Perdue finalizes GIPSA, Codex, other moves
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue finalized his decisions on departmental reorganization, The New Food Economy reported last week, but the moves came under criticism.
The changes include moving the functions of the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration, moving the U.S. Codex Office, and reorganizing other functions within USDA.
Richard Raymond, a former agriculture undersecretary for food safety, noted in a blog post on Meatingplace.com that Perdue said he would “keep the undersecretary for food safety as the chair of the U.S. Codex Policy Committee and will name the undersecretary for trade and foreign affairs as the deputy chair, a position that for years has been filled by the FDA, the largest food regulatory agency in the U.S.”
“Guess what, Mr. Secretary; you don’t have an undersecretary for food safety! That chair has not been filled for 47 months!” Raymond wrote.
Raymond also noted Ted McKinney, the new undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural services, used to work for Elanco and now can create U.S. policy regarding the animal health company’s products and other controversial products.
“Connect the dots. This is ALL about trade and the almighty dollar,” Raymond wrote. “Do not pass ‘Go’ and do not collect your $200. You do not count and you do not have a say on the issue.”
“How will our Codex delegates even begin to explain this to the other 187 countries that make up the Codex International Commission?”
Raymond ended the blog post by writing, “I am so glad I am sitting in Timnath, Colo., penning this and not in D.C., defending our government’s actions.”
Reacting to the moves, Brian Ronholm, who was the deputy undersecretary for food safety in the Obama administration, said, “Scientific integrity is paramount in advancing U.S. positions within Codex.”
“The perception that U.S. Codex policy is being led by trade considerations, and not public health goals, will harm our credibility in resisting continued attempts by other member delegations to politicize the Codex process.”
In a column, Dan Flynn, editor of Food Safety News, asked what Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue “is thinking” with the reorganization. Food Safety News is published by the Seattle-based Marler-Clark law firm that specializes in food safety.
But Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who had said the shift would lead foreign officials to question whether the United States was putting sales ahead of public health, has exchanged positive tweets about the reorganization with Perdue.
On Nov. 16, Gottlieb tweeted to thank Perdue for his “commitment to fulfilling the mission of Codex” and said he looks forward “to working closely with USDA on this important effort.”
Perdue tweeted back his thanks and said he will look forward to work with Gottlieb “as we combat other nations’ efforts to block our standards for non-scientific reasons.”