Allegedly as a means of eliminating agency overlap and bureaucratic waste, the Obama administration wants to consolidate a number of federal agencies. Last year the president pointed out that the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater, and joked, “I hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked.”
According to an official at the Office of Management and Budget, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would be merged with the food safety unit at the FDA. While the proposal sounds reasonable on the surface, this would do nothing to address the systemic conflicts of interest within the FDA, and would actually increase the agency’s tendency toward crony capitalism.
Food Safety News reports that Mike Taylor, the former acting undersecretary for food safety at the USDA and the current deputy commissioner for foods at the FDA, has been advocating for a single food safety agency located “anywhere but at the USDA.” Former USDA official Dr. Richard Raymond, who now works as a food safety and public health consultant, believes that “a merger of the two food safety agencies would be an unmitigated disaster,” and unless megadollars flowed with the merger, nothing more could be accomplished than is currently done.
We might add that much harm could be done because the FDA knows nothing whatever about farming. The Food Safety Enhancement Act has already put FDA on the farm as a potential rule-maker and inspector, ignoring the agency’s complete lack of expertise in this field.
Obama administration officials are said to favor the merger because it would make food safety independent of USDA which, they note, primarily exists to market and promote American farm products. But rather than addressing the real issue—that USDA is in the pocket of the agricultural industry (“Big Farma”)—the administration instead wants to shift food safety over to the FDA, where both Big Farma and Big Pharma rule the roost.
Worse than that, the FDA will undoubtedly employ the form of food safety analysis it has learned about from its international counterparts over many years of meetings on food safety at Codex Alimentarius. This kind of food safety tends to say that food additives like aspartame, as well as a whole host of pesticides residues and genetically-modified (GM) foods, are safe, while demonstrating inexcusable scientific ignorance with their dietary advice.
If you think crony capitalism is bad at the USDA, just look at FDA’s existing record in regulating agriculture products. Two weeks ago we reported on how FDA crumbled under agriculture industry pressure and announced that the agency would no longer try to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed.
Then there’s FDA’s attempts to win approval for AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon despite overwhelming consumer opposition. Jurisdiction over genetically engineered food is shared by both the USDA (agriculture) and the FDA (food products). Both agencies are heavily influenced by the powerful GMO industry. Consolidation would merely ensure faster passage for genetically engineered products. So much for a new emphasis on “food safety”!
FDA is seriously underfunded and notoriously inept—their management of pharmaceuticals has led to skyrocketing prices, drug shortages, and a shocking lack of transparency—even suppressing scientific data about medicines that the drug companies found unfavorable. There is no indication that the FDA becoming a megabureacracy with complete control over food safety would produce better results.
Help us reform the FDA! An agency whose approval of dangerous drugs kills 50,000 Americans each year, and which systematically attacks natural supplements and censors scientific research, should not be getting more power and authority over our food supply. Please read about our Reform FDA campaign, and then sign our petition, which we will hand-deliver to Congress!