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Reality Check: Ben Swann exposes Monsanto's crony capitalism

Posted: September 20, 2013 |   Comments

( In newly released episode of Reality Check, award-winning investigative journalist Ben Swann talks about Monsanto and three of the main controversies surrounding the biotech giant. He asks, "[I]s Monsanto one of the best examples of America's crony capitalist system?"

The first issue that Swann brings up is the safety of GMOs. He states that "a growing body of evidence does connect GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers' and consumers' rights."

Swann then quotes Professor John Fagan of the Maharishi University of Management, Iowa, who said, "The process of genetic engineering always involves the risk of altering the genetics and cellular functioning of a food organism in unanticipated ways. These unanticipated alterations can result in (GMO) foods being allergenic, toxic, or reduced in nutritional value."

Swann goes on to explain that 64 countries require GMO labeling, though the United States does not. It's not that Americans don't care, he says, citing polls that found three-quarters of Americans are concerned about the number of GMO foods and 93% support mandatory labeling of those foods. He also brings up the issue of Monsanto's seed patents, which prevents farmers from using the seeds they've grown for replanting without paying a fee.

Despite all that, Swann then asks, "[I]s the biggest problem with a company like Monsanto its relationship with government?"

Based on the evidence he gives, the answer appears to be "yes." Swann tells his viewers how, during the early 1990's, the FDA inspected GMOs. Tests showed rats developing stomach lesions after eating GM tomatoes and in memo after memo, experts "described toxins, new diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and hard-to-detect allergens."

That changed when Mike Taylor was hired as an administrator for the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). Taylor previously worked for the FDA in the 1970's. In the 1980's, he was a lawyer whose firm represented Monsanto. Taylor took over the FSIS in 1994 and remained there until GMO foods began showing up in American homes in 1996, after which, he went to work directly for Monsanto for the next 16 years. Then, in 2009, he began leading the food side of the FDA.

Taylor claims that he's not Monsanto's man, but he hasn't seemed to mind being paid by them. Whatever his current standing with the company may be, he is a prime example of revolving door politics, considering his many years going between the private sector and the government. That big corporations can gain advantages from such a system is undeniable.

Swann concludes his presentation:

"Monsanto's influence over food supply is troubling. Their ability to seemingly prevent GMO labeling, also troubling. Their connections with people like Mike Taylor who have the ability to control what does and does not show up on our families' tables, sure smells like crony capitalism -

"and that is Reality Check."

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