A two-year-old Food and Drug Administration appointment is stirring up online protests once more.
In 2009, President Obama appointed Michael Taylor as a senior adviser for the FDA. Consumer groups protested the appointment because Taylor had formerly served as a vice president for Monsanto, the controversial agricultural multinational at the forefront of genetically modified food.
In recent days, a petition calling for the former Monsanto VP’s ouster is gaining steam.
“President Obama, I oppose your appointment of Michael Taylor,” the petition on Signon.org reads. “Taylor is the same person who was Food Safety Czar at the FDA when genetically modified organisms were allowed into the U.S. food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety or risks. This is a travesty.”
Over the weekend, the petition was signed by thousands of people. At this writing, it has around 60,000 signatures of its 75,000 goal.
Requests for comment from Monsanto and the FDA were not immediately returned.
Signees of the petition argue that Monsanto should not have influence at the FDA because it will hurt farmers and threaten plants and animals. They cite scientific research that has found genetically modified foods could be a cause for chronic illnesses or cancer in the U.S.
The petition was launched by Frederick Ravid, a financial analyst in Atlanta who also has a blog devoted to spirituality.
The petition calls Taylor’s appointment an example of a “fox watching the hen house.”
Taylor’s position, which is currently deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, includes ensuring that food labels contain clear and accurate information, overseeing strategy for food safety and planning new food safety legislation. He is the first individual to hold the position.
Before he joined the FDA, Taylor was the vice president for Public Policy at Monsanto from 1998 to 2001. He has since worked for the FDA in a number of capacities, most recently returning to the administration as senior adviser to the commissioner in July 2009.
Taylor is quoted on the FDA Web site as saying he looked forward to “working in new ways ... to tackle the important challenges – and the unprecedented opportunities – we currently face.”
When Taylor’s appointment was announced, it was criticized by consumers and consumer advocates across the U.S. One such critical consumer advocate, Jeffrey Smith, who campaigns against genetically modified foods, wrote on his blog at the time: “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.”
Smith cited as problematic Taylor’s prior involvement in overseeing the policy of Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH/rbST). Milk from injected cows has been a controversial topic, Smith points out, with many medical organizations and hospitals speaking out against it.
Monsanto has been the focus of dozens of protests for a number of its policies over the years, including this TED talk from an 11-year-old:
On Monday, Monsanto announced that it was giving up plans to sell its insect-resistant maize in France, Farmers Weekly reports. The move was seen as another major blow for genetically modified food in Europe, where resistance has been fierce, with six EU countries banning the cultivation of genetically modified maize.