The first term of the Obama administration didn’t exactly lead to the progressive food policies as its reform-minded supporters had hoped, says Tom Laskawy on Grist.
In fact, inaction seems to be a common thread as the White House oversaw the appointment of lackluster agency heads like Tom Vilsack for agriculture secretary; Vilsack has a record of siding with big agribusiness companies. Other mismatches include “former pesticide lobbyist Islam Siddiqui to the U.S. Trade Representative’s office [and] former Monsanto executive Mike Taylor as the FDA’s food safety czar.”
At the same time, Laskawy qualifies that “it’s not entirely fair to hold the president of the United States fully responsible for many of these appointments—he’s relatively uninvolved in appointments below cabinet secretaries.” Subsequently, the state of our food policies were kept at status quo, much to the disappointment of those looking to tighten food regulations and strengthen our stance on such issues as farm policy.
The worst didn’t occur until 2010, when a midterm power shift in the House of Representatives hamstringed key food initiatives and policies; one example is the FDA’s inaction with regards to BPA use (a potentially harmful chemical additive found in plastics and lined inside of cans).
Not holding hope for dramatic changes, Laskawy nevertheless sees some potential in the current political climate, including the wane of direct corporate influence in the White House since William Daley stepped down as chief of staff. According to Laskawy, Daley “effectively oversaw the White House’s strategic retreat on a series of decisions perceived to be unfriendly to corporations.”