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Who is really in charge of your FDA?

Photo credit: sparx via Flickr

Photo credit: sparx via Flickr                                                (The revolving doors at FDA )

The agency that is in charge of regulating your foods and drugs, has its top positions filled by people that were employed or earned a significant portion of their income from the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. It is no secret why this agency has been biased against the natural foods industry and supportive of their friends at Big Pharma and Biotech a.k.a. producers of GMO’s. The conflict of interest in these appointments is obvious.  Here is an update on changes at the top of the FDA as of March 8, 2016:

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine Michael Taylor announced today that he is leaving the agency on June 1, 2016. As part of a succession plan that ensures both continuity in the program and strong new leadership for the future, Dr. Stephen Ostroff will become the second Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine upon Mr. Taylor’s departure. Dr. Ostroff led the FDA as acting commissioner until the recent confirmation of Dr. Robert Califf as FDA commissioner.”

Michael Taylor joined the FDA in July 2009.  Taylor has spent the last few decades moving between jobs in the FDA, Monsanto, and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. From 1981 – 1991 Taylor worked in private law practice at King & Spalding, one client of which was the biotechnology company Monsanto. He established and led the firm’s food and drug law practice.  On July 17, 1991, Michael Taylor left King & Spalding for the FDA, accepting the newly created post of ‘Deputy Commissioner for Policy’. In 1992, he signed a guidance that milk from cows treated with BGH did not have to be labeled as such. He was also involved in overseeing very favorable GMO regulation within the FDA.  Between 1996 and 2000, after briefly returning to King & Spalding, Taylor worked for Monsanto as a Vice President for Public Policy.

Michael R. Taylor 01.jpg

                                                                                                                                                               Michael Taylor

Dr. Ostroff had been acting FDA commissioner for one year since Margaret Hamburg resigned. Hamburg was appointed by Obama in 2009 and headed the FDA until 2015. Hamburg entered the FDA through the revolving government/private industry door after allegedly making millions as the director of Henry Schein Inc., the largest seller of dental amalgam (mercury fillings) and flu vaccine seller as well. To get appointed, Hamburg was required to sign an agreement promising to sell her Shein stock and stock options, and not to participate in any regulatory matters affecting Shein. The stock was sold, but the options were retained for a long time.  During her early FDA tenure, Hamburg convened a meeting with the American Dental Association’s dentist Susan Runner which allowed continued concealment of the mercury within amalgam, buried the warnings for children and unborn children so deep in the rule no one would find them, and allowed Runner to be the FDA’s spokesperson to proclaim amalgam safe.

Margaret Hamburg official portrait.jpg

Margaret Hamburg


Finally, meet Obama’s latest appointment as FDA Commissioner, Robert M. Califf, who is now confirmed by the Senate. Time Magazine found that while at Duke University, his income was “contractually underwritten in part by several large pharmaceutical companies, including Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Novartis. He also receives as much as $100,000 a year in consulting fees from some of those companies, and from others.” The FDA insists Cahill donates his private income to nonprofits.  Califf, however, put a positive spin on his conflict of interest. Earlier this year — when he was a only a potential nominee — he told TIME he was a valuable candidate because it would be “useful to have someone [leading the FDA] who understands how companies operate because you’re interacting with them all the time.”

While at Duke, Robert M. Califf received millions in funding and salary support from Eli Lilly, Merck, Novartis, and other drug companies.

Robert Califf, new FDA commissioner

Okay, very upsetting to anyone in the U.S. who eats food, takes medicine, doesn’t want to be taking any GMO’s or  …. would like to know the mercury content of their amalgam. This post makes me think of what I am always looking for when diving — large worms hiding under rocks.  It just takes a little bit of hunting to find these hidden worms. Once found, they enjoy posing for the camera.  Which worm had the cutest pose? I pick the green fellow below.

Worms hiding under rocks - a large Moray Eel

Worms hiding under rocks – in this case, a large Moray Eel



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