Despite requests made under the Freedom of Information Act for correspondence out of the White House, the Obama administration is refusing to comply with calls to disclose discussions with Monsanto-linked lobbyists.
The US-based non-profit group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is demanding that the White House comply with a FOIA request for information that might link the Obama administration with lobbyists tied to the Monsanto corporation. Monsanto, an agricultural biotech company that rakes in billions each year, has become the enemy of independent farmers in recent years after the corporation has sued hundreds of small-time growers and, in many cases, purchased farms that are unable to compete in a court of law. As Monsanto’s profits grow and the group comes close to monopolizing the market for American agriculture, the company has at the same time thrived due its use of controversial genetically-engineered seeds.
Three-hundred thousands organic farmers across America are currently trying to take Monsanto to court to keep the corporation from continuing its war on independent growers. As a case is composed, the PEER group suspects that the White House’s refusal to comply with the FOIA request could be because Monsanto has some powerful friends on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Particularly, PEER is trying to pry correspondence that came into the inbox of a White House policy analyst from a lobbyist with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), which represents Monsanto and other manufacturers of genetically-engineered seeds. The White House says that disclosing the full details of the email could give competing companies an advantage as lobbying secrets are unearthed for the world, but PEER thinks the truth is much worse than that.
"We suspect the reason an industry lobbyist so cavalierly shared strategy is that the White House is part of that strategy," PEER staff counsel Kathryn Douglass tells the Truthout website. "The White House's legal posture is as credible as claiming Coca Cola's secret formula was 'inadvertently' left in a duffel bag at the bus station."
Michael Taylor, a former attorney for the US Department of Agriculture and lobbyist for Monsanto, was recently appointed to a federal role as the deputy commissioner for foods at the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Since then, the FDA shot down requests from consumer protection groups to label genetically modified products as such. With a White House-Monsanto connection already established with the appointment of Taylor, PEER and others are interested in what other ties could exist between the two.
The inquiry from PEER stems from an earlier email obtained in which biotech lobbyist Adrianne Massey confronts a White House official with regards to if and how the administration is dealing with a lawsuit PEER had filed. In that instance, PEER had fought and won to keep genetically-engineered crops from being planted in wildlife refuges. PEER is now suing the White House for the rest of that correspondence and other related emails.