Monsanto's Influence Corrupts Public Interest Groups & Government

The AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER Issue # 37 June 7, 1999
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness From a Public Interest Perspective
A.V. Krebs, Editor\Publisher <>


Just as Cargill has played a major role in shaping U.S. agricultural policy
in the twilight of the 20th century (Issue #31) the evidence is becoming
increasingly clear that the Monsanto Co. has been dominating policy
decisions within the U.S. when it comes to bioengineering, genetically
modified organisms (GMOs), and the health and safety of our food.

In Issue #34 THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER reported that one of Monsanto's top
lobbyists and political operatives -- Patricia Kenworthy -- is now working
for the National Environmental Trust and that Carol Tucker Foreman, who in
recent years has been an outspoken lobbyist on behalf of Monsanto's rBGH,
is now returning to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) to become
director of a new Food Policy Institute for CFA .

The CFA is a consumer organization currently with no members that represent
a coalition of non-government organizations (NGOs), including farm and
labor groups. According to the Washington Post, the industry-funded
non-profit Public Voice is going to close up shop and be folded into CFA
under Foreman.

As John Stauber of PR Watch has noted: "Carol Tucker Foreman spent a decade
and a half as a lobbyist running her own firm with big paying clients like
Monsanto (rBGH) and Procter & Gamble (Olestra). Some people speculate the
reason she has left her firm and moved back to CFA is that she can do the
food industry a lot more good there while the growing trade fights unfold
over beef hormones and biotech. Supposedly she is going to stay away from
biotech issues, but that's a ruse at best - after all, which international
food issues DON'T involved biotech?

"One of her real coups in the past was to convince groups like Center for
Science in the Public Interest to not oppose rBGH and to stay out of the
fight over biotech foods. It probably didn't take much convincing, since
their top nutritionist is married to an FDA person whose job has been to
oppose biotech labeling."

Recently the United States banned all European pork and poultry imports
after what is being called the biggest "food scare in Europe since the "Mad
Cow" outbreak in Britain in the early part of the decade. European Union
officials initially banned the sale of chicken and eggs from Belgian farms
that may have used livestock feed contaminated with dioxin.

The ban was then broadened to pork, beef and dairy products as the count of
suspect farms hit 1,000. France has quarantined 146 cattle and poultry
farms. In the midst of this European action, Art Jaeger of Foreman's
Consumer Federation of America observed, "Perhaps the Europeans ought to
be paying more attention to the more immediate food safety problems than
safety concerns about GMOs, which are much more theoretical."

It has also been reported by THE EXAMINER (Issue #34) that Rod Leonard,
long-time consumer activist and current executive director of the Community
Nutrition Institute in a April 23 issue of Nutrition Week, published by the
CNI, explained how the discovery of drug resistant bacteria in poultry that
puts at risk the health of American citizens is linked to a food safety
decision in 1976 that most people never knew about and few remember today.

"Carol Foreman," he writes, "a newly minted Assistant Secretary of
Agriculture, approved that year a change in food safety procedures that
would have far reaching consequences. Foreman, one of only a few consumer
advocates to reach so high a federal post, decided that poultry visibly
smeared with fecal matter could be safely eaten after the feces was washed


It appears now that Monsanto, in addition to having Patricia Kenworthy and
Carol Tucker Foreman in current key policy making roles in the environment
and consumer areas is now also benefiting from U.S. policy decisions made
earlier in the decade by one of its own.

Writing in the May 21 issue of Nutrition Week, published by the Community
Nutrition Institute, Rod Leonard, its executive director, relates how "a
carefully plotted decision by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in
1994 to block proposals that would enable U.S. consumer to choose between
GM and non-GM foods has now triggered a trade war with Europe, threatens to
bankrupt tens of thousands of American farmers, and could send the World
Trade Organization (WTO) back to the drawing board."

Michael Taylor, a highly successful Washington lawyer at King and
Spaulding, a premier D.C. law firm representing corporate clients, had
recently left the firm, where he represented Monsanto, Inc., to become
associate FDA commissioner for policy.

Among the first issues facing Taylor was whether to permit food labels to
say, "Contains no GM product" or more specifically No "BST," a hormone drug
produced through genetic technology by Monsanto and other drug companies.
When injected into milk cows, BST was claimed to raise output by up to 20%
in the treated milk cow.

"Opponents," Leonard continues, "charged the studies supporting the safety
of BST were rigged, a claim that FDA rejected, clearing the way to approve
the use of BST as safe for consumers.

Interestingly, Canada looking at the same studies found the safety data to
be flawed, and refused to license the product, as did the European Union.
U.S. consumer groups then petitioned FDA to allow labels on milk carton to
identify BST milk from non-BST milk. Taylor said BST milk was not
materially different from non-BST milk; and said non-BST label would
provide false information, and discriminate against producers using BST.

"The decision, while controversial among consumer groups, was vital to the
then unfolding trade strategy of U.S. biotechnology companies, particularly
Monsanto," Leonard adds. "Following the industry lead, the Clinton
administration insured that the same scientific methods that permitted the
use of GM substances in the U.S. would be incorporated in the WTO
procedures, and agreed to blocked consumer labeling standards.

The goal was to insure that by accepting WTO trade rules countries could
not block exports of GM commodities and foods containing GM ingredients,
all produced in the U.S., even if public opinion opposed the imports."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) swung heavily behind the
development of GM commodities, giving strong support to Monsanto and other
biotechnology companies. USDA refused to segregate corn, soybeans and
other crops produced from GM seeds, an action which insured that GM and
non-GM grains and soybeans would be indistinguishable for both domestic and
export markets.

"In the peculiar way of Washington," Leonard concludes, "Michael Taylor has
been well rewarded for having launched a potential trade war with a food
labeling decision. He climbed the policy ladder within the Clinton
administration, moving from FDA to USDA where he sought to end federal
inspection of meat and poultry. He left USDA after advising Vice President
Gore on how to reinvent government, and rejoined his old law firm. Within
months Monsanto hired Taylor to direct corporate strategy in Washington."

***Editors' Note

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