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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

An Open Letter Regarding An Internet Smear of FDA Official Michael Taylor

michael_taylor.jpgWe the undersigned are writing to offer another perspective on Michael Taylor, the deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, and the subject of a petition that SignOn.org, which is sponsored by MoveOn.org, is circulating on the Internet. The petition attacks Taylor based on his former employment at the controversial agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto. The undersigned have diverse views regarding genetically engineered foods, but we are unanimous in our belief that Taylor is a valued deputy commissioner, and we regret that a factually untrue Internet smear campaign has attracted so much support.

Several of us have been representing consumer interests on food safety and nutrition issues for most of our careers. All of us have known Michael Taylor for many years, including when he occupied previous high‐level positions in the federal government, taught at George Washington University School of Public Health, and even when he worked at Monsanto.

We acknowledge that Monsanto symbolizes a lot of things that many people (including some of us) don’t like about modern, industrial agriculture. But Mr. Taylor’s résumé is not reducible to his work at that company. It is far more relevant that in the Clinton Administration he headed the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he stood up to the meat industry and fought for strict controls that help keep E. coli and other pathogens out of meat and poultry. Since joining the Obama Administration, Taylor has been working extraordinarily hard to transform the FDA from a reactive agency that chases down foodborne‐illness outbreaks after people fall ill, to a proactive public‐health‐based agency focused on preventing foods from becoming contaminated in the first place. We are confident that his leadership, formerly at USDA and now at FDA, has and will continue to reduce the number of Americans sickened, hospitalized, and killed by foodborne pathogens.

Also, the attack on Taylor includes statements about genetically engineered foods that are simply without any basis in fact. The petition states that since the introduction of GE foods, the “diagnosis of multiple chronic illnesses in the U.S. has skyrocketed,” and that the industry’s products “may also be contributors to colon, breast, lymphatic, and prostate cancers.” Reasonable people can disagree about Monsanto’s corporate policies (often bad), or the quality of government oversight of GE foods (inadequate), or the appropriateness of genetically engineering food crops in the first place. But all of us agree that there is no foundation for the outlandish statements made in the petition.

Undermining MoveOn’s credibility is that the petition’s author, Frederick Ravid, self‐ identifies as the “the 21st generation descendent from father‐to‐son of the famous 12th century Kaballistic [sic] Master Rabbi Abraham ben David, of Posquierres, known as the RaVaD.” Ravid’s web site claims that President Barack Obama is the reincarnation of a Civil War‐era Senator, Lyman Trumbull. It also indicates his belief that various events, such as the earthquake in Haiti or the founding of the League of Nations, are linked to solar eclipses. We mean no disrespect for Mr. Ravid’s religious beliefs, but we do question his respect for science.

We are disturbed that SignOn.org/MoveOn.org and other organizations have spread Mr. Ravid’s uninformed statements so far and wide, seemingly without any apparent concern about their veracity or of its author’s bona fides. Frankly, the petition represents the baldest sort of character assassination and plays right into the hands of those who are bent on convincing the public that all government officials are corrupt.

Michael Taylor has been an important part of an impressive food safety team that has accomplished an enormous amount in a short time. While the Administration has not accomplished everything we food safety advocates would like to see done, Mike Taylor, along with President Obama, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen, and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, have made great progress on food safety in a rather short period of time. They deserve the chance to keep on doing it, despite the conspiracy mongering to which Mr. Taylor is now being subjected.

We urge MoveOn to inactivate the petition, send an email to everyone who has signed the petition correcting its factual misstatements and offering instructions for people to unsign, and apologize to Mr. Taylor.

Sincerely,

Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., Executive Director Center for Science in the Public Interest

Shaun Kennedy, Director, National Center for Food Protection and Defense Director, Partnerships and Programs, College of Veterinary Medicine Assistant Professor, Veterinary Population Medicine University of Minnesota

William D. Marler, Esq. Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm

J. Glenn Morris, M.D., Director, Emerging Pathogens Institute University of Florida

Michael Rodemeyer, Lecturer, Department of Science, Technology and Society University of Virginia, Former Executive Director, Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology

Donald W. Schaffner, Ph.D., Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor Director of the Center for Advanced Food Technology Rutgers University

Deirdre Schlunegger Chief Executive Officer STOP Foodborne Illness

Carol L. Tucker‐Foreman, Distinguished Fellow, The Food Policy Institute Consumer Federation of America, Former Assistant Secretary of Agriculture

  • Brian Sauders

    Very well said! I’ve met Mike a couple times now and witnessed first hand how he has started to change the culture of FDA. Sad to see such a misguided effort to remove a person who is doing so much good.

  • doc raymond

    Thanks to the group that wrote this fantastic testimonial to Taylor’s lifetime of work in the food safety area. And to you, Bill, for sharing thru your blog, Face Book and other social media.

  • Mary

    Bravo, folks. It’s rare to see the food community so definitively address something like this.

  • Bill Anderson

    This is very unfortunate, Bill. I’ve never had much respect for MoveOn.org, because they are basically a partisan mouthpiece for the Dems and are constantly betraying progressive values.
    But here — the one time that MoveOn actually dares to stand up to the establishment and challenge corporate power in government — and you are at the front lines of the establishment’s push-back? Very, very disappointing.
    Mike Taylor needs to go. And he’s not the only one that needs to be driven from the Obama Administration (as if Rahm Emmanual wasn’t bad enough). FDA and USDA are full of former high-ranking Monsanto employees. Its a big, big problem.

  • http://eFoodAlert.net Phyllis (aka foodbuglady)

    I agree completely, and would be happy to associate myself with the sentiments and statements that are contained in the Open Letter.

  • http://www.marlerclark.com/wmarler.htm Bill Marler

    Young Bill, the world is not black and white. I may not agree with Dr. Taylor on all things, but he has done good things – http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/09/looking-back-in-time-the-story-behind-banning-ecoli-o157h7/ – and I will keep his feet to the fire to continue to do so.

  • http://www.thecompletepatient.com David Gumpert

    Bill, I am wondering if you can be specific about what is “factually untrue” (as stated in your letter’s first paragraph) about the petition. I read your letter, expecting to see a list of the “factually untrue” statements, but all I saw was an attempt to personally discredit the petition’s author. Can you explain? Thanks.

  • Steve

    Ahem…. With corporate influence in government arguably at an all time high — conflict of interest is one of the major issues of the day. Ditto in the scientific community where the literature is replete with instances of self-serving “science” by scientists who have an interest in the outcome.
    By many accounts Michael Taylor (M.T.) is a fine fellow — but perhaps if his supporters wish to promulgate his credibility they should be more mindful of the company he keeps. Precisely because he’s moved back and forth between high positions in government and high positions in Monsanto, as a corporate player he’s become a symbolic poster child for the “revolving door” in Washington — typified by undue effects on short and longterm public policy and usurping public funds for private purposes.
    Here’s a quick, wider look at his career path:
    In the late 1980’s lawyer Michael Taylor began his career as a legal advisor to the Commissioner of FDA. He then moved to a private-sector law firm representing Monsanto. In 1991 he returned to the FDA as Deputy Commissioner for Policy, where he was part of the team that issued the agency’s industry-friendly policy on food biotechnology and that approved the use of Monsanto’s genetically engineered growth hormone in dairy cows. In 1994 he revolved back to the law firm leading a group a lawyers representing Monsanto. Then he moved to USDA to become administrator of its Food Safety and Inspection Service.
    After another stint in private legal practice, Mr. Taylor again joined Monsanto as Vice President for Public Policy in 1998 ( as Monsanto’s chief lobbyist to work his former colleagues at USDA and FDA, as well as Congress). Then he went back to being a Monsanto lawyer and in 2010 was appointed Deputy Commissioner in charge of food safety at FDA…
    It’s apparent that his work for Monsanto isn’t just some insignificant little career stepping stone so easily glossed over — his corporate connections have complete relevance to his actions and outlook in the future. From a concerned citizen-consumers’ point of view there’s plenty of good reasons for not to trust Monsanto’s self-aggrandizing food system domination business plan — a plan that M.T. has clearly participated in at a number of junctures in the corporate part of his career. While supporters accuse the petitioners of cherry-picking certain portions of his career while conveniently ignoring his other aspects — the same may be said of their own approach that conveniently ignores M.T.’s inside-player aspects.
    Also, a few clarifications about the petition and reasons for signing it are in order. According to the coverage of the story in USA Today: “Petition targets FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods”
    http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/safety/story/2012-02-17/Petition-targets-FDAs-deputy-commissioner-for-foods/53134650/1
    “The original anti-Taylor petition was posted in August by Frederick Ravid of Atlanta. He used the free site SignOn.org, which allows anyone to create an online petition… Ravid’s petition got a big push on Feb. 6 when MoveOn, a liberal political action group, picked it up and sent it out to its list of over 5 million members, says MoveOn’s Steven Biel. “This is one of the most strongly viral petitions we’ve seen in a long time. He got over 200,000 signatures entirely on his own with no organizational backing before we jumped on it.” As of Friday, the petition had received 413,013 online signatures.”
    And while the petition is simplistic, many people seem to have signed it for many good reasons:
    “…Other groups may not follow Ravid’s specific line of reasoning on the specific dangers of genetically engineered crops, but they are equally opposed to Taylor. ‘We objected to his appointment in 2009,” says Dave Murphy, founder of Food Democracy Now!, based in Clear Lake, Iowa. The activist group believes the nation’s food system “is fundamentally broken” and that the United States needs to end corporate agribusiness and recreate regional food systems.
    ‘We just don’t think Michael Taylor has the best interest of family farms or American consumers at heart,” Murphy says. He “has the wrong philosophical framework.’”
    So, is this really “an internet smear campaign” as charged? — or is there rightful concern over insider conflict of interest questions here??

  • http://www.thecompletepatient.com David Gumpert

    Steve, thanks for providing actual facts about the Taylor situation. The writers of the letter certainly don’t.
    Bill, suggest you read such letters before immediately signing on.
    David

  • Ruby

    It appears “Steve” would prefer a complete incompetent head the FDA, someone with no practical perspective of American agriculture, no meaningful experience within the industry…perhaps an organic idealogue like himself? Wouldn’t be any “corporate influence in government” that way, or would there ? Excepting, of course, the small farm lobby and their paid shills!

  • http://www.marlerclark.com/wmarler.htm Bill Marler

    The petition blames skyrocketing diagnoses of chronic disease on genetically engineered foods, and says that the biotech industry’s products “may also be contributors to colon, breast, lymphatic, and prostate cancers.” Despite the controversy over genetically engineered crops, no evidence supports those claims, according to CSPI.

  • doc raymond

    Actually, the rate of breast and colon cancer in this country has been on the decline since the mid-90s. Maybe Monsanto and GE foods can take credit for that :)
    Hunger kills far more people in this world than cancer. Where is the outrage over that? The only valid approach to healthier children world wide is Ag technology. There is not enough land and water to increase food production to the levels we need to feed the one billion and growing number of people currently going to bed hungry every night.

  • Chris Anderson

    I’ve worked with Mr. Taylor directly, on the food animal side of the business. I’ll be brief and tell you that he takes undue credit for actions/activities that have never occurred in our industry. Example: he touts “pre-harvest interventions” in the Beef Industry to control E. coli o-157. When asked, specifically, to describe those interventions, he is unable to elaborate. Long/short – all the interventions occur at the processing level, or better yet, all the (+) meat just gets diverted to cooking. Taking credit for actions that are not in existence, he then dictates other industries to do the same…using the beef industry as a model. A model for what? He’s a policy wonk, whose crafted a “living” out of Food Safety/Government posts. Sounds good in person and on paper, but when quizzed for the details, the Emperor has no clothes. Get him outta there…

  • Steve

    I’m glad to see this discussion include GMOs – food safety and the corporate hegemony of the Biotech Industry are important dimensions of this food safety story.
    So– Are GMOs safe?? Reports of childhood hospitalizations from severe allergic reactions are way up, for one. Studies have revealed that the inherent instability of transgenic crops can cause toxicity for another. Immuno-suppression, alteration of nutritional levels and cancer have also been verified.
    But since GMO’s lie unlabeled in the food supply, by corporate design they’re impossible to trace effectively.
    For those calling for more proof — here’s the kicker — the safety of GMO food has NOT been independently proven. Under one of Mr Taylor’s watches, Monsanto et al were given a governmental green light — granting them “Generally Regarded As Safe” and “Substantially Equivalent” designations that allow foods adulterated with GMOs into our food supply — and it’s been made all nice and legal…
    The reality is: independent investigations into the safety of Genetically Engineered crops has been blocked by the Biotech Industry via their patent protections.
    Here’s an article, “No seeds, no independent research — Companies that genetically engineer crops have a lock on what we know about their safety and benefits” discussing this aspect in the LA Times earlier this month:
    http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/13/opinion/la-oe-guriansherman-seeds-20110213
    Here’s a few quotes:
    “Soybeans, corn, cotton and canola — most of the acres planted in these crops in the United States are genetically altered. “Transgenic” seeds reduce the use of some insecticides. But herbicide use is higher, and respected experts argue that some genetically engineered crops may also pose serious health and environmental risks. The benefits of genetically engineered crops may be overstated.
    “We don’t have the complete picture. That’s no accident. Multibillion-dollar agricultural corporations, including Monsanto and Syngenta, have restricted independent research on their genetically engineered crops. They have often refused to provide independent scientists with seeds, or they’ve set restrictive conditions that severely limit research options.
    “This is legal. Under U.S. law, genetically engineered crops are patentable inventions. Companies have broad power over the use of any patented product, including who can study it and how.
    “Agricultural companies defend their stonewalling by saying that unrestricted research could make them vulnerable to lawsuits if an experiment somehow leads to harm, or that it could give competitors unfair insight into their products. But it’s likely that the companies fear something else as well: An experiment could reveal that a genetically engineered product is hazardous or doesn’t perform as promised…”

  • doc raymond

    Steve, you obviously go to bed every night with a full belly, unlike so many others.

  • Steve

    Doc Raymond — Guilty as charged… but my belly is full mostly from what we’ve produced — and what I deeply wish for is access to good real food for all others on the planet.
    Living here in cold northern zone 5 we filled two freezers last summer (and the summer before that, etc) with the highest quality organic garden veggies available at any cost — and we are eating year round all for the price of the seed and the joy of our spare time labor. Add to that ample rewards from ice fishing in winter as well as fresh and salt water fishing during the other 3 seasons, along with some local grassfed eggs and livestock — and yes indeed we’re in Fat City — and, I’ll warrant eating better (and healthier) than most CEOs, politicians and doctors…
    So — what’s up Doc? How full is your belly? Does your post mean that people who are exploited by the systems, who don’t have the growing knowledge or access to some dirt or a living wage should just be happy that they have readily available toxic GMO, pesticide-laden, antibiotic-injected, highly processed junk “food” to exist on because it is cheap (by externalizing the true costs to our environment, our health and our next generations)?
    There’s more and more people who go to beds with bellies full who are who are seeing through the curtain, walking the talk, counting the costs to our health, environment and food security — and devoting lives to producing alternatives to the ruinous corporately dominated industrialized food system. And planet-friendly alternatives are becoming more and more widely available, even to those barely existing in the safety net. Isn’t that what the freedom of choice is all about?

  • Ted

    Alarmists like Steve routinely go to bed each night with a full belly. Then they lie awake tossing and turning, worrying about scary imaginary GMO boogiemen…so we won’t have to. What a trooper! Of course, Steve’s paid to fret and worry us with his over-the-top precautionary principle…and his bogus suggestion children are being hospitalized with GMO-induced allergies. Now, that’s the sort of hallucinatory nonsense that might torment someone who lays awake nights panicked for no good reason. Calm down Steve, there are no GMO monsters under your bed. You might better concern yourself with e. coli in organic sprouts and salmonella in farmers market chicken (now, that crap will kill ya!)

  • Steve

    Thanks for your concern, Ted — but it’s badly misplaced — I sleep just fine, thank you…
    As to your further concerns about a “bogus suggestion children are being hospitalized with GMO-induced allergies” you might want to look over the data from a study in the Journal Pediatrics (June, 2011) http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/06/16/peds.2011-0204.abstract?sid=bea39047-a623-4def-a7ce-87ce9684dad2
    The study found a huge increase in children’s food allergies, now affecting as many as 1 in 12 kids (that’s 6 million) in the U.S. alone. Further, the study reports — nearly 40% of those children had suffered a severe reaction to certain foods — and more than 30% were allergic to multiple foods.
    According to the Allergy Kids Foundation http://www.allergykids.com/ the additives now present in our food supply — including GMOs (where foods have been changed at the molecular level) are the prime allergenicity suspects.
    Fact is, the food we’re eating today is markedly different from the food our parents ate, or even the food that many of us enjoyed as children — and we’re now all guinea pigs in this huge, unproven transgenic foods experiment…

  • BB

    Seriously, “allergykids.com”??? Yeah, sure, whatever. That ain’t exactly The Lancet. Maybe we should ask Oprah for her opinion, too? It is always a bad idea to take unsolicited medical news from paid small farm industry shills or from flaky activist websites. Food is food is food. And alarmist fools will never be anything more than alarmist fools.

  • http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com Dog Doctor

    Steve, I have known Mr. Taylor for a number of years in his various federal roles and as political appointee go, he has been one of the best that I have seen. I really wish you had been active during the last administration when you had horse judge put in charge of emergency response agency and people equally qualified in charge of food agencies.
    Have you read the article that you are citing from the Journal of Pediatrics?
    This is the abstract of the article
    Results: Data were collected for 40 104 children; incomplete responses for 1624 children were excluded, which yielded a final sample of 38 480. Food allergy prevalence was 8.0% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 7.6–8.3). Among children with food allergy, 38.7% had a history of severe reactions, and 30.4% had multiple food allergies. Prevalence according to allergen among food-allergic children was highest for peanut (25.2% [95% CI: 23.3–27.1]), followed by milk (21.1% [95% CI: 19.4–22.8]) and shellfish (17.2% [95% CI: 15.6–18.9]). Odds of food allergy were significantly associated with race, age, income, and geographic region. Disparities in food allergy diagnosis according to race and income were observed.
    Conclusions: Findings suggest that the prevalence and severity of childhood food allergy is greater than previously reported. Data suggest that disparities exist in the clinical diagnosis of disease.

    Continuing with my comments
    Please note the foods that children are developing allergies to 1) peanut 2) milk and 3) Shellfish. As far as I know no one has developed GMO shellfish. out of curiosity, I did some digging to see what foods were associated with allergies in the past in 1978 the top 5 were Peanuts, Eggs, Milk, Soybean, wheat, and peas. In 1962, milk was a still significant cause of allergies. In 1940, NIH has an article about milk allergies which is when raw milk was more common and large dairies really didn’t exist
    You will also note that associated issues were race, age, income, and location which suggest causes other than GMO since they are used widely. If GMO’s were a significant factor than factors like race, income, and location should drop out.
    Also note there is disparities in the definition and the methods used to diagnosis food allergies which would suggest that further refinements are needed before any claims can be made. Therefore there is no data supporting your assumption that GMO’s have lead to increase in food allergies since 1) same foods that caused allergies at the turn of the century are still the major causes today 2) factors that are not linked to consumption with GMO’s are still principle factors associated with allergy development, so Steve happy hunting on other red herring to hang on GMO’s. As to Mike Taylor, leave him alone as well, you may want to review records of Bush era appointees whose first actions were to stop the development of cases that FDA was developing against several large companies. I was working for FDA at the time and we had several actions prepared to move forward when Bush appointees stop them and threw out all the evidence and told us to start over.

  • Chris Anderson

    To: Dog Doctor, regarding your comment to Mr. Steve
    “I have known Mr. Taylor for a number of years in his various federal roles and as political appointee go, he has been one of the best that I have seen…”
    Not sure if you are an actual Dog Doctor, but I happen to be a licensed Veterinarian who works in the field of Food Safety. I can attest for the fact that Mr. Taylor has NO scientific background to be working in the realm of food safety. He’s an attorney-lobbyist, not a scientist! So, if he’s the best you’ve seen, God help us. He’s your classic governmental blow-hard, who milks the Federal system for a paycheck.
    Hey, wasn’t Mr. Mike Taylor the guy working for FDA during the biggest recall in the egg industry’s history? Guess they didn’t see that one coming? C’mon, you find that reactive M.O. of his and his ilk to be “the best”? Surely, there’s more substantive talent out there. The guy’s a complete fraud. Obviously, he’s duped you.

  • http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com Dog Doctor

    Yes, I a real Veterinarian, and I am and have worked for several food safety agencies including FSIS, and FDA. I didn’t say Mr. Taylor was a scientist but as for a political appointee, he has done better than most. I was talking about the political appointees that I have dealt with from the Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama administrations.
    Dr. Anderson, have you predicted any of the large outbreaks before they occurred? Actually I am surprised with the drought in Texas and Mexico, that hasn’t been a large produce outbreak this year.
    Actually have you read his paper from his time at George Washington University see http://www.rwjf.org/files/research/20090417foodsafetyfinalreport.pdf recognizing that it is the Local and State health departments that primary level of protecting food safety about building partnership for better food safety.
    Also when he came on board, he didn’t stop or reverse many actions that were in process against food companies like the previous Bush administration appointees did.
    Unfortunately, you don’t hear about the good things he has done or the bad things he has kept from happening. So Dr. Anderson, I will stand by my statement that Mr. Taylor is one of the best political appointees that I have met and worked for.
    I have also worked from some career federal employees in the later stages of their careers that were focus on getting jobs with companies. I also had serious discussions with a retired area supervisor from Louisiana who went to work for Con Agra that was changeling my inspector’s dispositions at a poultry plant with comments like I know your circuit supervisor, area, and regional director. I said call them. I support my inspectors. So Dr. Anderson, I have met some pretty scummy people and Mr. Taylor is not one of them. I was also in a meeting where a senior FSIS official (a veterinarian) was complaining that cattle contaminated with significant levels of a pesticide could not be used for meat and shipped to a developing country. So even some people in our own profession don’t exhibit the highest moral standards or ethics, and I don’t know what your interactions with Mr. Taylor have been or are you basing your opinions off what you have read?

  • Chris Anderson

    …to the Dog “Doc”…
    My interactions with Mr. Taylor, Esq., have been in direct conversation, discussion, and unfortunately as someone subjected to listening to his drivel at various meetings where they’ve propped him up as a highlighted speaker or plugged him into a panel of “experts”.
    Regarding the barbs you throw at other Agencies, in defense of Esq. Taylor, I’m right there with you. I know first-hand, the non-scientific contradictions of USDA. I know first-hand the “reality” of FSIS inspection. And, Mr. Taylor, is right there in the thick of it – USDA, FDA, the whole lot.
    I know you’ll whine back, but don’t expect any more responses. You’re shrill tone pains my eyes to read.

  • Donald

    So there we have it.
    Chris Anderson simply dislikes Michael Taylor.
    Thus, based upon Chris’ personal opinion Taylor must be fired. [groan, eyeroll]. Well, I’m developing a dangerously low opinion of shills like Steve and Chris. How do we go about getting them fired?

  • Michael Bulger

    I’m not going to comment on the health implications of GMOs in regards to cancer, etc. I do think it important to point out that hunger is not a product of inadequate corn yields in MidWest America. Unfortunately, hunger is largely a developing world socio-political problem. Do you want to end hunger?
    We could start by ending war. There’s always plenty of food to go around, but people starve because they don’t have access to food. That’s why famine occurs so often in war zones.
    Next, we should encourage farming as an economically viable profession in regions where food security is most vulnerable. The more people producing foods close to their homes, and the less processing it needs to be edible, the more secure they are in times of crisis. There will always be a place for emergency food aid, but it’s questionable whether subsidized US surpluses are helping rather than hurting. Depressing global prices drives vulnerable farmers off their lands. Certainly some measure of US surplus can moderate prices in times of global weather disasters or economic instability, but it is often much more practical to find local sources of food. Overproduction of grains in the developing world forces consolidation, as prices drop and smaller farmers can no longer survive on smaller parcels of land. Production and access become more concentrated and urbanization reduces food security as rural populations seek wages off the farm. This burdens the urban economy, and if wages drop then wherefore is the food? In the hands of a few? Let us hope no war breaks out so that whatever infrastructure there is can ensure food is adequately distributed.
    Further, if the focus is on improving yields then we would do well to acknowledge that the vast majority of yield improvement has very little to do with GMO technology. Sometimes GMOs even drag yield down. There are many ways to boost yield and improve crop genetics that are not controversial at all. As one international official (I believe from the FAO) has said, the technologies and knowledge needed to bring food security to Africa are not exotic.
    I realize I am late to the discussion, and perhaps this is upon deaf ears. Alas, doc raymonds “you-don’t-want-people-to-starve” tack was too wanting. I really don’t want people to starve. Unfortunately, patented-GMO technology in the hands of giant Western agribusinesses does little to help. The vast majority of GMOs in use are designed for Westeern soils, to grow Western grains, to feed Western cattle, to fatten Westerners. Famine numbers are going up about as quickly as obesity rates. How’s your belly, doc raymond?

  • http://www.realrawmilkfacts.com Dog Doctor

    Dr. Anderson, I will try not to be too shrill.
    But a few questions
    1) Who in 30 years would you consider a good political appointee?
    2) Who in your mind is a memorable keynote speaker at AVMA, USAHA, APHA, or CSTE?

  • Chris Anderson

    Don – I don’t know Michael Taylor personally; so this is not a case of “I don’t like him”. I’ve explained fully my disdain is rooted in interactions with the man at meetings/conferences where he espouses (falsely) pre-harvest interventions in the beef industry as being effective, and guess what?- those interventions are NON-existent!!!!!!! They are just now trialing a vaccine for E. coli O157, so how can he purport that other industries should “model themselves after the beef industry, and look at controlling the source of the pathogen upstream”? It’s utter B.S. Sounds great at a conference, where you’re grand-standing, but there’s no substance behind his claims. Does that count for a substantive critique?
    So, nothing personal at all. As far as I know, Mike Taylor is a wonderful, warm, compassionate person. That’s great…I’m talking about Food Safety, not personality.
    As for Dog Doc…who is my have Administrator, Deputy Administrator, (name the bureaucratic position…) of choice – hmmmmm, it’d have to be another Veterinarian – Dr. Barb Masters…she strikes a great balance between Government Policy and Reality. She’s knowledgeable of both the Beltway and the ground floor of processing plants. Smart, dedicated, and very able.
    I work in the trenches folks…I know reality. Not sure about “Don” or you actually do for a living (academia, anyone?), but if you dealt with USDA on an almost daily basis, if you dealt with the Beltway on a semi-regular basis, and if you dealt with actual product/food safety issues you’d realize there’s a TREMENDOUS DISCONNECT between fact and fantasy.
    That’s really my point – Mike Taylor is propagating fantasy (like so many others), and it drives me insane.
    Again, nuthin’ personal.

  • Donald

    OK, you’ve been “driven insane” Chris. Let’s just leave it at that, shall we? And stop smearing Michael Taylor specifically and our modern food industry in general? Just lose the tragi-comic drama.

  • http://www.realrawmilkfacts.comt Dog Doctor

    Dr. Anderson, I would agree with you on your assessment of Dr. Masters. She did her best in a very difficult situation.
    And yes, there is a huge disconnection between the field and beltway, neither side understands the other. Part of the problems there is not a good system to bring in experience field people to headquarters for short term details since very few people like living here. The FBI has a very good program to bring field people in for two years on detail and let them return to the field. It helps to generate understanding between both sides of an agency. The frustration the field has with decisions that are made that don’t reflect the realities that field faces, and the slow decision making process at HQ. The field doesn’t understand the frustration the HQ staff when they try to explain basic science to congressional staffers who don’t know or don’t care and are only worried about making their political point or protecting a corporate donor. The biggest problem is at the highest levels most decisions are made based on how can I defend this decision in front of congress and will have “I have to spend more time with my family” if I make it which is why no decision or keeping the previous decision is the safest decision. The low risk avoidance is why innovation or new policies are so hard to accomplish in the government. So, yes Dr. Anderson, I understand where you are coming from in the field with the “do more with less”, “do things more efficiently”, etc. I heard it all when I was in the field. I loved the “WAE restrictions “ and no training so the Regional director could get his bonus, so on many shifts, I was the only giving breaks and no one was monitoring the processing area of the plant for 4 out of 8 hours of the shift because we were all the slaughter line. Therefore I understand how it can drive you insane; you should a detail to HQ staff if you want to see the other half of the walnut.

  • Chet

    Was it Michael Taylor personally who prevented you slugs taking regular cigarette breaks? Is that why he should be fired? Why didn’t you just say so in the first place? Just say you wanted to kick back every few minutes, leave the line, let nature take its course. Why smear Taylor as an incompetent and a Monsanto shill? Your dishonesty is chilling. To hell with you skulking selfish chickensh!t b*stards.

  • http://www.realrawmikfacts.com Dog Doctor

    Chet, I honestly don’t know what you are flipping out about. 1, if you read my posts I am supporting Mr. Taylor, he is a great guy. Not what were complaining about were FSIS regional directors, a position that no longer exists that comprised your food safety by reducing the number of inspectors who were present in the processing portion of the plant so they could get a bonus. You observably don’t know what you are talking about. In the plant I was supervised, there were three slaughter lines with 3 inspectors each and 2 floor inspectors. There were over 1,200 plant employees that work during that shift.
    So I had myself and 2 other people to monitor the processing areas of the chicken plant that was roughly half the size of a football field with many rooms and compartments. So no, no one got to sit around, I made sure my inspectors doing floor duty were constantly moving. Unfortunately the plant knew when we’re giving breaks and would try to pull some stunts. I found ways to come from an unexpected direction to catch them at it.
    So frankly you can your ignorant attitude and stuff it and keep you male bovine post digestive material to yourself until you spend 5 years in a chicken plant supervisory 21 people and scheduling their vacation time and filling out all the Dam paperwork that goes with it. Trying to keep the food supply safe for a bunch of ignorant and ungrateful idiots that think it is not a backbreaking stressful job like you

  • Bob

    This article completely misses the point of what’s wrong with Michael Taylor and the Obama Administration. Moveon is, like most organizations these days, a bit sensationalist.
    Just so the author of this article can be clear, here is the plain and simple problem with Mike Taylor. It starts with the revolving door, and if you can’t recognize the dangers of the revolving door, than this is where you disagree with the millions who are upset about this appointment.
    People in America have woken up to the fact that our policies are increasingly serving the interests of Corporations. This is not to say that people like Taylor are incapable to doing some good in office, and that no doubt he believes what he is doing is best for America.
    However there is a clear conflict of interest, as the FDA’s policies of stopping pathogens from spreading could have started by negligence on the part of companies like Monsanto fidgeting with the genetic code of our food. Moreover, The fact that he bounced around between working for the FDA, then KIng and Spalding, then back to the FDA, then as a lobbyist for Monsanto, then back to the FDA