American politicians are known for being untruthful and having questionable morals.
When it comes to food, politics can get pretty ugly.
Prominent American politicians who have advocated the cultivation and expansion of genetically modified (GM) foods don’t seem to feel they need to commit to their promises.
A staunch supporter of GM foods and the agribusinesses that develop them, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at a biotechnology industry conference a couple of years ago to voice her support and give marketing insight.
She played the politician when she stated in her address, “’Genetically modified’ sounds Frankenstein-ish. ‘Drought-resistant’ sounds like something you’d want. Be more careful so you don’t raise that red flag immediately”. (1) During her recent Presidential campaign, Clinton’s position with voters varied according to the audience.
“A MapLight review of documents and financial disclosures found that Clinton has expressed very different views on genetically modified (GMO) foods to voters than to diplomats and major players in the industry who lobbied the State Department, paid her family speaking fees and contributed to the Clinton Foundation,” reports NBC News (2).
A Controversial Issue
Big Agriculture has contributed significant dollars to the Clinton Foundation. Monsanto alone has given between $500,000 and $1 million. Dow (another of the top six of BigAg) has given somewhere between $1 and $5 million.
“Clinton Foundation Ambassadors are a powerful and effective global network of annual donors who provide the vital financial resources and thought leadership necessary to help us solve problems and increase opportunities for more people around the world.” writes the foundation’s website (3).
They don’t keep secret the fact that if you donate a lot of money, you will influence political policy.
Clinton’s relationship with agribusiness behemoth Monsanto goes back decades to her time with the Arkansas law firm representing Monsanto. The relationship has continued through the years:
- Michael Taylor – a Monsanto lawyer was installed by then-President Bill Clinton as a Deputy Commissioner of Foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While in this position (among other things), Mr. Taylor approved the use of synthetic recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) in dairy cows. He was responsible for writing the labeling guidelines for dairy products containing it and chose to prohibit their distinction from non-rBGH dairy to avoid discrimination in the marketplace. In case you didn’t know, BGH is patented by Monsanto. Former CEO of the American Cancer Society Rick North will not drink milk with rBGH because it is genetically engineered.
- Also during Mr. Clinton’s term, other members of Monsanto’s staff were placed in positions of influence, such as U.S. representatives at international biotechnology and agricultural trade conferences (4).
American Politicians Eat Organic
While residents of the White House, the Clintons’ then-chef has revealed that the Clinton family regularly ate organic foods, including grass-fed beef and fresh organic produce from the White House garden. The same is true of the subsequent First Family of George W. Bush. (5)
Clarence Thomas was a Monsanto attorney, appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by George H.W. Bush. The first Bush administration’s position on Monsanto and genetically engineered food was summarized in The New York Times as:
“the White House complied, working behind the scenes to help Monsanto—long a political power with deep connections in Washington—get the regulations that it wanted.
“It was an outcome that would be repeated, again and again, through three administrations. What Monsanto wished for from Washington, Monsanto—and, by extension, the biotechnology industry—got. If the company’s strategy demanded regulations, rules favored by the industry were adopted. And when the company abruptly decided that it needed to throw off the regulations and speed its foods to market, the White House quickly ushered through an unusually generous policy of self-policing.
“Even longtime Washington hands said that the control this nascent industry exerted over its own regulatory destiny—through the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agriculture Department and ultimately the Food and Drug Administration—was astonishing.” (6)
Other Guilty Parties
Think that’s bad, listen to this:
The policy developed at the time by former Vice President Dan Quayle allowed the FDA to approve GM foods without conducting safety testing.
Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was on the Board of Monsanto.
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft received his biggest campaign donation from Monsanto when running for the U.S. Senate.
Current President Obama renewed Michael Taylor’s employment as the senior adviser to the commissioner of the FDA, keeping Monsanto in-house.
This action spurred consumer advocate Jeffrey Smith of the Huffington Post to write:“The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US food safety czar. This is no joke.”
In 2007, President Obama promised to make labeling foods that contain GM ingredients a priority “because Americans should know what they’re buying.” It hasn’t happened yet, although bill H.R.1599 was recently passed by the House and has now moved to the Senate under S.2609.
This bill has no teeth and is full of loopholes for food manufacturers—specifically, Big Food—to avoid putting words on labels identifying the contents as genetically engineered.
What American Politicians Eat
Michelle Obama’s pet project as First Lady is a program called “Let’s Move!”, aimed at reducing child obesity. She is a careful guardian of the White House’s organic garden and stated in a New Yorker article that the family eats only organic at home because “everything that’s in a bottle or a package is like poison in a way that most people don’t even know”. (7)
Mitt Romney, a past Presidential hopeful and former governor of Massachusetts, has ties to Monsanto beginning in the 1970s when he represented the firm in lawsuits involving Agent Orange. Romney is also on the books as being in favor of a provision of the 2012 Farm Bill which prevents a federal court from restricting GM crops.
Paradoxically, Romney’s wife Ann attributes the reversal of symptoms of multiple sclerosis to a holistic approach to the illness, including changing her diet to eat only organic. A journalist in Romney’s entourage says he only eats organic, even on his private airplane.
So why won’t the-powers-that-be eat what they want the rest of us to eat? Do American politicians know something we don’t?