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US Fact check: Image shows former, not current, FDA deputy commissioner

16:46  08 september  2021
16:46  08 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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The claim: A photo shows a current FDA deputy commissioner and former Monsanto vice president

A recent Facebook post claims a current deputy commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also served as an executive at an agribusiness company.

The post, shared Aug. 25, is a screengrab of a purported tweet by singer Kid Rock.

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"On the left is the former vice president of Monsanto, a company that poisons everything you consume," reads the tweet. "On the right is the current Deputy Commissioner of the FDA, an agency that protects you from companies like Monsanto. This is legal."

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Though the text doesn't identify him, both descriptions are accompanied by the same picture of Michael R. Taylor, an official who worked at the FDA for six years.

USA TODAY found no record of the tweet, and the username shown in the image isn't the singer's Twitter-verified profile. It's unclear where the image originated, but it has been shared on websites like Reddit and iFunny.

The Facebook post accrued more than 800 shares within nine days. Other posts with the image have also been shared across the platform.

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This post is wrong about Taylor's current employment: He doesn't work at the FDA. He served as the agency's deputy commissioner for foods from 2010 until 2016. He also worked as the vice president for public policy at Monsanto, but that was almost a decade before his time at the FDA.

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USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the claim for comment.

Taylor worked at FDA for six years

Taylor doesn't currently work at the FDA, according to the agency's list of people in leadership roles. The agency's principal deputy commissioner role is vacant, and the current deputy commissioner for food policy and response is Frank Yiannas.

Taylor started his role as the deputy commissioner for foods in January 2010 after being a senior adviser to the FDA's commissioner for six months, the agency said on its website at the time. Taylor was the first to hold the title, and he led the agency's efforts to plan for new food safety legislation and ensure food labels contained clear and accurate nutritional information.

The FDA announced in March 2016 that Taylor was leaving the agency, In a press release, the FDA didn't elaborate on why he was leaving.

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Currently, Taylor serves on the board of directors of Stop Foodborne Illnesses, a nonprofit dedicated to the prevention of illnesses caused by food pathogens. He told USA TODAY in an email that people have been sharing similar claims since the early 1990s.

They are something "folks who opposed plant biotechnology used to discredit FDA's oversight," he said. "It's a puzzle to me what makes them persist."

Taylor worked at Monsanto before FDA

Taylor worked as vice president for public policy at Monsanto, an agribusiness company, from late 1998 to early 2000, he told USA TODAY.

Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer in 2016, was a major producer of pesticides and genetically modified crops.

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Monsanto has attracted criticism over the years for its impact on the climate and health.

In 2020, Bayer agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits filed over Monsanto's Roundup weed killer, which the plaintiffs claimed caused them to develop cancer.

The weed killer's active ingredient, glyphosate, was classified as "probably carcinogenic to humans" by the World Health Organization in 2015 based on "limited" evidence of cancer in humans.

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But in 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the country, poses no risk or concern to human health as long as it's used according to the label.

Our rating: Partly false

Based on our research, we rate PARTLY FALSE the claim that a photo shows a current FDA deputy commissioner and former Monsanto vice president. Taylor doesn't currently work at the FDA. He served as the agency's deputy commissioner for foods from 2010 until 2016. The post also fails to note nearly a decade elapsed between the end of Taylor's time at Monsanto and the start of his role at the FDA.

Our fact-check sources:

  • Kid Rock, accessed Aug. 31, Twitter
  • Twitter, accessed Aug. 31, Advanced keyword search
  • Reddit, Aug. 24, Reddit thread
  • iFunny, accessed Aug. 31, Post
  • Click It News, Aug. 25, Facebook
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration, accessed Aug. 31, FDA Leadership Profiles
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration, accessed Aug. 31, Frank Yiannas
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration, accessed Aug. 31, Meet Michael R. Taylor, J.D., Deputy Commissioner for Foods (archived)
  • New York Times, Jan. 13, 2010, New Official Named With Portfolio to Unite Agencies and Improve Food Safety
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration, March 8, 2016, Changes in Leadership for FDA's Foods and Veterinary Medicine Program
  • Stop Foodborne Illnesses, accessed Aug. 31, Board of Directors - Michael R. Taylor
  • The Washington Post, June 4, 2018, Why 'Monsanto' is no more
  • USA TODAY, Sept. 14, 2016, Big deal: Bayer getting Monsanto for $66B
  • Michael Taylor, Sept. 3, Email exchange with USA TODAY
  • Food Safety News, March 25, 2013, Publisher's Platform: Mike Taylor and the Myth of Monsanto's Man
  • NPR, June 24, 2020, Bayer to Pay More than $10 Billion to Resolve Cancer Lawsuits Over Weedkiller Roundup
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, accessed Aug. 31, Glyphosate
  • World Health Organization, accessed Aug. 31, IARC Monograph on Glyphosate
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Jan. 30, 2020, EPA Finalizes Glyphosate Mitigation

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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Image shows former, not current, FDA deputy commissioner

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usr: 3
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