਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ Monsanto’s Friends in High Places | Ludwig von Mises Daily Email਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ ਍ഀ
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Subject:                          Monsanto’s Friends in High Places

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਍ഀ November 9, 2013

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਍ഀ Monsanto’s Friends in High Places
਍ഀ by Hunter Lewis਍ഀ on November 9, 2013

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Editor’s਍ഀ Note: The following is adapted from Hunter Lewis’s new book Crony਍ഀ Capitalism in America,਍ഀ now available in਍ഀ the Mises Store.

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Many਍ഀ companies hope to send an employee into a government agency to਍ഀ influence regulation. How much better if the employee can actually਍ഀ shape government regulation to promote and sell a specific product!਍ഀ Monsanto seems to have accomplished this — and much more.

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Michael਍ഀ Taylor is among a number of people with Monsanto ties who have worked਍ഀ in government in recent years. He worked for the Nixon and Reagan਍ഀ Food and Drug Administration in the 1970s, then became a lawyer਍ഀ representing Monsanto. In 1991, he returned to the FDA as Deputy਍ഀ Commissioner for Policy under George H. W. Bush, and helped secure਍ഀ approval for Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine (cow) growth਍ഀ hormone, despite it being banned in Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia,਍ഀ and New Zealand.

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This਍ഀ was only a start for Taylor. He also did not like some producers਍ഀ advertising their milk as bovine-growth-hormone-free. That seemed to਍ഀ put Monsanto’s product in an unfavorable light. So in 1994 he wrote a਍ഀ guidance document from within the FDA requiring that any food label਍ഀ describing the product as bovine-growth-hormone-free must also਍ഀ include these words: “The FDA has determined ... no significant਍ഀ difference has been shown between milk derived from [BGH] and਍ഀ non-[BGH] supplemented cows.”

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It਍ഀ apparently did not concern Taylor that this new pronouncement by the਍ഀ FDA was unsupported by either Monsanto or FDA studies. A private਍ഀ company making any such unsupported claim could have been charged਍ഀ with fraud. But since it came out of the FDA, milk producers would਍ഀ place themselves at legal risk by not printing it on their label.

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Taylor਍ഀ moved to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the mid-1990s.਍ഀ During this period, he tried to persuade the FDA and Federal Trade਍ഀ Commission (FTC) to take a further step and make it illegal for dairies਍ഀ to make any claim to a bovine-growth-hormone-free product. Failing in਍ഀ that, he reached out to state governments to make such a claim਍ഀ illegal at the state level. This was finally blocked by a court਍ഀ decision in Ohio that there was indeed a “compositional difference”਍ഀ between BGH and non-BGH-treated milk. Long before this 2010 ruling,਍ഀ Taylor had returned to Monsanto as a vice president, and then਍ഀ returned to President Obama’s FDA, first as Senior Advisor on Food਍ഀ Safety and then Deputy Commissioner for Foods.[1]

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Taylor’s਍ഀ story, however, is not just about milk, or even mainly about milk.਍ഀ During his second posting at the FDA, as Deputy Commissioner for਍ഀ Policy 1991–1994, Agency scientists were grappling with questions਍ഀ about the overall safety of genetically engineered foods (often਍ഀ labeled Genetically Modified Organisms). As Jeffrey Smith notes,

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[Internal]਍ഀ memo after memo described toxins, new diseases, nutritional਍ഀ deficiencies, and hard to detect allergens. [Staff scientists] were਍ഀ adamant that the technology carried “serious health hazards,” and਍ഀ required careful, long-term research, including human studies. ...

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The਍ഀ Agency, under Taylor’s and later under others’ leadership, simply਍ഀ ignored these findings. No human studies were required. GMO foods਍ഀ were allowed to enter the food supply unregulated by the FDA and਍ഀ barely regulated by the USDA, which views them as an important US਍ഀ export product. By 2012, in the US, 90 percent of sugar beets਍ഀ (representing half of overall sugar production) was GMO, 85 percent਍ഀ of soybeans (which are to be found in 70 percent of all supermarket਍ഀ food products), and 85 percent of corn, including the corn used to਍ഀ make high fructose corn syrup, a sweetener used in most soft drinks਍ഀ and processed foods.

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The਍ഀ few scientists trying to conduct independent research on GMO often਍ഀ found their careers damaged. Most food research, conferences, and਍ഀ fellowships are funded by “Big Food” companies including Monsanto,਍ഀ which has a chilling effect. Even sympathetic colleagues may be਍ഀ reluctant to back those who dare speak out.

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Those਍ഀ who persevered in conducting independent research, often abroad,਍ഀ reported worrisome findings. An Austrian study found that mice fed਍ഀ GMO corn seemed fine in the first and second generations, but by the਍ഀ third were sterile. A Russian study of hamsters fed GMO soybeans਍ഀ found a similar result. Could human beings exhibit a similar, delayed਍ഀ response? No one knows. Another, unrelated study showed that the਍ഀ pesticide used in large quantities on engineered Roundup Ready crops਍ഀ is toxic to male testicle cells and threatens both testosterone਍ഀ synthesis and sperm count.

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Lewis, Hunter

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$12.95

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At਍ഀ the same time that the FDA tries to remain as silent as possible਍ഀ about GMOs, the US Department of Agriculture and other parts of the਍ഀ US government are doing everything they can to promote them. The USDA਍ഀ under both George W. Bush and Obama has sought to accelerate what is਍ഀ already an automatic rubberstamp for new GMO products, to਍ഀ “deregulate” them (including grasses such as alfalfa that cannot be਍ഀ restricted to the planted area), and to provide immunity from਍ഀ lawsuits over the spread of GMO crops to adjoining organic farms.਍ഀ Immunity from lawsuit was especially ironic. For years, GMO producers਍ഀ had threatened, intimidated, sued, and in every imaginable way਍ഀ attempted to bully adjoining farmers. If any of the patented seeds਍ഀ drifted and were found on the neighboring farm, that farmer would be਍ഀ charged with “theft.” The clear message: buy the patented seeds or਍ഀ face destruction through legal costs. Remarkably, courts were buying਍ഀ this specious argument. But finally the persecuted began to਍ഀ counter-sue successfully, and the USDA immediately rushed to provide਍ഀ legal immunity to the GMO producers in the form of an insurance਍ഀ policy that organic farmers would have to buy and that would be their਍ഀ only available form of compensation.[2]

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Although਍ഀ we have chosen to focus on the remarkable revolving door career of਍ഀ Michael Taylor at the FDA and Monsanto, because it has potentially਍ഀ affected the future health of hundreds of millions of people, stories਍ഀ like his are not uncommon. A Chicago਍ഀ Tribune article from 2012 is headlined: Chemical Firms਍ഀ Champion New EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Expert. It਍ഀ describes how Todd Stedeford worked at the EPA from 2004–2007 under਍ഀ the George W. Bush administration, then joined chemical firm਍ഀ Albemarle Corp. While at Albemarle, which makes flame retardants, he਍ഀ defended chemicals used in many products and even suggested that the਍ഀ standard set by the EPA for flame retardants was 500 times too high.਍ഀ Having returned to the EPA in 2011, under President Obama, he is now਍ഀ “in charge of a ... program studying whether dozens of industrial਍ഀ chemicals, including flame retardants, are too dangerous.”[3] One਍ഀ must ask: what was the EPA thinking when it made this appointment?

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Bill਍ഀ Ruckelshaus, twice EPA head, once said that “at EPA you work for a਍ഀ cause that is beyond self-interest. ... You’re not there for the਍ഀ money, you are there for something beyond yourself.”[4] But on਍ഀ leaving the EPA, he himself became a Monsanto director. Meanwhile the਍ഀ Geneva-based Covalence group placed Monsanto dead last on a list of਍ഀ 581 global companies ranked by their reputation for ethics.[5]

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A਍ഀ look at some Monsanto representatives and their positions in਍ഀ government:

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MONSANTO

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US GOVERNMENT

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Suzanne Sechen, worked on Monsanto-funded academic research

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A primary reviewer for bovine growth hormone in FDA

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Linda J. Fisher, VP, lobbyist for Monsanto

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Assistant Administrator at EPA

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Michael Friedman, MD, Sr. VP, GD Searle, subsidiary of Monsanto

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Acting Commissioner of FDA

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Marcia Hale, international lobbyist, Monsanto

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Assistant to President under President Clinton

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Michael (Mickey) Kantor, director

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Secretary of Commerce and US Trade Representative under਍ഀ President Clinton

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William D. Ruckelshaus, director

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Head of EPA under both Presidents Nixon and Reagan

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Note:਍ഀ The views expressed in Daily Articles on Mises.org are not਍ഀ necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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Comment਍ഀ on this article. When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and਍ഀ informative comment.

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Hunter਍ഀ Lewis is cofounder of Against Crony Capitalism. He is the former CEO of਍ഀ Cambridge Associates and the author of eight books, including two new਍ഀ books, Free Prices਍ഀ Now! and Crony਍ഀ Capitalism in America: 2008-2012. He has served on boards਍ഀ and committees of 15 not-for-profit organizations, including਍ഀ environmental, teaching, research, and cultural organizations, as਍ഀ well as the World Bank. See Hunter Lewis's article਍ഀ archives.

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You਍ഀ can subscribe to future articles by Hunter Lewis via this RSS਍ഀ feed.

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Notes
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[1] http://www.anh-usa.org਍ഀ (October 12, 2010).

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[2]਍ഀ Ibid., (September 11, 2012).

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[3]਍ഀ Michael Hawthorne, Chicago਍ഀ Tribune (September 10, 2012).

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[4]਍ഀ Oral History interview, Ruckelshaus article,਍ഀ http://www.wikipedia.org.

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[5]਍ഀ http://www.huffingtonpost.com, (January 28, 2010).

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