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Organic Consumers Association

Obama Appoints Monsanto Man as FDA Food Safety Czar

A year ago, Michael Taylor was sitting in his office at George Washington University, considering a basic mission of the federal government: making sure food is safe. He'd devoted his career to food safety, working in and out of government, and he was finally in academia where he could think deeply about what was wrong and how to fix it.

And then the call came.

The Obama administration wanted Taylor to implement the solutions he had been designing. A string of food poisoning outbreaks nationally had sickened thousands and killed dozens. Both parties in Congress were calling for tough new laws. The president promised the public that he would strengthen food safety.

In July, Taylor became an adviser to Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Wednesday he was named deputy commissioner for foods, a new position that elevates food in an agency long criticized for placing greater emphasis on drugs and medical devices.

Congress is moving ahead with legislation to grant vast new authority to the FDA to ensure food safety -- the House passed a bill last year and the Senate is expected to take up its version soon -- and Taylor will be responsible for implementing new laws aimed at preventing outbreaks instead of merely reacting after they occur.

"We are at an historic tipping point -- a moment when the forces have aligned like never before; the president, Congress, industry and the public have stepped up their support for our mission," Taylor told a gathering of FDA staff members last month.

Taylor is a familiar figure at the FDA. He began his career as a staff attorney at the agency in 1976. Then he worked for a decade at King & Spaulding, which represented Monsanto Corp., the agribusiness giant that developed genetically engineered corn, soybeans and bovine growth hormone. ad_icon

He returned to the FDA in 1991 as deputy commissioner for policy and pushed through requirements that producers of seafood and juices adopt measures to prevent bacterial contamination. During the same period, the FDA approved Monsanto's bovine growth hormone, and Taylor was partly responsible for a controversial policy that said milk from BGH-treated cows did not have to be labeled as such. 


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