It recently came to light that Monsanto’s former public policy vice president, Michael Taylor, is now the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) deputy commissioner for food safety, raising concerns about Taylor’s ability to justly regulate his former employer. Food safety activists have rushed the internet with displeasure about the posting and have gathered 420,000 signatures on a petition to have Taylor fired from his lofty federal job. Now it seems the FDA is not willing to be pushed over, saying Taylor excuses himself from decisions that could be wrongly construed, was not a Monsanto lobbyist as the petition states, and does not give Monsanto — the agricultural giant accused of monopolizing the seed industry and relentlessly spreading their genetically modified crops through legal loopholes — a pass in any way. The food advocacy world won’t be swayed and says they won’t relent until the FDA ends their ties with “corporate interests”.
Taylor’s supporters at the FDA say that his time at Monsanto was spent attempting to get the company to become more transparent and in a recent e-mail to Bloomberg an FDA spokeswoman, Siobhan Delancey said that he left when, “it became clear that the company’s management was not unified in its commitment to making such a change.” New York University professor Marion Nestle said that she believes Taylor has become the pinpoint at which all Monsanto anger is being currently directed. She told Bloomberg, “The FDA is perceived as going after small farmers and leaving the larger ones alone. The White House doesn’t want the FDA making an issue that will cause trouble during an election year.”
Monsanto has been blamed in well-publicized arenas — like the film Food Inc. — for bullying the agricultural industry and sneaking by federal regulations that most companies must adhere to. Currently GMOs are not properly labeled on most foods and campaigns to get the FDA to label them, like Just Label It have popped up and are being pushed back by many government officials and fought by large corporations. They’ve also been ridiculed for attempting to influence the FDA in policies that would be in their interest, especially with regard to genetically modified foods. Though the folks at the FDA are sticking to their guns, Nestle says it might not be up to them to decide whether the petition causes Taylor’s firing. “It depends on how big and noisy this gets,” she told Bloomberg. “The question is, will it cause trouble for Obama? If it does, he’s gone. If not, he’ll stay. He comes with a lot of baggage.”
Lead image by Millions Against Monsanto on Flickr
Second image by Born 1945 on Flickr