Center for Food Safety

Overview

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is a project of the International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA). CFS is headed by Andrew Kimbrell, who was mentored by Jeremy Rifkin at the Foundation on Economic Trends. Next to the Unabomber, Rifkin is perhaps America’s most notable anti-technologist. CFS’s current focus is large-scale agriculture — specifically, food technology. It is a major partner in the “Keep Nature Natural” campaign, which receives funding from the organic food industry. CFS often participates in food scare projects managed by Fenton Communications, a Washington, D.C. public relations firm often used by anti-industry activists.

CFS has four stated goals, which promote organic agriculture by restricting traditional farming methods: “Ensuring the testing, labeling and regulation of genetically engineered (GE) foods; Preserving strict national organic food standards; Preventing potential animal and human health crises caused by food borne illness — including ‘mad cow’ disease; Educating the public on the hazards of industrial agriculture.” In 2004, CFS was the single largest financial contributor to a campaign to ban biotech crops in Mendocino County, CA. The ban (known as “Measure H”) passed, and is the only law of its kind in the country.

CFS sponsors the “Keep Nature Natural” campaign, a national initiative to flood the Food and Drug Administration with comments asking for stricter regulation of GE foods. Other sponsors of this project include Chefs Collaborative, Friends of the Earth, the Organic Consumers Association, and organic marketers Whole Foods Market and Eden Foods. At the heart of the campaign is a legal petition filed by CFS demanding mandatory warning labeling for genetically improved foods. Its ultimate goal was summed up by Craig Winters (who runs The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods) when he acknowledged that “labeling has nearly the same effect as a ban.”

CFS is also a member of the Fenton Communications–run “GE Food Alert” coalition, the organization responsible for the fall 2000 StarLink biotech corn scare. Other members include National Environmental Trust, Friends of the Earth, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Organic Consumers Association, and the Pesticide Action Network. CFS co-sponsors (along with Greenpeace) the anti-food-technology web site www.cropchoice.com.

CFS’s relationship with its parent group (ICTA) is a curious one. Although CFS has its own tax ID number and files its own IRS returns, ICTA continues to solicit, receive, and spend grant monies on behalf of its smaller “project.” For this reason, our financial profile shows financial support and budget numbers for the two entities combined.

Blackeye

The Center for Food Safety has been on the forefront of the American mad cow disease scare, promoting the view that the U.S. beef supply is inherently unsafe. In early 1999, CFS was one of three principal plaintiffs in a pair of lawsuits filed against the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

These legal actions, co-written by Andrew Kimbrell and his legal director, Joseph Mendelson, sought a variety of changes in the way the federal government monitored both beef cattle and diagnoses of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. Even though CJD is a different malady from the European “mad cow” disease, Kimbrell and CFS promoted the false and misleading conclusion that the two were simply different sides of the same coin. Kimbrell has also publicly charged that “mad deer” disease was killing hunters in Western U.S. states.

Motivation

The Center for Food Safety, under its façade of nonprofit watchdogging, has all the marks of a black-marketing campaign, run on behalf of organic and “natural” foods. Its advisory board is packed with organic-foods activists, including a registered “natural foods” lobbyist, prominent members of the Chefs Collaborative, the research director for Rodale Publishing’s Organic Gardening magazine, and the director of the organic-foods industry’s largest accreditation service. In addition, Andrew Kimbrell was the brains behind the multi-million-dollar Turning Point Project campaign, which ran a series of full-page New York Times advertisements trashing biotechnology and conventional agriculture.