Posted by: beyonddinner | March 22, 2009

more food activism

Recently I received an email from Food Democracy Now about writing Secretary Vilsack to protest the potential hiring of a former Monsanto exec and an irradiation proponent to head up big food safety initiatives.  Here’s the text of the email I received:

Help stop a former Monsanto executive from working in the White House!

Currently America is in the middle of a record food safety crisis and it could get a whole lot worse.

There’s a possibility that former Monsanto executive Michael Taylor and irradiation proponent Dr. Michael Osterholm will be named to top food safety spots in the new Administration.

We need your help to defend America’s food supply. Write Secretary Vilsack ( ) and tell him to stand strong on food safety.

Ask Secretary Vilsack to say no to Taylor and Osterholm.

1. Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto executive, whose career literally fits the definition of the revolving door between government, lobbying and corporate interests. Before serving on the Obama ag transition team, Taylor made a name for himself rotating in and out of law firms, Monsanto, the USDA and FDA. While at the FDA he helped write the rules to allow rBGH into the American food system and our children’s milk.

Now we’ve learned that Taylor may be in line to run an office in the White House on food safety!

2On Monday, Secretary Vilsack is set to announce the appointment of Dr. Michael Osterholm, a food safety expert, to lead the Food Safety agency at the USDA. According to Food & Water Watch, Osterholm has been “a zealot in promoting th[e] controversial technology (of irradiation) as the panacea to contaminated food.”

Irradiation allows food processors to nuke disease from contaminated food at the end of the production line, while ignoring the root problems that create unsafe food.

For Osterholm, the recent peanut butter fiasco apparently was just another example of how irradiation could save the day. “Clearly it’s a problem where the raw peanut butter or paste is consumed and not cooked,” Osterholm said.

About the magnitude of America’s most recent food safety crisis, Osterholm said, “The recall has reached a level that is far beyond what’s necessary.”

Try telling that to the relatives of the nine people who died and to the over 600 sick individuals across the country.

“This was like peeling an onion,” Osterholm continued. “It demonstrates the magnitude of processed food in this country.”

Well, at least he got that much right…

The problem, Osterholm doesn’t take constructive criticism of his favorite technology lightly. In 1999 he wrote an editorial calling food safety advocates who questioned the safety of irradiation terrorists.

This doesn’t sound like the type of leader that the USDA needs right now. If you think this is bad news, let the Administration know about it!

Join Food Democracy Now! in calling for true reformers to be placed in positions at the USDA, FDA and beyond. We need a food safety system with some teeth – one that is independent of corporate interests.

Write Secretary Vilsack and ask him to reconsider these decisions.

So I went ahead and sent the email to Vilsack.  I don’t know yet what happened – but I haven’t seen any news about their appointments either.  I have seen news reports about appointments in the FDA for food safety-related positions, but they don’t mention either of the two above.  We’ll see – I find it so hard to detangle and follow all that’s going on.


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