Washington, Feb. 17 – Eight food safety activists or academics, none who could be described as big fans of Monsanto, have asked a Web site to remove a petition that uses “the baldest sort of character assassination” and factual misstatements critical of Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, for his previous associations with the biotech company.

Their unusual open letter, made public today by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, also calls on MoveOn.org to notify its members about the errors in the petition and to inform them that they could remove their names from the petition, posted on its SignOn.com affiliate.

The petition, initiated by Frederick Ravid, an eccentric Atlanta financial advisor, sees Taylor’s previous experience with Monsanto as an example of a “fox in the henhouse” policy. By this afternoon, more than 413,000 had signed it, asking President Obama to “reverse this unimaginably dangerous policy and isolate the FDA from corporate influence.”

The rejoinder from eight well-known food safety campaigners points out several instances of errors and misstatements in the petition and defends Taylor’s record at FDA, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the George Washington University School of Public Health.

“We acknowledge that Monsanto symbolizes a lot of things that many people (including some of us) don’t like about modern, industrial agriculture,” they wrote. However, some “statements in the petition about genetically engineered foods are without basis in fact.” The petition blames biotech foods for skyrocketing diagnoses of chronic disease on and says that they are linked to colon, breast, lymphatic, and prostate cancer. “Despite the controversy over genetically engineered crops, no evidence supports those claims, according to CSPI.” The open letter said there was “no foundation for the outlandish statements made in the petition.”

Signatories were Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of CSPI; Carol Tucker Foreman, former assistant secretary agriculture for food and consumer services; William D. Marler, Seattle attorney who has crusaded for food safety; Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness; J. Glenn Morris, University of Florida professor at its Emerging Pathogens Institute; Michael Rodemeyer, former executive director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology; Shawn Kennedy, director of the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, and Donald W. Schaffner, director of the Center for Advanced Food Technology at Rutgers. The petition is at http://signon.org/sign/tell-obama-to-cease-fda.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=2105328



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