- The United Nations established the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 1962. Usually referred to as “Codex,” it consists of approximately 170 member countries that set food guidelines and standards for the world.
- Over the years, Codex has been embroiled in controversy for a number of reasons, but now our investigations show that Monsanto―one of the world’s largest producers of genetically-modified seeds― is behind a significant number of front groups that control Codex policy.
- Most recently, more than 50 industry trade groups formed a new alliance called Alliance to Feed the Future. These groups represent multi-national food-, biotech-, and chemical companies that generate hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of revenue each year
- Alliance to Feed the Future claims its purpose is to “balance the public dialogue” on modern agriculture and large-scale food production and technology. Or, in other words, they aim to become the go-to source for “real” information about the junk being sold as “food”
- The Kellen Company is instrumental in creating and managing front groups for the processed food and chemical industries. These front groups are specifically created to mislead you about the product in question, protect industry profits, and influence regulatory agencies
If you think it’s tough sorting truth from industry propaganda and lies, get ready for even tougher times ahead. More than 50 front groups, working on behalf of food and biotechnology trade groups―Monsanto being the most prominent―have formed a new coalition called Alliance to Feed the Future.
The alliance, which is being coordinated by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), was created to “balance the public dialogue” on modern agriculture and large-scale food production and technology, i.e. this group will aim to becomethe go-to source for “real” information about the junk being sold as “food.”
The groups comprising this new alliance represent multi-national food companies,biotech industry, and chemical companies that generate hundreds of billions of dollars worth of revenue from food related sales every year.
On the upside, this alliance and many other industry-sponsored front groups masquerading as non-profits and consumer protection organizations are becoming increasingly exposed for what they really are, and I will point out several of them in this article.
Michele Simon, JD, MPH, policy consultant with Center for Food Safety recently published a report titled: Best Public Relations Money Can Buy: A Guide to Food Industry Front Groups1 also reveals how the food and agricultural industryhide behind friendly-sounding organizations aimed at fooling the public, policymakers and media alike.
Many Industry Front Groups Are Created to Dominate Codex Discussions
The Codex Alimentarius Commission, conceived by the United Nations in 1962, was birthed through a series of relationships between the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well as the American FDA and USDA.
The Codex Alimentarius itself is a compilation of food standards, codes of practice and guidelines that specify all requirements related to foods, whether processed, semi-processed, genetically engineered, or raw.
Its purported purpose is to “protect consumers’ health, ensure fair business practices within the food trade, and eliminate international food trade barriers by standardizing food quality.”
There are a number of different working groups that meet regularly to establish food standards of every imaginable kind. For example, the Physical Working Group on Food Additives recently held meetings in Beijing, China. The 45th session of the Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) ended on March 22.
On the agenda were discussions about aluminum-containing food additives. Are they safe or should they be eliminated from the worldwide Codex standards? The National Health Federation (NHF), the only health-freedom group allowed to speak at the meeting, dished out harsh criticism on the additives, calling for their removal. In a Facebook update, the NHF wrote:2
“The usual Codex suspects (the delegations of Australia, the United States and Canada) plus the trade organizations of the International Food Additives Council (IFAC) and the International Council of Grocery Manufacturers Associations (ICGMA) were the industry apologists for keeping aluminum in food additives.
In dishing out scorching criticism of aluminum’s proponents, NHF came under return fire from Australia, IFAC, and the Chairman.
IFAC – which does not seem to disclose any of its members… along with its sidekick ICGMA, cried out constantly that the ‘Industry’ just could not make it without aluminum food additives. Their members spraying equipment ‘might overheat and catch fire,’ IFAC lamented.
When NHF suggested that this was a not a genuine issue; that the industry could easily innovate its way out of this ‘problem’ and create non-overheating equipment, NHF was criticized by the Chairman for suggesting that IFAC might not be telling the truth.
By the end of the day, the success of the EU and NHF could be tallied by numerous uses of aluminum food additives that the Working Group will suggest be discontinued to the full Committee meeting… although there were also many food-additive uses that stayed in place (albeit usually at reduced levels), no thanks to the interventions of Australia, the U.S., Canada, IFAC, and ICGMA.”
Who’s Behind the International Food Additives Council (IFAC)?
The International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is “an international association representing companies that produce high quality substances used worldwide as food ingredients in traditional and organic products.” The group is very active in Codex. But how do you know who they are, and who they represent, when it’s almost impossible to find out who their members are?
As the NHF noted above, it’s virtually impossible to locate a list of its members (which naturally would indicate sources of funding, and potentially reveal behind-the-scenes agendas).
But here, I’m making public IFAC’s list of officers and board members as of 2011. It wasn’t easy to find this list, primarily because IFAC isn’t a regular 501(c)(3). In fact, it isn’t a 501(c)(3) at all. Actually, it’s a 501(c)(6)―an IRS classification for nonprofit “commercially oriented” organizations such as football leagues, chambers of commerce and, apparently, groups like IFAC. Once you know its non-profit classification, you can find its 990 forms―which all non-profits must file, complete with lists of officers and directors. I obtained IFAC’s 990s for the years 2004-2011. And there I learned the truth.
Except for two, who I couldn’t find any information at all on, all of IFAC’s officers and directors are linked to processed foods and additives in some way, with at least six of them having direct or business links to Monsanto and/or DuPont. That’s right. Six of IFAC’s governing board members are linked to the largest GMO producers in the world.
If you look up these board members’ contact information, you’ll find that all contacts for IFAC3 go to a corporation called The Kellen Company. Kellen “provides the essential services to advance associations to the next level of their evolution.” Such services include management, administration, accounting, meeting planning, membership marketing and strategic advice. According to the company’s website:
“Kellen takes the mission and message of each association client and brings it to audiences large and small, internal and external, domestic and international. Utilizing communications tools that are customized for each association, Kellen identifies the audiences, develops the strategies, defines the tactics and executes a planned and carefully reasoned communications plan.”
“Our consulting expertise enables us to reorganize association governance and assets, optimize association resources, extend reach for U.S. associations into Europe and Asia… Kellen’s team is expert in all strategic and tactical elements of associations and can provide insightful analysis and guidance on industry alignment… establishing new legal entities and building consensus. “ [Emphasis mine]
Additionally, if you look up IFAC’s origins in Internet business profiles, you’ll find that it was formed in 1980 by Patrick M. Farrey, who just so happens to be The Kellen Company’s group vice president. In short, The Kellen Company not only is linked to the formation of IFAC, but also serves as the managing entity behind IFAC. And its members, although a proper members list has not been obtained, are bound to be like their governing body― manufacturers of food additives, including but certainly not limited to manufacturers of artificial sweeteners and glutamate (i.e. MSG).
This association is clearly spelled out in the Council’s name. But what’s troublesome about it is that IFAC represents companies that create food ingredients in organic products as well, although there’s not a shred of evidence that any person, company or organization dedicated to organics is actually represented by IFAC. If that is the case, this means IFAC probably does NOT have any incentive at all to ensure such ingredients are appropriate for organic products, and most likely, they will just do what needs to be done to ensure its members’ ingredients are allowed to be used in organics no matter what.
You need look no further than its board members―and their links to Monsanto and DuPont, and their managing entity, Kellen―to see what I’m talking about, because Kellen tells you plainly on its website where the organization it represents stand when it comes to organics. Boasting that Kellen and its members joined the “Say No to Proposition 37” movement in California, Kellen explains right on its website how they defeated the bill that would have mandated that all GMO products be labeled as such:
“Almost all of Kellen Company’s food clients would have been negatively affected by Prop. 37, but no single association was in a position to lead opposition efforts to GMO labeling. A coalition was a perfect solution; our team decided to join the ‘No on 37 Coalition,’ a multi-stakeholder group that led opposition efforts and helped to educate Californian voters about the shortcoming of Prop. 37. And that story has a happy ending – the proposition was not passed and food companies in California are not required to include potentially misleading labeling.”
The site goes further, detailing the steps to “success” of this campaign, advising site visitors: “With proposed ballot initiatives beginning to be certified and many states opening their 2013 legislative sessions this month, now is the time to think about your association’s plans should state legislation or a ballot initiative affecting your industry be introduced in 2013.”
Finally, if you have any doubt about what IFAC’s goals are, you need look no further than a PowerPoint presentation4 that the group is currently giving at symposia and conventions around the world. One of the slides on this presentation states that IFACpromotes “independently determined” studies of safety in its members’ products. By “independent,” they explain that this means: “experts chosen and employed by the manufacturer.” This is the same procedure that gets Monsanto’s products to market: Monsanto gets to do its own safety studies and submit them to the FDA as “proof” that their products won’t harm you.
Front Groups Working to Keep Harmful Food Additives Hidden and on the Market
The Kellen Company has ties with other major industry players. According to a 2011 press release,5 one of the Kellen Company executives was honored as president of the Calorie Control Council, a non-profit association that represents manufacturers and suppliers of low-calorie, sugar-free and reduced sugar foods and beverages. It’s also closely tied to the International Council of Grocery Manufacturers Associations (ICGMA), which, along with IFAC, urged the Codex working group to keep aluminum in food additives, despite the many known health risks associated with aluminum.
According to Truthinlabeling.org,6 there are a number of front groups for the glutamate and artificial sweetener industry in the US. In an article titled: Meet the people who get the job done so effectively, they write:
“In the United States, the glutamate industry has two arms. Both work to keep MSG hidden in food. One is the International Hydrolyzed Protein Council… The second and more active arm is spearheaded by Ajinomoto’s International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) and its American subsidiary, The Glutamate Association (TGA), with representative organizations throughout the world.”
Now here’s where it gets interesting, as it again shows the intricate ties of the glutamate industry with the Kellen Company:
“In 1977, the IGTC spun off The Glutamate Association, with both organizations accommodated under the umbrella of The Robert H. Kellen Company… a trade organization and association management firm, specializing in the food, pharmaceutical, and health care industries. [Editor’s note: although not covered in this article, this is a clue that there are many front groups operating in the drug and health care industry as well, under the careful management of the Kellen Company. Such front groups ensure you will NOT get the truth about drugs and health care issues where corporate profits are at stake.]
The Encyclopedia of Associations (The Glutamate Association, 1990) listed Robert H. Kellen as president of The Glutamate Association. Richard Cristol, executive director of The Glutamate Association, was also Vice President of The Kellen Company. Cristol assumed management of the Washington, DC operations of The Kellen Company and its subsidiary, HQ Services, in 1993…
In 1992, and still in 1998, Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D., Chairman of the International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC), was also Senior Vice President of The Kellen Company. Membership in The Glutamate Association is secret. However, a source from within the glutamate industry, who asked to remain anonymous, told us that besides Ajinomoto, Archer Daniels Midland, Campbell, Corn Products Corporation, McCormick & Company, Pet Foods, Pfizer Laboratories, and Takeda were among its members; and Nestle was a former member.”
The fact that membership is a secret is telling in and of itself, and it’s quite ironic, considering the Glutamate Association is ardently working to keep the presence of glutamate in foods and other products, such as fertilizers and growth promoters, hiddenfrom the consumer… But there’s more. I’ve often discussed the revolving door between the US Food and Drug Administration, and here we see the door swinging yet again. According to another article by TruthInLabeling.org:7
“Influence of the International Glutamate Technical Committee (IGTC) can be felt at every level. [Andrew G.] Ebert has served the Grocery Manufacturers of America; the National Food Processors Association; the Institute of Food Technology; the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences Assembly of Life Sciences; theAmerican Medical Association; the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Food Standards Program as an Industry Observer; and the International Food Additives Council (IFAC) as Executive Director. In 1992, FDA appointed both Andrew G. Ebert, Ph.D., IGTC chairman, and Kristin McNutt, Ph.D., paid spokesperson for the IGTC, to the FDA Food Advisory Committee.” [Emphasis mine]
At this point, it would appear The Kellen Company is instrumental in creating and managing front groups for the processed food and chemical industries. These front groups are specifically created to mislead you about the product in question, protect industry profits, and influence regulatory agencies. This amount of collusion simply is not necessary for a food or product that is truly safe and has great intrinsic value, but it must be done for inferior and/or dangerous products that cannot stand up to closer scrutiny by truly independent sources.
What’s more, it appears all these front groups (there are many others not specifically mentioned in this article) have been created in order to have more seats at the Codex meetings, essentially giving chemical companies and major food manufacturers a much louder voice, in order to control the decisions made.
Front Man Steven Milloy, and Other Non-Profit Front Organizations with Ties to Industry
Steven Milloy, author of Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them, and owner and operator of Junkscience.com8 — a site dedicated to denying environmental and health concerns related to pollutants and chemicals, including those used in agriculture and food production — appears to have been registered as a lobbyist with The EOP Group, a lobbying firm based in Washington, DC. Clients of the firm have included the American Crop Protection Association, the Chlorine Chemistry Council, and Edison Electric Institute.9
Milloy’s clients10 included both Monsanto and the International Food Additives Council (IFAC). Milloy has denied ever being a lobbyist, claiming that he was “a technical consultant” for the lobbying firm.
“However, Milloy shows up in federal lobbyist registration data for 1997 as having lobbying expenditures on his behalf, indicating his firm, the EOP Group, believed him to be an active lobbyist, ‘technical’ or otherwise,” TRWNews11 states in its expose of the industry front man.
Milloy also headed up the now defunct corporate front group, The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC). According to TRWNews,12 TASSC and the Junkscience.com site were one and the same. Integrity in Science,13 which lists non-profit organizations with close ties to industry, reports that TASSC received financial support from hundreds of corporations, including the likes of Procter & Gamble, Exxon, Dow Chemical, and Philip Morris. I’ll leave it up to you to guess what kind of ‘sound science’ was advanced by those sources…
“Its objective is to act as a speakers bureau to deliver the corporate message that environmental public policy is not currently based on ‘sound science,’ and to counter excessive regulations that are based on what it considers ‘junk’ science,” Integrity in Science states. [Emphasis mine]
Other non-profit organizations that are in actuality doing the bidding of various industry giants include:
- Air Quality Standards Coalition, “created specifically to battle the clean air proposals, the coalition operates out of the offices of the National Association of Manufacturers, a Washington-based trade group. Its leadership includes top managers of petroleum, automotive and utility companies”
- Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, while sounding like it would work for your benefit, actually gets “unrestricted grants” from a long list of pharmaceutical companies
- Alliance to Save Energy, which “supports energy efficiency as a cost-effective energy resource under existing market conditions and advocates energy-efficiency policies that minimize costs to society and individual consumers,” was founded by, among others: BP…
- American Academy of Pediatrics receives $1 million annually from infant formula manufacturers. Other donors include (but is not limited to) the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, both Wyeth’s and Merck’s vaccine divisions, the Food Marketing Institute, the Sugar Association, and the International Food Information Council (IFIC) — which you will see below, is not only a front group for the glutamate industry; it’s also the coordinating agent for a new alliance of over 50 industry groups aimed at directing the dialogue and altering public opinion about large-scale, genetically engineered and chemical-based food production
- American Council for Fitness and Nutrition. This one takes the cake with a member list that includes the American Bakers Association, the American Meat Institute, the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers Association, Chocolate Manufacturers Association, Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, National Confectioners Association and many others that are FAR from suited to devise appropriate “comprehensive, long-term strategies and constructive public policies for improving the health and wellness of all Americans”
IFIC Created ‘Crisis Management’ Protocol in Case Truth Would Be Exposed
Although their names may differ, many of the functions of these groups overlap, as they’re really serving the same industry. TruthInLabeling explains how front groups such as these serve the distinct interests of the industry, not your or your children’s health, even when their well-chosen name may mislead you to think otherwise.14 Take the International Food Information Council (IFIC) for example:
“In 1990, faced with the threat of a ’60 Minutes’ segment… that might expose the toxic potential of monosodium glutamate, IFIC became actively involved in representing the interests of the glutamate industry. The IFIC represents itself as an ‘independent’ organization. It sends attractive brochures to dietitians, nutritionists, hospitals, schools, the media, and politicians, proclaiming the safety of monosodium glutamate. In 1990, an anonymous person sent us a copy of a ‘Communication Plan’ dated July-December 1991, that detailed methods for scuttling the ’60 Minutes’ segment on MSG, or, failing that, provided for crisis management.
…Depending on the roles they play, researchers might be considered agents of the glutamate industry. In addition, there are those who promote the products of those they work for, just as public relations firms do, but these organizations highlight the fact that they are nonprofit corporations, while minimizing the fact that they promote the products of those who financially support them. The International Food Information Council (IFIC) and the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) are examples of such glutamate-industry agents.”
50+ Industry Front Groups Form New Alliance to ‘Balance Public Dialogue’ on Food Production
As reported by Sustainable Food News15 on March 17, more than 50 of these front groups, working on behalf of food and biotechnology trade groups, have formed a brand new alliance called Alliance to Feed the Future. Again, the alliance is being coordinated by the glutamate-protecting International Food Information Council (IFIC). The stated aim of the alliance is to “balance the public dialogue on modern agriculture and large-scale food production.”
“The Alliance to Feed the Future said “in an effort to meet the world’s increasing food needs responsibly, efficiently and affordably,” its members want to ‘tell the real story of’ and dispel “misperceptions about modern food production and technology,’” the article states.16
The groups comprising the alliance represent multi-national food, biotech, and chemical companies that generate hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of revenue each year. Some of the most notable of these 50 industry groups include the very players already mentioned in this article. For the full list of all 50+ groups that are part of the alliance, please see the original article:17
|American Soybean Association
||Biotechnology Industry Organization (which represents biotech crop giants Monsanto, DuPont, and Syngenta)
||Calorie Control Council (which represents the artificial sweetener industry)
|Council for Biotechnology Information
||Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)
||International Food Additives Council (IFAC)
According to the featured article:18
“When asked by Sustainable Food News what misperceptions the group seeks to dispel, Dave Schmidt, CEO at the International Food Information Council, who coordinates the alliance, said the most common misperceptions – perpetuated by what he calls ‘a large popular culture’ that can be found in recent ‘books and movies’ – are that ‘technology is bad and we need to go back to a time when there was less technology. Or, food processing or large-scale food production is bad.’
…The alliance’s aim is to educate who he called ‘opinion leaders,’ including those in the university sector, professional societies, journalists and government officials. However, another target demographic is the ‘informed consumer,’ who he expects will find the group’s information online.
The Alliance’s effort appears to be an attempt to squelch the growing consumer perception that modern food production can have a negative impact on the health of humans and the environment as espoused by the organic and sustainable food movement.” [Emphasis mine]
Meanwhile, close to a dozen of the members of this new industry alliance have resigned from the Leonardo Academy’s National Sustainable Agriculture Standards Committee,19 which is currently developing a national standard for sustainable agriculture under the rules of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). According to Russell Williams of the American Farm Bureau Federation, this exodus occurred because:
“…the committee is dominated by environmental groups, certification consultants, agro-ecology and organic farming proponents. Based on their recent actions, it is apparent that these groups have neither the vision nor desire to speak for mainstream agriculture or the 95 percent of farmers who will be materially affected by any resulting standard.”
Is the Information You’re Given Created by a Front Group Pretending to Be ‘Independent’?
As TruthInLabeling points out, the industry has manipulated public knowledge using innocent-sounding front groups for a very long time. As I’ve already shown, the International Food Additives Council (IFAC) is a perfect example of how industry giants can masquerade as a so-called non-profit, independent organization. While their membership still remains secret, the directors and officers on the IFAC board show quite plainly who’s running the show when it comes to food additives―and IFAC is obviously NOT a group of consumer advocates.
Another example can be shown through the distribution of information about MSG, which has been completely directed by the industry itself, through The Glutamate Association:
“Present FDA practice includes distributing unsolicited copies of an FDA Medical Bulletin that assures physicians that MSG is safe; and distributing similar material to food service people. In the January-February, 2003 FDA Consumer magazine, the FDA’s Michelle Meadows, in an article titled: MSG: A Common Flavor Enhancer, spewed out paragraphs that look like they came right off The Glutamate Association or the International Glutamate Information Service Web pages. Trying to convince us that MSG is ‘safe’ while saying nothing.”
The same goes for genetically engineered crops, prescription drugs, artificial sweeteners and a whole host of other harmful substances used in food production and medicine. You can bet if there’s a harmful substance out there that makes money, there are at least one or more front groups, posing as independent non-profit organizations, disseminating anything but independent safety reviews and information pertaining to it…
As for the Codex meetings, and the Group on Food Additives in particular; they’re being shrewdly manipulated by multiple front groups, which ensures that their side comes across as the strongest and most vocal. It also creates the illusion of consensus, when in fact it’s nothing but collusion… It’s high time to pull back the curtain and see who’s really pulling the strings and levers. And whenever you hear the talking points from Alliance to Feed the Future or the International Food Additives Council (IFAC), you now know exactly who is talking, and why. It’s an alliance of multi-national food-, biotech-, and chemical companies that are hell-bent on protecting hundreds of billions of dollars-worth of annual revenue in the face of a burgeoning organic and sustainable food movement. Believe what they tell you at your own risk…
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people’s initiative 522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
“Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn’t required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn’t have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn’t it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers.”
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn’t have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let’s not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.