Occupy cornfields! Support is growing for a petition calling for the ouster of Michael Taylor, a senior adviser for the FDA who formerly served as vice president of Monsanto, the controversial agricultural multinational at the forefront of genetically modified foods, the Washington Post reports. President Obama took a lot of flak when he appointed Taylor to the position three years ago. As the second highest-ranking official at the FDA, Taylor is responsible for implementing the day-to-day policies that govern food safety laws in the U.S.
Tipping off the current anti-Taylor campaign is his alleged practice of going after small raw-milk producers, including the Amish, while letting large factory farms responsible for huge food-borne illness outbreaks go scot-free. As an example, activists cite the fact that Iowa agribusinessman Jack DeCoster -- who was responsible for the more than 500 million salmonella-tainted eggs that were recalled in 2010 -- has not been fined or arrested by the FDA, while Amish dairy farmers have been subjected to yearlong stings and hauled away in handcuffs.
While at Monsanto, Taylor oversaw the policy of the company's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH/rbST). Milk from injected cows has been a controversial topic, with many medical organizations and hospitals speaking out against it. Monsanto also has been the focus of dozens of protests for a number of its other policies over the years, most of them targeting its crops that are genetically modified to be disease- and pest-resistant. "Naturally occurring plant and animal species are permanently threatened by the introduction of DNA and hormonal modification, Monsanto's core businesses," the petition on Signon.org reads.
On Monday, Monsanto announced it was giving up plans to sell its insect-resistant corn in France. The move was seen as an major blow for genetically modified food in Europe, where resistance has been fierce. Six EU countries have banned the cultivation of genetically modified corn.
"Taylor is the same person who as a high-ranking official at the FDA in the 1990s promoted allowing genetically modified organisms into the U.S. food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety or risks. This is a travesty," the petition states. It continues: "This unthinkable linkage between food safety and corporate interests that have little regard for the public health must be stopped. This example of a 'fox watching the henhouse' is inexcusable. President Obama must reverse this unimaginably dangerous policy and isolate the FDA from corporate influence."
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The petition, launched by Frederick Ravid, a financial analyst in Atlanta, also says that 20 years of scientific research published in more than 600 journals shows "that GM foods, hormones and related pesticides are the root cause for the increase of many serious diseases in the U.S.," including "changes in major organs and in hormonal, immune, digestive and reproductive systems" that may be linked to various cancers.
Letting Taylor, the "Food Safety Czar," make major U.S. food policy decisions "is a nightmare scenario that is against the interest of all Americans and world citizens," it concludes.
Over the weekend, the petition was signed by so many people that the group changed its goal from 75,000 signatures to 150,000. As of this writing, more than 125,000 people had signed. Unless Taylor has consumed enough genetically modified corn to make himself pest-resistant, he may soon find himself put out to pasture.
Follow Samantha Bonar @samanthabonar.