Michael R. Taylor, who played a major role in overhauling federal meat safety programs, is leaving his perch at Monsanto Co., where he is vice president for public policy. His resignation is effective Jan. 31.

"I am leaving Monsanto because I am interested in exploring in a noncommercial setting the proper roles and interactions of the public and private spheres in meeting society's food, health and environmental needs," he wrote in a Dec. 13 letter to Monsanto chief executive officer Robert B. Shapiro.

In a brief interview, Taylor said he had only high regard for Monsanto and his colleagues there.

Some of Taylor's friends, however, said he had become frustrated with the "culture" of the biotech company and he believed it had not done enough to effectively get across to the public the safety of genetically engineered foods, drugs and other agricultural products.

During his tenure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he was administrator of the Food Safety Inspection Service and acting undersecretary for food safety, Taylor oversaw the transition from the older system of looking at, touching and smelling meat to a more scientifically based system known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, which requires companies to identify the points in their production processes most likely to be susceptible to contamination and create acceptable plans for preventing it.

Taylor also was deputy commissioner for policy at the Food and Drug Administration from 1991-1994, after having represented Monsanto at the law firm of King & Spalding, where he was a partner.

Although he had recused himself for one year at the FDA from any action dealing directly with Monsanto or any other law firm client, Taylor was attacked by anti-biotechnology activist Jeremy Rifkin, who charged that Taylor had a possible conflict of interest relating to a controversial genetically engineered Monsanto drug approved by the FDA in 1993. In 1994, three members of Congress asked the General Accounting Office to investigate Taylor and two other FDA officials; they alleged that their impartiality could have been compromised by prior relationships with Monsanto, the corporate sponsor of recombinant bovine somatotropin. The GAO review cleared Taylor, who by then had moved to the USDA, and the other two officials.

Handgun Control Chief Lowers Profile

Robert J. Walker also is calling it quits. He's leaving the presidency of Handgun Control Inc. after seven years of fighting the National Rifle Association over limits on assault weapons and waiting periods for gun purchases.

His last day at Handgun Control is Feb. 1. The next day he moves over to the Council for Excellence in Government, where he will be a vice president and direct the group's Partnership for Trust in Government program and its role in the Innovations in American Government Awards program. Both projects are funded by the Ford Foundation.

Walker joined Handgun Control as director of federal legislation, heading its successful drive for passage of the Brady Law and the federal ban on assault weapons. He became president of the group and its Center to Prevent Handgun Violence in 1997.

Previously, Walker worked for Rep. John J. LaFalce (D-N.Y.) and former representatives John B. Anderson (R-Ill.) and Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.), and served as legislative counsel for the American Association of Retired Persons (now known just as AARP).

"It's been a very exhausting seven years. I'll not be the NRA's target any more," Walker said in an interview yesterday.

While working for Handgun Control has been "a great experience," Walker said, he wanted a new challenge.

"The pursuit of 'excellence' in government is not just a goal, it's a continuing challenge. In a world of global competition and ever-evolving technologies, there's no room for complacency, in or out of government," he said in a prepared statement.

The council is a nonpartisan organization that attempts to help government improve its performance and to increase citizen confidence in government.

Timber!

Kent C. Sole, who was regional director for Sen. Paul Coverdell (R-Ga.) until September, has moved to Ingram and LeGrand Lumber, a Macon, Ga., timber and land management company, where he is director of government relations. He registered to lobby on tax issues, including a reforestation tax credit.

Sharing Organs

Mark V. Rosenker has been appointed assistant executive director for external affairs of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which represents the organ transplant community and administers the national Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Rosenker is managing UNOS's first Washington office.

He previously was vice president of public affairs for the Electronic Industries Alliance and was deputy press secretary for Gerald R. Ford's 1976 presidential campaign.

Laughlin's Party

Greg Laughlin, a Patton Boggs lobbyist, was referred to here last week as a former Democratic member of the House from Texas. Well, he was, once upon a time. But Laughlin reminds us that he switched parties and is a Republican former congressman.

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