– White House blocking release of Monsanto-linked lobbyist’s email (Activist Post, Feb. 22, 2012):
The Obama administration is now blocking a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by an environmental group, Public Employees for Environment Responsibility (PEER), which is attempting to uncover Obama’s connections to Monsanto-linked lobbyists.
Keep in mind, Monsanto’s products have been linked to some horrific effects on biological systems like the human body, not the least of which is creating necrosis and significant mutations in critical cell types.
Also quite noteworthy is the fact that Monsanto was actually recently found guilty of chemical poisoning in the case of a French farmer.
The group suspects the Obama White House of working with these lobbyists to defend genetically engineered (GE) crops and the attempts to get these GE crops planted in wildlife refuges across the United States.
Part of the information which is currently being withheld by the Obama administration is part of an email from January 2011 from a lobbyist to a top White House policy analyst.
This lobbyist was with the Biotechnology Industry Organization, or BIO, which regularly represents the interests of companies specializing in GE seeds like Syngenta and the infamous multinational giant Monsanto.The White House claims that they had to block portions of the email because it contained information on BIO’s lobbying strategy.
They claimed that if this strategy was released, it could cause damage to the group’s competitiveness and those of the companies it represents.
“We suspect the reason an industry lobbyist so cavalierly shared strategy is that the White House is part of that strategy,” said Kathryn Douglass, the staff counsel for PEER.
Douglass is arguing that the email should be public record, adding, “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.”
PEER has been doing phenomenal work exposing the connections between our government and BIO lobbyists, including the release of internal emails last July.
The email release revealed that Peter Schmeissner, a senior science policy analyst and member of the biotechnology working group at the White House, actually had been corresponding with a BIO lobbyist about one of PEER’s legal challenges.
The lawsuit, filed by PEER and their allied groups, was quite successful in that it halted the planting of GE crops within the wildlife refuges across northeastern states.
PEER has obviously not given up and they continue to fight the planned plantings of GE crops across the nation.
In some of the emails obtained by PEER from 2010, it was found that Adrianne Massey, a biotechnology lobbyist for quite a while, asked Schmeissner if the “interagency working group” is addressing the legal challenges put forth by PEER.In addition, Massey forwarded some of the environmental assessments of the proposed GE crop plots at other wildlife refuges across the United States. These assessments could supposedly protect GE crop plots in wildlife refuges from further legal challenges in the future.
The emails obtained by PEER spurred them to seek out information on the “interagency working group” referred to by Massey which is known as the White House Agricultural and Biotechnology Working Group via FOIA request.
The group boasts high-level officials from most of the Obama administration’s agencies that deal with agriculture and trade, even the State Department, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to PEER.
These discoveries have led PEER to file a lawsuit against the White House in an attempt to get the information which was withheld from their FOIA requests.
This would include not only the Massey email in question but the White House Agricultural and Biotechnology Working Group’s schedule, the items on their agenda and their work related to GE crops in general.
An attorney for BIO filed an affidavit which claims that the withheld portions of Massey’s email contain “mistakenly” forwarded trade secrets.
“BIO operates in an advocacy environment in which there are many organizations that oppose the use of biotechnology, particularly in the agricultural arena, and that seek to persuade federal, state and local agencies to restrict the technology’s use. If this information were released, competitors could imitate or seek to counteract BIO’s strategy and further their own contrary agendas at the expense of BIO and its members,” the attorney wrote.
The White House is also claiming that they withheld the information according to current disclosure law, but PEER isn’t buying it, and likely rightly so.
Jeff Ruch, PEER’s Director told Truth-Out that he believes that the withheld Massey email actually has the details of a concerted effort being made by BIO lobbyists to have the White House help make sure that the environmental assessments of the GE crops on wildlife refuges are so strong that they cannot be challenged on a legal basis in the future.
This is because groups like PEER regularly challenge the legally required environmental assessments in order to hold up projects like planting GE crops on wildlife refuges in court.
Deborah Rocque, an official with the United States Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS), claimed last year that the FWS had actually been allowing farming on refuges for years.
Rocque /1307539754″ rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”>claims this is part of habitat restoration efforts and that the planting of herbicide-resistant GE crops would actually allow conservationists to grow ground cover while still killing unwanted weeds with herbicidal products.
However, even classifying these types of crops as “herbicide-resistant” is misleading, because in the case of “Roundup Ready” crops produced by Monsanto the crops actually still absorb all of the incredibly harmful Roundup but instead of dying, these crops are genetically engineered to be able to survive the herbicide.
This means that if these products are moved into the food supply, there are trace amounts of Roundup which actually make it to the dinner table.
The mere presence of herbicides in the environment is something that any true conservationist would avoid like the plague, so Rocque’s statement is laughably nonsensical.
PEER seems to realize the ulterior motive behind the effort to plant GE crops on wildlife refuges, which they see as an attempt by the Obama administration to boost exports of the crops.
While European countries remain relatively skeptical about the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods and some other countries have actually banned certain seeds, the United States government shares none of these concerns.
PEER says that the White House and its working group is trying to give trade partners the impression that the United States government thinks GE crops are so environmentally safe that they can even be planted on wildlife reserves.Such a vote of confidence could increase the willingness of trade partners to import the GE crops, which have quite a long list of potential hazards associated with their use.
Truth-Out has been doing one of the best jobs of keeping track of the United States’ efforts to pressure foreign nations into accepting exports and GE crops, including countries like France and Spain.
Through the release of some WikiLeaks cables, it was found that essentially United States diplomats were working for companies like Monsanto by going around the world promoting their GE products.
The first legal challenge relating to the planting of GE crops on wildlife reserves came after PEER was contacted by biologists with the FWS who were opposed to the planting of GE crops on said reserves.
Later, PEER actually received an internal email which they believe shows that Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the USDA, actually was pressuring FWS to support GE crops.
In the email, dated January 14, 2011, David Hayes, the Interior Department Deputy Secretary, relayed to some of the top Interior Department and FWS officials that, “Apparently Vilsack is somewhat exercised that the Administration is not being consistent in supporting genetically modified crops.”
Of course when asked about this high-level pressure, Rocque claimed that she was completely unaware of any internal pressure coming from the upper levels of the Obama administration.
This is just more of the “I do not recall” plausible deniability nonsense.
Hopefully PEER’s legal challenges will be treated in a just manner and we will be able to get an accurate glimpse in the world of corporatism which is so egregiously damaging our nation.
The case of Monsanto and the American diplomats promotion of their products is just about the most perfect example of how corrupt our so-called government has really become.