush's appointments to EPA and other important public watchdog agencies. Ralph Nader was right. They are really republicrats. Oh woe is me.

Probably the really good news is that the whole economy will blow up so bad that these snakey [misspelled, but like this better] moves won't serve them as they intended. They will sink with the ship too. There will be some wealthy individuals left, but their corporate identities will crumble or implode.

Let the bad times roll