Obama picks former Monsanto director for food czar of the Food and Drug Administration

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Obama picks former Monsanto director for food czar of the Food and Drug Administration

Another thread in the ever-popular [url=http://www.rabble.ca/search/node/%22Obama+picks%22]"Obama picks"[/url] series.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Michael Taylor was appointed "senior advisor to the commissioner" of the FDA on July 7, 2009. He is a participant in the "revolving door" system that operates between the federal government and big corporations, as top business executives become government bureaucrats and then go back to their corporate jobs, cycling back and forth with apparent ease.

Taylor has worked twice for Monsanto Corp., the agribusiness giant (he was Vice President for Public Policy at Monsanto from 1998 until 2001), and has worked previously for the FDA, during which time he greatly influenced FDA approval of Monsanto's genetically modified bovine growth hormone (BGH).

He also signed off on the FDA's pro-industry policies on GMO food labeling, and has been the subject of conflict-of-interest investigations (all of which were eventually dropped). Many know him as the originator of substantial equivalence - a concept stating that a biotech food is as safe to consume as an existing food produced from conventional methods.

Pressure is mounting for a new and improved safety system, and the task has been handed to Mr. Taylor. After many recent high-profile food outbreaks - think last years peanut butter debacle - consumers are more than ever concerned about the safety of their food. Taylor is knowledgeable, well-connected, and aware of food safety issues. Unfortunately, he is also aware of the interests of big industry and the financial opportunities they have to offer. [url=http://www.foodfirst.org/en/node/2490]Source[/url][/quote]

He is reviled for shaping and implementing the government's favorable agricultural biotechnology policies during the Clinton administration.

Yet what has slipped under everyone's radar screen is Taylor's involvement in setting U.S. policy on agricultural assistance in Africa. In collusion with the Rockefeller and Bill and Melinda Gates foundations, Taylor is once again the go-between man for Monsanto and the U.S. government, this time with the goal to open up African markets for genetically-modified (GM) seed and agrochemicals. ...

Taylor's re-appointment to the FDA came just after Obama and the other G-8 leaders pledged $20 billion to fight hunger in Africa over the next three years. "President Obama is currently embedded in a bubble featuring some of the fervent promoters of the biotech industry and a Green Revolution in Africa," says Paula Crossfield in the Huffington Post. Before joining Obama's transition team, Taylor was a Senior Fellow at the D.C. 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.

The Rockefeller Foundation funded the first Green Revolution in Asia and Latin America in the 1960s, and in 2006, teamed up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). In Taylor's 2003 paper "American Patent Policy, Biotechnology, and African Agriculture: The Case for Policy Change," he states: "The Green Revolution largely bypassed sub-Saharan Africa...African farmers often face difficult growing conditions, and better access to the basic Green Revolution tools of fertilizer, pesticides, improved seeds, and irrigation certainly can play an important role in improving their productivity."

In an interview with AllAfrica.com, Obama echoed Taylor's sentiment: "I'm still frustrated over the fact that the Green Revolution that we introduced into India in the '60s, we haven't yet introduced into Africa in 2009."

Yet as Crossfield points out, "There are very good reasons why we have never introduced a Green Revolution into Africa, namely because there is broad consensus that the Green Revolution in India has been a failure, with Indian farmers in debt, bound to paying high costs for seed and pesticides, committing suicide at much higher rates, and resulting in a depleted water table and a poisoned environment, and by extension, higher rates of cancer. If President Obama is lacking this information, it is his cabinet that is to blame."

While AGRA may not benefit African farmers, it will certainly benefit Monsanto. Some estimate that Monsanto controls 90 percent of the global market for GM seeds. In Brazil, 54 percent of all soybeans are produced with Monsanto's GM Roundup Ready© seeds, and in 2008, the country began spraying more pesticides and herbicides than the U.S. There is evidence that in 2003, Monsanto sold a Brazilian senator a farm for one-third of its market value in exchange for his help to legalize the herbicide glyphosate (the world's most widely used herbicide), sold by the corporation as Roundup©. In 2008, Monsanto controlled 80% of the Brazilian market for glyphosate, having elevated the price by 50% since its legalization.


Taylor writes of the need to change "archaic, near-subsistence agricultural economies" with a "market-oriented approach and the promotion of thriving agribusinesses." His recipe is globalized, industrial agriculture: "applied agricultural research," "markets for agricultural inputs and outputs", "build rural roads and other physical infrastructure", and "build agricultural export capacity and opportunity." Taylor fails to adequately address how liberalized agricultural policies and unfair U.S. agricultural subsidies have been responsible for the bankruptcy of millions of African farmers....

But what will be the human and environmental costs of unleashing a Green Revolution in Africa? According to the Chicago Council report, the "most respected science academies" have concluded that "genetically engineered crops currently on the market present no new documented risk either to human health or to the environment." Unfortunately, this is false, and the world cannot afford for Obama to follow the advice of those who support a Green Revolution in Africa.


Taylor's solution to halt hunger in Africa is for its farmers to industrially produce commodities for global markets in order to generate cash to purchase toxic food at a supermarket. Yet if his goal is to meet the immediate food and nutritional security needs of poor people in sub-Saharan Africa, and given that most of them live in rural areas, his perception of appropriate land use is flawed....

Family farms employ more people per acre than industrial farms do, and diversified small and medium farmers are more ecologically and economically resilient than those cultivating a monoculture cash crop. Local food systems consume less fossil fuel. Whereas the patenting and planting of GM seeds threaten humanity's collective agrogenetic heritage, in a world without Monsanto, millions of family farmers would be the guardians of agrobiodiversity and indigenous farming knowledge.

One has to ask: given its support for Taylor, Monsanto and a new Green Revolution in Africa, does the Obama administration's foreign agricultural aid program truly represent 'change we can believe in'?  [url=http://www.foodfirst.org/en/node/2515]Source[/url][/quote]