Leopards Changing Spots or Foxes for the Hen House?
Monsanto Officials Join Leading
Consumer, Environmental Groups
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Many have heard of the revolving door between business and industry where the officials of some of the nation's top companies go to work for the government agencies. Then, when the regulatory pressure on those businesses suddenly eases, those individuals go back to work in the same industry. Well now comes a new twist: two of Monsanto's top lobbyists and political operatives have left that company to join up with two of the nation's leading consumer and environmental groups. As you will read below in the article from The Corporate Crime Reporter, they bring their same pro-biotech views to these organizations which are challenging that untested technology and, according to the nation's leading watchdog of corporate and p-r groups, (John Stauber, editor of P-R Watch) they are lying about their former employers' goals and track record on consumer and environmental issues.]
FROM: Corporate Crime Reporter (Volume 13, Number 19, May 10, 1999, page 1)
ANTI-BIOTECH ACTIVISTS, FUNDERS, DISCUSS POSSIBLE CAMPAIGN
TO LABEL BIOTECH FOODS. FORMER MONSANTO CHIEF LOBBYIST IN THE MIX
There they sat last week the nationís leading anti-biotech activists pulled together by the John Merck Fund and other foundations to discuss funding a campaign to push for consumer labeling of biotech foods. Consumer and environmental activism against the biotech industry has exploded in Europe, but has yet to catch fire here in the United States. Activists around the table were looking for big dollars to trigger some action stateside.
Among the environmental groups at the meeting was the National Environmental Trust (NET), represented by its executive director, Phil Clapp, its executive vice president, Tom Wathen, and NET's chief lobbyist, Patricia Kenworthy. Clapp has been pushing for a number of months for NET to get involved in the issue of biotech foods.
The activists immediately focused their discussion on Monsanto a subject Kenworthy knew something about. From 1983 until 1991, Kenworthy worked in Monsanto's law department in St. Louis. And from 1992 until 1997, she was director of regulatory affairs for Monsanto in Washington, D.C. Kenworthy says that going into the meeting, she wasn't planning to disclose to those present her 14 years of work for Monsanto.
"Phil, Tom and I were at this meeting," Kenworthy said. "I don't think that any of us expected that there was going to be so much reference in the conversation to Monsanto. I guess we should have realized that it would, since Monsanto was such a big player in all of this. But we just didn't think about it."
"When it came around to Phil's turn to introduce us, he decided that since the company's name had been mentioned two or three times, it really was appropriate to make sure that everybody in the room knew about my background," Kenworthy said.
The hardcore anti-Monsanto activists in the room were stunned and felt uneasy for the rest of the meeting. But no one confronted the issue head on.
Kenworthy agreed to discuss with Corporate Crime Reporter her work with Monsanto and her views on biotech foods. But she wants it known that these views are her own, and not those of NET, which has yet to weigh in on the issue of biotech foods.
Why would she leave Monsanto after so many years and sign on with NET?
"I had known Phil Clapp, who is the president of NET," she said. "He had started this organization. He had a job opening. He called me on the phone out of the blue and he asked me -- would I be interested in talking with him about a job. We talked over a period of a couple of months. I finally decided it was a good opportunity for me at the time to make a career change. And so I left Monsanto and came over here."
It couldn't have been that NET offered you more money?
"No, not by a long shot," she said with a laugh.
Did you leave on good terms with Monsanto?
"Yes, very good terms," she said.
Kenworthy says that during her entire time as Monsanto's director of regulatory affairs in Washington, she never once dealt with biotech or bovine growth hormone issues.
"When I was in St. Louis working in the law department, I certainly worked on those issues," she admits. "But when I got to the Washington office, I was working on strictly traditional chemical issues -- Superfund, clean water, clean air those kinds of things."
So, when you moved from Monsanto to NET, did you undergo a political transformation, did your fundamental beliefs change?
"No," she said. "I feel exactly the same. The issue that we are going to potentially deal with in this campaignif NET gets involved in it is labeling and consumer right to know. I have always believed, and I continue to believe, in the right of the consumer to know that a food product contains genetically modified organisms or genetically modified crops."
Wait a second, you believed that while you were at Monsanto?
"Yes," she said.
But that wasn't Monsanto's position, was it?
"Monsanto didn't have a position as a corporation,"
Kenworthy said. "It was the position of a lot of people who worked there. But Monsanto did not have a position as a corporation because it didn't need to. Nobody was demanding it."
Do you believe that genetically modified organisms should be prohibited?
"No, I can't say that I do," she says. "I can't say that I believe that they should be prohibited from the market across the board. There probably are some beneficial uses."
But Kenworthy is not a fan of Monsanto's controversial bovine growth hormone. Or as she put "it would be a lot better if that product were not on the market."
"I was never a fan of that product even when I was with Monsanto," she said.
Well, after working for Monsanto for 14 years, do you own stock in the company?
"That is none of your business," she snaps. "I'm not going to answer that question. If you heard the answer -- it would be much less shocking than you expect -- but I'm not going to answer it. It is none of anybody's business."
Do you think that the fact that you worked for Monsanto for so long poses a problem for NET if it works on the biotech issue?
"I wouldn't be even exploring the possibility if I thought it was going to be a problem," she said.
John Stauberís Letter to Corporate Crime Reporter editor Russell Mokhiber in response:
May 10, 1999
When Patricia Kenworthy says "Monsanto didn't have a position as a corporation [on labeling and consumer right to know regarding genetically engineered food]" she is being astoundingly dishonest and deceptive.
Monsanto has spent tens of millions of dollars in PR, lobbying, regulatory and legal action, including at least two lawsuits, to prevent both mandatory labeling of milk from rBGH-injected cows, and even to prevent 'voluntary' labeling of milk from cows not-treated with rBGH.
Monsanto as a corporation has fought tooth and nail to oppose consumer right to know whether milk or crops are produced through genetic engineering processes. It has won overwhelmingly in the US, thanks primarily to its current or former friends and employees in the Clinton/Gore administration. Thanks especially to Al Gore and his gang at FDA, the agency has acted consistently and repeatedly in Monsanto's interests to thwart consumer right to know.
Patricia Kenworthy embellishes her false and misleading statement about Monsanto's opposition to labeling with another doozy: "But Monsanto did not have a position [on labeling] as a corporation because it didn't need to. Nobody was demanding it."
I understand that this falsehood that 'Americans accept genetically engineered foods and have not demanded labeling' is being used by the biotech PR flacks and lobbyists in Europe and Japan as they try to deny that their political clout is the reason we don't have labeling in the U.S. Monsanto knew as early as December 1986 from a consumer survey conducted for the National Dairy Board (and immediately given to Monsanto and the other rBGH companies but kept from farmers and the public) that not only did consumers oppose buying milk from rBGH-treated cows, they demanded labeling primarily to avoid rBGH.
Monsanto's entire regulatory, lobbying and PR strategy has been based on getting rBGH onto the market without labeling, because they knew early on that the overwhelming public opposition to rBGH and the demand for labeling meant that rBGH would fail in the market place. A plethora of surveys have shown that Americans want labeling of genetically engineered foods; the demand is certainly there, and Monsanto has fought long, hard and successfully to thwart it.
There are other disturbing revelations, but these blatant falsehoods about Monsanto's stand on labeling tell me that Kenworthy is not to be trusted. It is a sad comment on groups like the Consumer Federation of America and the National Environmental Trust that two completely unrepentant top Monsanto lobbyists and political operatives like Carol Tucker Foreman and Patricia Kenworthy are whom they tap for leadership on agricultural biotechnology issues.
Thanks to the Clinton/Gore administration the fox has been guarding the chickens. Now, thanks to some misguided executives with Beltway based non-profits, the fox is also mating with the guard dog. The dog house may look nice, but expect some really ugly puppies.
John Stauber, Editor PR Watch
3318 Gregory Street, Madison, WI 53711
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