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Non-Hierarchical Occupation of Monsanto Everywhere

Whether you like it or not, chances are Monsanto contaminated the food you ate today with chemicals and unlabeled GMOs. Monsanto controls much of the world's food supply at the expense of food democracy worldwide. This site is dedicated to empowering citizens of the world to take action against Monsanto & it's enablers like the FDA, USDA, EPA, GMA, BIO, and the processed food companies that use Monsanto's products.



Support the Occupy Monsanto Legal Defense Fund

Posted: June 20th, 2014 | Filed under: Genetic Crimes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

We need your help to pay for the Occupy Monsanto activists legal bills. Can you donate some money to help them out?

Back on September 12, 2012, Occupy Monsanto activists conducted a bold direct action on Monsanto’s Oxnard, California facility. Nine activists shut down California’s largest GMO seed distribution facility for a full day and were ultimately arrested. You can watch the inspiring video of the action here:
http://occupy-monsanto.com/videos-of-the-gcu-field-agents-locked-down-at-monsantos-oxnard-facility/

Fast forward a year and a half, the city of Oxnard, California is figuratively throwing the book at these intrepid activists and charging them with over $8,300 in restitution & fines! This means they are being forced to pay Monsanto & the city of Oxnard or they’ll be arrested & forced to go jail! We can’t let this happen!

This direct action made international news and helped inspire countless activists to begin their crusade against the evils of the Monsanto Corporation. Now these courageous activists need your help. Please donate as much as you can to help keep them out of jail.


Photo taken on the evening of September 12, 2012 after the Occupy Monsanto activists were released from jail:

occupy monsanto legal defense fund please donate Support the Occupy Monsanto Legal Defense Fund Protest Oxnard Occupy Monsanto GMO Labeling gmo Genetic Crimes Direct Action Demonstration California arrest

Monsanto Rejects GMO Labeling Shareholder Proposal in SEC Proxy Statement

Posted: December 9th, 2013 | Filed under: Genetic Crimes, Research, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Proxy Item No. 4: Shareowner Proposal One

This proposal was submitted by Adam Eidinger, Washington, D.C. As of July 30, 2013, Mr. Eidinger indicated that he held 75 shares of Monsanto common stock. The proposal has been carefully considered by the board of directors, which has concluded that its adoption would not be in the best interests of the company or its shareowners. For the reasons stated after the proposal, the board recommends a vote “Against” the shareowner proposal.

The proposal and supporting statement are presented as received from the shareowner proponent in accordance with the rules of the SEC, and the board of directors and the company disclaim any responsibility for its content. We will furnish, orally or in writing as requested, the address of the proponent of this shareowner proposal promptly upon written or oral request directed to the company’s Secretary.

Information regarding the inclusion of proposals in Monsanto’s proxy statement can be found on page 82 under Shareowner Proposals for 2015 Annual Meeting.


Shareowner Statement
WHEREAS:

  • Genetic engineering is the direct manipulation of an organism’s genome using biotechnology.
  • For thousands of years, mankind has modified plants through grafting, artificial selection, and without the use of genetic engineering.
  • Transgenic DNA produced through modern genetic engineering is not found in natural foods and was not in the food supply of previous generations of mankind.
  • Americans have the right to know what they are eating.
  • U.S. law does not require the labeling of patented biotechnology in foods sold in grocery stores.
  • Company stands by its products and believes they are safe.
  • Due to the uncertainty regarding the potential negative side effects of genetic engineering on humans, animals, and the environment, it is imperative that the Company be transparent with customers concerning our labeling efforts.
  • The Company’s Pledge [1] says that we will ensure that “information is available, accessible, and understandable.”
  • Transparency provides consumers the power to decide what kind of foods are grown on farms and served on dinner tables.
  • Over 60 countries around the world have regulations concerning the labeling of foods produced using genetic engineering.
  • In 2002, the Company said “Food Labeling. It has Monsanto’s Full Backing” in regards to the labeling of genetically engineered foods in the United Kingdom.
  • In 2013, there was legislation introduced in over two dozen U.S. state legislatures concerning the labeling of foods created using genetic engineering.
  • The state legislatures of Connecticut and Maine have passed legislation requiring foods sold in those states to be labeled if they were produced using genetic engineering, but only 4 or more other New England states pass similar legislation.
  • The Company spent $8,112,866.55 in 2012 to prevent California residents from voting to increase transparency in their state’s food labels.
  • As of July 2013, the Company has spent $242,156.25 to prevent Washington state residents from voting to increase transparency in their state’s food labels.
  • The money spent by the Company to prevent legislation that discloses whether food produced using genetic engineering dilutes shareowners earnings per share.
  • The Company believes that nationwide regulations are needed to prevent 56 different state & territory food labeling laws.

RESOLVED: The Monsanto Board shall prepare a report, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information, assessing any material financial risks or operational potential impacts on the Company in order to:

  • Work with the FDA to develop food labeling guidelines for American consumers that discloses whether genetic engineering was used to produce the food;
  • Work with the FDA to develop standard threshold of 0.9% or higher for foods created with genetic engineering
  • Analyze the inclusion of U.S. patent numbers on American food labels where patented biotechnology was used to produce the food;

The report shall be available by July 1, 2014 and be posted online on our Company’s website. In order to ensure that our Company upholds its pledge of transparency, we urge a vote FOR this resolution.
[1] “Our Pledge” – Transparency: http://www.monsanto.com/whoweare/Pages/monsanto-pledge.aspx


THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS RECOMMENDS A VOTE “AGAINST” THE FOREGOING PROPOSAL FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS:

Food is one of the most important and significant facets of our world. It is a critically important issue to everyone and is the focus of debates and dialogues from the halls of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, to the grocery store aisles in Buenos Aires, to the open markets in Cairo. There are diverse points of views on everything from food security, to subsidies, to sustainable intensification, to loss and waste, to distribution systems and even to labeling. It matters to people where food comes from, how it is produced, and how food safety is ensured. As a seed company that participates in the agriculture food value chain, we are actively listening to and participating with others in this dialogue about food. In addition:

  • Our work in agriculture represents just one component of a broad and diverse food value chain that involves many parties. The proponent is seeking a report about the impact of the company’s working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to effect a change in labeling on consumer food products. These are not Monsanto products nor are they manufactured, controlled, packaged or labeled by our company. We sell seed to farmers, who often sell their crop harvest to a grain processor, who sells grain or ingredients to a food company, who may further process the ingredients, then manufacture the food item, which it then sells to a retailer, who ultimately sells the finished product to a consumer. As a company that is focused on agricultural productivity and which sells products to farmers our position in the chain does not afford us the expertise that would inform an assessment of consumer food packaging information.
  • Genetically modified (GM) crops are but one important tool that farmers may choose in engaging in sustainable agriculture. Farmers, whether they adopt conventional, GM or organic seeds, employ a variety of production practices to control weeds and pests and improve the yield of their crops. In order to reduce the need for topical controls or other practices, millions of farmers around the world choose to control weeds and pests, and protect their crops’ yield, through GM seeds, which incorporate a new gene in the seed, such as a protein from a bacterium that is commonly applied over the top of conventional and organic crops to control pests.
  • We support current FDA guidance on food labeling which is based on the attributes of the food itself. In the United States, the FDA regulates the safety and labeling of foods and food products derived from crops (conventional, GM, and organic), and all must meet the same safety requirements. FDA guidance requires labeling of food products containing ingredients derived from GM crops if there is a meaningful difference in composition, nutrition or safety between that food and its counterpart derived from conventional crops. In the absence of such a difference, the FDA has determined that mandatory labeling is not required. The American Medical Association (AMA) supports the FDA’s approach and approved a formal statement asserting that there is no scientific justification for special labeling of foods containing GM ingredients. FDA guidance does not require labeling of production practices used by farmers employing conventional or organic methods to control weeds and pests and improve their yields.
  • We support voluntary labeling to support consumer choice, provided the label is truthful and not misleading. We recognize that some consumers may prefer to avoid foods that contain GM ingredients. Food companies recognize this as well, and are providing these customers the choices they prefer through organic offerings or by voluntarily labeling their products “non-GM”. People who prefer to purchase non-GM foods can easily find such products. The FDA allows food manufacturers to label their products voluntarily to indicate certain attributes or production methods (e.g., organic, conventional or GM), provided the label is truthful and not misleading. We support this approach and are pleased to sell our seed products to farmers employing any of these production methods. For more information about our views on consumer choice and proposals that would mandate labeling of food products containing GM ingredients, please visit http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/food-labeling.aspx.
  • We believe that mandatory labeling of GM ingredients where there is no meaningful difference in nutrition or safety could confuse and mislead consumers. Demands for mandatory labeling of GM ingredients as a matter of consumer choice may instead lead to a reduction in consumer choice by misleading consumers into thinking products bearing such a label are not safe, are less nutritious or are otherwise inferior to similar products without the label. Indeed, the pejorative connotation of a mandatory label could result in consumers viewing it as a warning statement that could scare them about the foods they have come to like and trust. The suggestion advanced in the proposal is that the company should advocate for the proponent’s preference for labeling consumer food products, which is contrary to the position we have stated publicly and contrary to the views of our customers and the food value chain.
  • We support transparency and dialogue about biotechnology and our products, both with our customers and with consumers. In the United States, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, of which the company is a member, recognizes that some consumers may have questions about GM production methods and food ingredients and is providing information through a dedicated website, http://factsaboutgmos.org/. This site informs readers that if the ingredient label on a food or beverage in the U.S. indicates that the product contains corn or soy, the product most likely contains ingredients derived from GM seeds because a very high percentage of corn and soy in the United States is grown from GM seed products. In addition, www.monsanto.com, provides extensive information about biotechnology benefits and safety, generally, and Monsanto’s genetically modified seed products, specifically. Recently, Monsanto has worked with other seed companies to make additional information about agricultural biotechnology available to interested consumers. The website GMOanswers (http://www.gmoanswers.com) invites consumers to ask questions about agricultural biotechnology. General safety and benefits questions are addressed by independent experts; company-specific questions are addressed by company representatives.
  • Assessing the inclusion of U.S. patent numbers related to biotechnology on American food labels is unrelated to our business and such labeling would likely be disruptive to the food supply chain. The consumer food product labels that the proposal suggests analyzing are unrelated to our business of selling seed products to farmers. The proposed assessment would provide no meaningful information to shareowners. The proposal appears to suggest that the inclusion of patent numbers on product labels might serve as indicia that a product contains ingredients derived from GM seeds. The food manufacturer would then be burdened with significant compliance challenges if required to specifically identify the variety of seeds that produced grain that was ultimately processed in the food. Given the extensive pre-commercial food safety assessment and regulatory reviews by government officials, the U.S. food system operates effectively and efficiently in managing commodity crops, such as corn, soy and cotton. A separate program would be required to harvest, crush, store, transport and process by particular seed varieties, in order to enable labeling to that level of specificity, and would undermine the system.


THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS RECOMMENDS
A VOTE “AGAINST”
THIS SHAREOWNER PROPOSAL
AND YOUR PROXY WILL BE SO VOTED IF THE PROPOSAL IS PRESENTED
UNLESS YOU SPECIFY OTHERWISE


SOURCE: Page 76, Monsanto Company Proxy Statement, Securities and Exchange Commission

Monsanto: Big Guy on the Block When it Comes to Friends in Washington

Posted: February 19th, 2013 | Filed under: Genetic Crimes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Political heavyweight Monsanto took on an Indiana soybean farmer today in the U.S. Supreme Court over Monsanto’s patents of its Roundup-resistant seed.

And, once again, Justice Clarence Thomas was on the bench, hearing the case with the other justices. Thomas worked as a corporate lawyer for Monsanto in the 1970s. Thomas has participated in at least one other case involving the company, Monsanto v. Geertson, which resulted in a favorable decision for Monsanto; Thomas joined the majority in that case.

Some have criticized Thomas’ participation in cases involving a previous employer. Monsanto is so used to the question that it gets space on the company website.

Thomas knows something about the subject of today’s case: In 2001, he authored an important decision in this field, J. E. M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, which — while it didn’t involve Monsanto — held that new, developed plant breeds are patentable.

At issue today were Monsanto’s patents of its herbicide-resistant seed. Monsanto requires farmers to use its purchased seed for just one planting cycle; they must buy new seed every spring. Farmer Vernon Bowman has not reused any of the soybean seeds hepurchased. However, Monsanto’s patent does allow growers to sell second-generation seed to a grain elevator, where Bowman purchased his seed and has been planting it in some of his fields since 1999.

That’s where Monsanto took issue. It claims Bowman’s use of the second-generation seed infringed the company’s patent rights, even if it was sold by a third party and is not the original Monsanto seed, but descended from it. Monsanto won its case in a lower federal court.

Monsanto typically reaches a settlement with farmers it has sued for patent infringement. This time, The Guardian reports, the case traveled to the Supreme Court because 75-year-old Bowman — already bankrupt from an unrelated land deal — couldn’t pay damages and is fighting the case with literally nothing to lose.

Clarence Thomas aside, Monsanto has plenty of other ties to Washington. Eight lawmakers own stock in Monsanto, including Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Reps. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Jim Renacci (R-Ohio), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

Monsanto itself contributed more than $500,000 to federal candidates in the last election cycle, primarily favoring Republicans. Monsanto spent nearly $6 million on lobbying in 2012, down from its $8.8 million record in 2008. That’s still enough to keep Monsanto the big guy on the agribusiness block — it has spent the most on lobbying by far in the industry since 2008; the American Farm Bureau is the only other to even come close. The majority, by far, of Monsanto’s lobbyists have made at least one trip through the revolving door; in-house lobbyist Michael Holland, Jr., for instance, logged 13 years working for various House Republicans before he jumped to Monsanto in 2011.

Third on that agribusiness lobbying list is CropLife America, one of a number of political heavyweights that have jumped on board with Monsanto. CropLife submitted an amicus brief to the Court supporting Monsanto’s position. Other powerful groups that have filed amicus briefs on Monsanto’s behalf include Pioneer Hi-Bred International (from the 2001 plant patent case), Business Software Alliance, American Seed Trade Association, New York Intellectual Property Law Association, American Intellectual Property Law Association, Bayhdole25, Washington Legal Foundation, Biotechnology Industry Organization, CHS Inc. and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, as well as a number of soybean associations and economists.

The Obama administration pushed the Court not to take the case in the first place, echoing concerns of those filing briefs for Monsanto that a reversal of the lower court’s decision could adversely affect other patents involving DNA, nanotechnology or other self-replicating technology, according to the Huffington Post

A few parties have written amicus briefs in Bowman’s support, including the Center for Food Safety, Knowledge Ecology International, the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, the Automotive Parts Remanufacturers Association, the International Imaging Technology Council, the American Antitrust Institute, National Farmers Union, Food & Water Watch, the Organization for Competitive Markets, the National Family Farm Coalition and the Public Patent Foundation.


Source: The Center for Responsive Politics

Prepared Statement to Monsanto Shareholders and the Board of Directors Given at the 2013 Annual Shareholder Meeting

Posted: January 31st, 2013 | Filed under: Genetic Crimes, Incident Reports | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Monsanto Annual Shareholder Meeting
Building A
800 Lindberg Road
Creve Coeur, MO
January 31, 2013

Good Afternoon. I am here speaking on behalf of Harrington Investments, the Pesticide Action Network and my 75 shares . Our resolution for consideration by fellow shareholders addresses serious and potential risks associated with our Company’s genetically engineered crops, the toxic chemicals applied to these crops, and the related civil liability our Company may face due to their continued sales.

I realize our resolution is the same as last year and is unlikely to receive enough votes today to pass. So instead of speaking to the merits of the resolution or the Board’s prepared response, I am going to use my limited time to inform fellow shareholders that a massive tidal wave of consumer rejection of foods derived from our company’s patented technology has yet to crash down, but will soon.

What I am speaking of is a historic re-ordering of what crops farmers will be permitted to grow and the near-complete collapse of our customer base if we don’t change our business practices. Customers in our value chain are beginning to reject our patented technology due to the unsustainable consequences its use brings for human health and that of our soil and water.

First of all, why is our Company and it’s industry partners as a whole so vigorously hostile to new independent, peer-reviewed research? Last Fall, Dr. Seralini’s research clearly showed that rats fed this Company’s NK603 corn over their lifetime had serious health issues versus rats fed the control, a non-genetically engineered diet. We know the Company’s Technology Agreement does not permit farmers to give their seed away to scientists for research purposes. But in order for Monsanto to uphold its official pledge of “Transparency,” the Company’s patented technology must be scrutinized by scientists in every country in the world, without restrictions. The Company must embrace all research, in all its forms, to be truly transparent with current and future customers.

It is clear from the research of Dr. Seralini, that exposure to glyphosate and our Roundup Ready family of herbicides in only trace amounts of drinking water was linked to severe tumors in these rats over a lifetime of feeding. Moreover, our Company’s own rat feeding trials were woefully inadequate in measuring the long-term health risks of foods derived from our Company’s technology because our studies took place over only 90 days versus a rat’s entire lifetime as shown in Dr. Seralini’s study. To dismiss long-term animal feeding studies that were reviewed by the same scientific journal that years earlier did not reveal the long-term impacts of eating GMOs in Monsanto’s own studies is another example of this Company being two-faced and opaque. Customers, government regulators, and concerned scientists deserve nothing less than crystal-clear transparency from this Company. This starts by welcoming research by scientists who may be critical of our patented technology.

Secondly, last year I warned shareholders and the Board of Directors that the Company’s misguided hostility to safe food activists and farmers was fueling a consumer backlash. There was the Just Label It campaign, which last year sent over 1.1 million petition signatures to the FDA requesting labels for GMO foods. This effort led by Stoneyfield Organic CEO Gary Hirshberg, set the record for the most public comments on a petition to the FDA ever. And most recently social media campaigns have emerged, like the GMO Inside campaign, which urges grocery shoppers to label the suspected GMO foods and post the photos to Facebook and Twitter, as they have done by the thousands.

And then there was Proposition 37 in California. When I asked you Mr. Grant straightforwardly last year, “How much would this Company spend to defeat the California Right2Know Ballot initiative,” you refused to answer my question. Today fellow shareholders I am displeased to report our company wasted $8.2 million dollars to defeat transparency in food labels. Spending millions of dollars through lies and misinformation is not the way to stop the customer backlash towards GMOs. It’s only made it worse. Shareholders need to take this breech of trust very seriously.

While the proposition to label GMO foods in California failed to pass by a slim margin, people now say that if this Company was so proud of its patented technology, it would demand labels just as much as grocery shoppers do. This paradox exists because the Company is not being transparent with itself. This blatant denial of the wishes of customers in our value chain has the fuel to generate a wild fire of grassroots activism against this company. Customers recognize the lack of transparency in our food labels means there must be something to hide and they are wising up to the fact that its our patented technology that is being concealed.

For that matter why is this a closed-door meeting and no video feed made available to the hundreds of millions world-wide who eat our patented technology? Why must we meet in secret if the Company truly embraces transparency?

Since last year’s shareholder meeting we know more than 6 million Americans have voted & signed petitions demanding more transparency in food labels. This voting block is not going away because they vote three times a day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Throughout 2012 there were over 150 large-scale protests against this Company’s opaque & undemocratic control of global food policy. There were at least 50 protests at Monsanto facilities world-wide this past September 17 alone and just this last Tuesday there were thousands who took to the streets of Argentina protesting this company. Unless things begin to change and become more transparent, these protests will increase in size and number. Mr. Grant, the grassroots are Roundup resistant.

The way forward is by upholding the Company’s pledge to transparency. First, this means following the lead of other Fortune 500 companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Walmart and begin to stream over the Internet audio & video of all future shareholder meetings. Second, the Company should cease its efforts to stymie legislative solutions that provide increased transparency around GMO foods. States like Washington, Hawaii, Connecticut, Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, and even here in Missouri have legislative solutions in the works. These efforts should be embraced by the Company, not fought off with lobbyists & lawyers. Third, the company needs to provide scientists access to the Company’s seeds & existing body of research. Let independent scientists provide the much-needed peer-reviewed studies, so the public at large believes this Company is being truly transparent.

A video published yesterday on the Wall Street Journal’s website, Mr. Grant said quote “we need to do much better job explaining where food comes from” We wholeheartedly agree. From independent scientific experimentation to honest food labels to streaming future shareholder meetings, this Company needs to look inward and become transparent.

Thank you for your time and I will answer questions shareholders may have.

[Breaking the Set] GMO Virus: Silent Killer? | Interview with Alexis Baden-Mayer

Posted: January 30th, 2013 | Filed under: Genetic Crimes, Press, Research, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


Abby Martin talks to Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director for the Organic Consumers Association, about a recent discovery by the European Food Safety Authority, which found a viral gene unsafe for human consumption in almost all GMOs.


Source: Breaking the Set Youtube Channel

The White House Ignoring Multiple “We The People” Petitions on GMO

Posted: November 16th, 2012 | Filed under: Genetic Crimes, Research | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |
we the people banner The White House Ignoring Multiple We The People Petitions on GMO White House We the People Washington Secession Petition Secession petition Ignore GMO Labeling gmo FDA DC Barack Obama

On September 22, 2011, the White House unveiled their on-line petition microsite to provide citizens the opportunity to directly petition president Barack Obama’s administration. In the year since the petition platform went online, there have been over 50,000 petitions submitted, and of those petitions, 116 were able to reach the signature threshold and 103 of those petitions received a response from the White House. Except the petitions related to GMO….

On September 23, 2011, the second day after the “We The People” petition platform went live, there was this petition submitted:

we the people gmo2 The White House Ignoring Multiple We The People Petitions on GMO White House We the People Washington Secession Petition Secession petition Ignore GMO Labeling gmo FDA DC Barack Obama

Without a response from the White House, nearly 7 months later a second petition on GMO was submitted:

we the people gmo1 The White House Ignoring Multiple We The People Petitions on GMO White House We the People Washington Secession Petition Secession petition Ignore GMO Labeling gmo FDA DC Barack Obama

There is currently a third petition on GMO which is in the process of collecting signatures on We The People. But why should people sign this petition when the White House has failed to answer the previous two?

Yesterday an official from the White House said that they were going to respond to Secession Petitions that were recently submitted. So why is the White House ignoring petitions on GMO that have been languishing for over a year?

We believe its due to Monsanto’s pervasive influence on the White House & the FDA. With over 90% of Americans in support of labeling GMO foods, its not like President Obama will lose any support from the American public for taking a stand on GMO like he did in 2007. Therefore, we demand that the White House immediately answer the petitions on GMO and have the FDA promulgate regulations for mandatory GMO labeling.

Washington Post: Probe of 3 FDA Officials Sought

Posted: November 9th, 2012 | Filed under: Genetic Crimes, Press | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

probe of 3 FDA officials sought michael taylor Washington Post: Probe of 3 FDA Officials Sought Washington Post Toxic Susan Sechen Sidney Wolfe Senate Revolving Door Resignation Research Regulatory Capture recombinant bovine somatotropin rBST Public Citizen Health Research Group old news Monsanto Milk Michael Taylor Margaret A. Miller King and Spalding Jim OHara Jeremy Rifkin Jack M. Kress historical gmo George E. Brown Jr. GAO FDA Ethics drug David R. Obey David A. Kessler Cows Conflict of Interest Center for Veterinary Medicine bST biotechnology Bioethics Bill Goold Bernie Sanders Bernard Sanders

Probe of 3 FDA Officials Sought

Industry Ties Before Approval of Bovine Growth Hormone Are at Issue

By John Schwartz, Washington Post Staff Writer, April 19, 1994

Three members of Congress have called for a federal investigation into possible conflicts of interest involving three officials of the Food and Drug Administration, which approved a controversial genetically engineered Monsanto Corp. drug last year. All three agency officials had some ties to Monsanto before coming to the FDA, but an agency spokesman denied there was any misconduct.

In a letter Friday to the General Accounting Office, Reps. George E. Brown Jr. (D-Calf.), David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) asked the watchdog agency to conduct a 30-day review of the FDA’s approval of recombinant bovine somatotropin (bST), a substance that increases milk yields in cows.

“A troubling pattern of unanswered questions is emerging that suggests an altogether too cozy relationship between some FDA officials central to this food safety decision and their close dealings with the Monsanto Company,” Sanders said in a statement.

The letter- which cites an anonymous March 16 complaint ostensibly written by members of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM)- asks the GAO to probe the roles of three “key” FDA officials in the approval of the Monsanto drug.

The highest ranking is Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for policy, a past FDA employee who rejoined the agency in 1991 from the Washington law firm King and Spalding, which represents Monsanto. Also named was Margaret A. Miller, deputy director of the agency’s office of new animal drugs. The letter characterized her as “a former Monsanto company employee” who wrote the FDA’s opinion on why milk from bST-treated cows should not require special labeling.

A third staff member, Susan Sechen, was described as a data reviewer at the FDA who had worked as a graduate student for a Cornell University professor who conducted Monsanto-sponsored research on bST.

Anti-biotechnology activist Jeremy Rifkin first made the charges about Taylor in February, when he petitioned the FDA to rescind the approval of bST and investigate the three staff members’ role in the agency’s policy.

On March 15, FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler sent Rifkin a four-page letter stating that “none of the activities of Mr. Taylor cited in your petition were in violation of any applicable law or regulation, or were otherwise inappropriate … I believe that Mr. Taylor’s behavior adhered to all applicable ethical standards.”

Kessler said that Taylor had not been “intimately” involved in Monsanto’s efforts to obtain approval, as Rifkin charged, and that he was involved in the FDA’s bST policy only in the final stages of review.

Kessler attached a nine-page memo by FDA ethics official Jack M. Kress supporting that position. Upon arrival at the FDA in the summer of 1991, Taylor recused himself for one year from taking part in any agency action dealing directly with Monsanto or any other King and Spalding clients.

Some longtime agency critics found the charges against Taylor misplaced. Sidney Wolfe, a physician who heads the Public Citizen Health Research Group here has filed complaints with the FDA about revolving door ethics issues concerning other officials. But he said yesterday that “It’s barking up a silly kind of tree to be going against Mike Taylor.”

Wolfe said that “as far as we’re concerned, he’s done a perfectly good job.” Wolfe compared Rifkin’s charges to saying that anyone who worked for a drug company and began working for the FDA should not be allowed to say anything about drugs in general- a stance that Wolfe characterized as “preposterous.”

As for the two other FDA employees named in the House members’ letter, agency spokesman Jim O’Hara said there was no impropriety. “As we have learned of these allegations, we have looked at them. The appropriate safeguards against conflict of interest have been taken,” O’Hara said.

Miller was no involved in the decision to approve bST, and Sechen’s involvement with the bST review was approved at the outset by the FDA’s ethics and program integrity division, which “determined that there was no a conflict of interest based on the information they were provided,” O’Hara said.

Although reluctant to comment in the face of a possible investigation, Taylor said yesterday that “I would welcome any scrutiny of my actions.”

Much of the material used in the lawmakers’ letter, including the anonymous CVM letter alleging Miller’s conflict of interest, came from Rifkin, a long-standing opponent of bST. Bill Goold, a spokesman for Sanders, said the search of scientific literature relied upon by Sander’s staff in drafting the letter came from Rifkin’s organization.

Rifkin has fought against the approval of bST for more than seven years as a part of an all-fronts assault against biotechnology. He called his ethical charges “a significant scandal” that he said showed moral weakness at the top of the organization. “We want Kessler’s resignation,” Rifkin said yesterday. He said that the nine-page ethics memo by FDA’s Kress was “people in government trying to protect their own.”

Sanders and Obey have previously taken stands against the approval of bST and its use without consumer labels that identify the milk as coming from cows treated with the drug.

But many Capitol Hill staff members were surprised to see Brown- who chairs the Science, Space, and Technology Committee- as a signer of the letter.

Sources familiar with the process said key committee staff members felt they had been end-run by activists. One congressional aide said staff members who normally would be informed of such an action were unaware that Brown had signed the letter.

“George’s issue is with the process of approval. He wants to make sure people are squeaky-clean,” the aide said. Brown did not see the FDA response to the Rifkin petition before signing the Sanders letter, an aide said. Obey said yesterday that he had seen the FDA response and “I’m frankly not impressed.”

Some acquaintances of Taylor were incredulous that the official would be the object of ethical scrutiny. “There’s no more ethical person in this town than Mike Taylor,” said Wayne Pines, a former FDA official who now consults with companies on FDA matters. “Mike would never get involved in a situation in which there’s a conflict- that’s such a no-brainer.”


Source: Washington Post, April 19, 1994


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