Featured Fox henhouse

Published on February 9th, 2011 | by Jeremy Bloom


Monsanto employees in the halls of government

Fox henhouse

For years, there’s been an open revolving door in Washington – sending workers from the Federal government to Monsanto and Monsanto back to the Federal government. This has a tendency to make people question the fairness and objectivity of the folks who are supposed to be overseeing the giant agricultural corporation.

Bovine growth hormone (rGBH)

When Monsanto got approval for use of its artificial bovine growth hormone in milk, the person in charge of preparing the report at Monsanto was Margaret Miller. Later, the person in charge of receiving the report and evaluating it was… Margaret Miller, by then Deputy Director of Human Safety and Consultative Services in the office overseeing the process..

Michael R Taylor, started off as a partner at the law firm that represented Monsanto on GBH issues. Then, as the FDA’s deputy commissioner for policy, he wrote the FDA’s rBGH labelling guidelines – the ones that insisted there was no difference between rGBH and regular milk. He also deleted references to problems with GMO foods, over the objection of staff scientists. Then he spent a few years working directly for Monsanto. And now? Barak Obama brought him back to the FDA to oversee Monsanto again, as his food safety issues czar!

Opening up foreign markets to GMOs

As long as Europe and other countries reject Genetically Modified (GMO) food, Monsanto has limited markets. Big Ag wanted someone who would push their issues as trade negotiator, and President Obama nominated Islam “Isi” Siddiqui, the vice president for science and regulatory affairs at at CropLife America, the U.S. agricultural/chemical industry trade group. Its members include Dow AgroSciences LLC, DuPont Crop Protection, and of course, Monsanto. Before that he was a senior trade advisor to Bill Clinton’s USDA.

GMO alfalfa

As a young lawyer, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas worked for Monsanto. When the Supreme Court ruled recently on Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, Thomas was one of the votes in favor of his old boss. He didn’t even consider recusing himself –  although to be fair, the obvious conflict of interest probably wouldn’t have changed his vote, since Thomas would have voted the same way in favor of ANY large corporation.

GMO corn

How to get your GMO corn approved? First, Monsanto hired Linda J Fisher, who had served for 10 years as Assistant Administrator of the EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances. Good person to have on your team – as your Vice President of Government and Public Affairs, heading up Monsanto’s Washington lobbying operation. And then – send her back into government, as the second in command at George W. Bush’s EPA.

And it goes on and on:

  • Roger Beachy, former director of the Monsanto-funded Danforth Plant Science Center, is now Obama’s director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture – responsible for a $500 million research budget.
  • Ramona Romero, corporate counsel to Monsanto’s chief GMO rival Dupont, is Obama’s general counsel for the USDA.
  • Bush’s Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman was a long-time proponent of big ag and free trade. She served on the board of directors of Calgene, one of the first companies to market GMO food (the failed Flavr Savr tomato) an affiliate of Monsanto which was later purchased by Monsanto. During the 2008 campaign when Obama was considering naming a Republican as his  Vuce President pick (to show how bi-partisan he is), Veneman was one of the choices he considered. (Note – this story has been updated to reflect the fact that at the time Ann Veneman served on the board of Calgene, it had not yet been purchased by Monsanto.)

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(Fox and Henhouse drawing by David. Image AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Larry and Laura)

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About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue.

38 Responses to Monsanto employees in the halls of government

  1. Could you please correct this story as it relates to your mention of Ann Veneman. When Ms. Veneman served on the board of Calgene (very briefly) the company was NOT affiliated with Monsanto. Monsanto purchased Calgene after Ms. Veneman left the board. To make that reference in connection to Ms. Veneman is misleading and false. Thank you.

    • Chef_Chris says:

      Who’s in bed with who Kevin?

      “Kevin served as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Communications for the United States Department of Agriculture, one of the largest and most diverse federal agencies. As the department’s top communications official and a key advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman, he directed media strategies for a wide range of policy issues.”

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  5. With respect to Ann Veneman. She was from 1987 until 2004 working for the government dept of agriculture.

    If as Kevin says she was on the board of Calgene then she was definitely in two camps at the same time;

    That of government regulation and of GMO promotion.

    Two contradictory tasks?

    E Coli harm follows closely in time and extent that of the GMO developments.

    Today in Europe E Coli deaths are SCARY.

    Deaths from eating food from Egypt one supporter and user of GMO technology.

    Personally my view is that working in the public sector and industry where clashes of interest must arise all the time, it is IMMORAL when plenty of qualified people are available and OUT OF WORK.

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