May 25, 2012
By Jeff Clemetson, Editor
This week saw a lot of action in the usually mundane world of FDA policy wonking on Capitol Hill as the Senate debated and voted on the Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act. The Act itself was the usually rather boring stuff – creating checks on medical device manufacturers, plans to update this and that in the code, helping doctors reduce prescription drug abuse, yadda, yadda, yadda. The real action came in the amendments that specifically deal with raw foods and herbal supplements. And the results were a mixed bag of victories and losses for the organic, raw food, herbal consumers of America.
Let’s start with the good news. The Senate voted 78-20 to stop an amendment to the bill by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D) that would have created extra regulations on herbal supplement companies and essentially shut every one of those companies down by forcing compliance to a national product registry within 30 days. Utah Sen. Orin Hatch (R) led the opposition to the amendment pointing out that regulations already exist to monitor dietary and herbal supplements that were created in the Dietary Supplement and Education Act of 1994.
It is important to note that 19 of the 20 Senators who favored Durbin’s supplement killing amendment were all Democrats and one Independent – Bernie Sanders. Which leads us to the next amendment on an FDA bill this week that had zero support by Democrats in the Senate.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) introduced an amendment that sought to curb FDA intimidation and also support the free speech of herbalists and natural product manufacturers. Paul’s amendment to the Food and Drug Administration User Fee Reauthorization Act would have put a stop to armed FDA raids on farmers who sell raw milk, many of whom are Amish. It also would have made it legal for dietary and herbal supplement manufacturers to advertise the health benefits of their products. “Under our current FDA laws, FDA says if you want to market prune juice, you can’t say it cures constipation,” Paul said in his speech to the chamber.
Unfortunately, Republicans joined Democrats in allowing the armed government raids on family farms and the silencing of herbalists who want to share the knowledge of their products’ heath benefits.
It was an especially bad showing for Democrats – the supposed “party of the people.” But before all you granola-crunching, organic-shopping, yoga practitioners go run off to change your D to an R – think again. Although Democrats surely screwed the pooch on our health freedoms this week, the Republicans haven’t faired much better recently. Along with the 35 Republican Senators who voted against Paul’s amendment that would have stopped FDA raids on family farms, the presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney recently released the names of his campaign’s council on agriculture issues – and it isn’t exactly filled with the kinds of farmers Willie Nelson would approve of.
The most egregious name on Romney’s Ag team is Randy Russell, the president of the Russell Group which is Monsanto’s lobbying firm as well as the lobbying firm for PepsiCo, Kraft and KFC/Taco Bell restaurant group Yum! Brands. Russell has been the poster child for corporate food lobbying for many years and openly takes credit for getting the USDA to fast track approval for Monsanto’s Roundup ready alfalfa GMO in 2011.
As a curious side note, it appears the Romney campaign is too embarrassed by another member of their Ag team to list his entire resume. On the Romney Website, Bill Evan is listed as being co-owner of the friendly, down home-sounding Evan Family Farms. (http://www.mittromney.com/news/press/2012/03/mitt-romney-announces-agriculture-advisory-committee) What the Romney campaign fails to mention is Evan’s current job – North American Biotech Affairs and Industry Relations Leader at Dupont’s Pioneer Hi-Bred International. Basically, he is in charge of trying to make Dupont an even bigger player in the GMO industry than industry leader Monsanto. Other members of the Romney team are former heads of corn refinery organizations, big dairy interests (who are no friends to the raw milk movement), large citrus organization leaders and large vegetable growers.
But let’s not leave out our current President’s recent actions in the corporate war on healthy farms and foods. For all his lofty rhetoric about keeping lobbyists out of his administration, President Obama did what we hoped he wouldn’t do – change his mind. In January, the Obama administration announced its new head of food safety at the FDA – One Michael Taylor, a chief lobbyist for and former vice president of Monsanto. Taylor’s food safety record so far has been to keep labels from milk from cows that are injected with growth hormones and to get genetically modified organisms into the food supply without any testing. (You can sign a petition to urge Obama to fire Taylor at http://signon.org/sign/tell-obama-to-cease-fda)
Whomever wins the Presidential election in November, it appears that he will continue the same corporate-controlled policies of Bush, Clinton, Reagan and every other President of the last 50 years who has helped push for the centralization of our food source, the systematic destruction of family farming and the creation of chemical-dependant foods. Just look at the chart below, courtesy of the Organic Consumer Association, to see just how deeply imbedded corporate food interests have taken over our political system and you will understand why only 15 of our 100 Senators fought to protect the rights of small farmers. It’s enough to make anyone cry over spilt milk.
|Toby Moffett||Monsanto Consultant||US Congressman||D-CT|
|Margaret Miller||Chemical Lab Supervisor||Dep. Dir. FDA,
|Marcia Hale||Director, Int’l
|Mickey Kantor||Board Member||Sec. of Commerce||Clinton|
|Virginia Weldon||VP, Public Policy||WH-Appt to CSA, Gore’s SDR||Clinton|
|Josh King||Director, Int’l
|White House Communications||Clinton|
|David Beler||VP, Gov’t & Public Affairs||Gore’s Chief Dom.
|Carol Tucker-Foreman||Monsanto Lobbyist||WH-Appointed Consumer Adv||Clinton|
|Linda Fisher||VP, Gov’t & Public Affairs||Deputy Admin
|Lidia Watrud||Manager, New Technologies||USDA, EPA||Clinton,
|Michael Taylor||VP, Public Policy||Dep. Commiss. FDA||Obama|
|Hilary Clinton||Rose Law Firm, Monsanto Counsel||US Senator,
Secretary of State
|Roger Beachy||Director, Monsanto Danforth Center||Director USDA NIFA||Obama|
|Islam Siddiqui||Monsanto Lobbyist||Ag Negotiator