Congress has approved Obama’s nomination of a candy bar executive — Catherine Woteki — as the USDA’s undersecretary for research, education, and economics. This development, among others, should lay to rest the ill-conceived myth that democrats are the stalwart protector of the common man. Both US political parties have long ago been bought and sold the highest corporate bidder.
Woteki just left Mars, Inc., the multinational junk-food giant, where she spent five-years as global director of scientific affairs. One cannot help but wonder just how an individual who holds a PhD in nutrition can rationalize being part of a global outfit that hyped Milky Ways, M&M’s, Twix, Skittles, and Snickers bars to kids the world over.
Woteki will direct the U.S. government’s entire agricultural research budget, and will supervise Roger Beachy, head of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, who oversees the USDA’s billion-dollar-a-year competitive grants program. Tom Philpot notes that Beachy is a genetic scientist with strong ties to GM seed giant Monsanto, and is openly hostile to organic agriculture.
“At a time when U.S. farms desperately need to move toward more sustainable methods,” writes Philpot, “federally supported agriculture research has fallen into the hands of a Monsanto man answering to a junk-food exec.”
Woteki also held high-level positions at the USDA under Bill Clinton, including a stretch in the same position she now holds under Obama’s administration. During her tenure with the Clinton Administration, Woteki co-wrote a paper on “The Administration’s Responsibility to the Consumer” in regards to GM seeds. The paper omits potential ecological and public-health issues regarding GM seeds, and concludes that “the government’s only responsibility to the public concerning the technology is to support it vigorously.”
Earlier this year, Obama appointed former pesticide lobbyist Islam Siddiqui, to be chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the U.S. trade representative. Dr. Siddiqui’s nomination was opposed by the Center for Biological Diversity and more than 80 other environmental, small-farm, and consumer groups. More than 90,000 concerned citizens contacted the White House and Senate to oppose the nomination.
Tierra Curry, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, claimed Siddiqui permitted sewage sludge-fertilized, genetically modified, and irradiated food to be labeled as organic when working as undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
According to the USDA, Roundup Ready seeds were planted on about 95 percent of all sugar-beet acreage earlier this year, and will be harvested in spite of a federal judge throwing out the approval of the crop for commercial planting; the judge said the USDA had not properly considered the potential environmental impacts.
Thus far in the US, 93% of soybeans, 93% of cotton, 86% of corn and 95% of sugar beets are genetically modified varieties. And the derivatives of these GM crops” high-fructose syrup, cotton seed oil, flour, lecithin, and more” are found in the majority of processed foods sold in the US. And virtually all animal feed is also genetically modified.
In one form or another, genetically modified food is immersed deep within the entire US food chain; none of these GM products are labeled, and all of these GM products are here to stay despite no epidemiological studies designed to measure the effects of GM crops on the US population at large. In fact, no peer-reviewed publications of clinical studies on the human health effects of GM food exist, even though the FDA initially approved GMO’s nearly 20 years ago.
Corporations and agribusiness continue to dictate Washington food policy via powerful corporate lobbyists, and revolving door arrangements between big business and government regulatory agencies as illustrated with the appointments of Catherine Woteki, Islam Siddiqui, and a host of others like Michael Taylor, the former Monsanto executive who crafted the FDA’s GMO friendly policy while serving as the FDA’s Deputy commissioner for policy. Taylor wrote the FDA’s guidelines on recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), banning dairies from labeling their milk “rBGH Free”.