Tom Vilsack

SNL Takes Shot At HFCS Commercials

Since it first aired in the 1970’s Saturday Night Live has tackled issues the regular media won’t touch.  From time to time they have also been guilty of trading their ethics in order to advance their personal political agendas (especially the past four or five years).  But they still occasionally take on “the man” on controversial issues.

Recently SNL spoofed those highly unethical Sweet Surprise disinformation commercials the folks at the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) lobby put together in an attempt to confuse the general public about the ever increasing dangers of High Fructose Corn Syrup (aka HFCS, aka Corn Syrup).  This is not only a big deal because it is the first real attention the national media has given to the issue but also because it seems to buck at SNL’s recent trend of blindly supporting the Obama Administration regardless of its obvious failures in certain areas.

You see, Monsanto and other large agribusiness companies (the ones who profit from HFCS) were among the largest contributors to the Obama candidacy.  In return for their financial backing they were rewarded by getting to put their own people in charge of the government agencies that are charged with regulating them.  The number of agribusiness lobbyists now operating within this administration is staggering with the two most notable moles being USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and FDA Food Czar Michael Taylor.  The result is that neither department can be considered reliable anymore.

I was recently at an event with a number of food writers.  Most worked directly for large publications.  They related tales of how food writers were being harassed by Sweet Surprise anytime they wrote something unflattering about HFCS.  If they wrote an opinion column they were hit with libel suits.  If they dared to publish any of the mountains of scientific research that reveals the truth about HFCS they are getting buried with cease and desist orders and other frivolous ligation.

From a legal standpoint none of these suits have a leg to stand on.  Opinion columns (like this one) are just that, a statement of opinion and are Constitutionally protected.  And it has never been a crime to print scientific results.  That isn’t the point, CRA knows they don’t stand a chance of winning any of these suits.  The point is to harass the parent organizations into telling their food writers to just leave well enough alone.  It is litigious terrorism.

Well, chalk one up for the good guys:

Has the First Lady Crossed the Line?

Though I have some issues with the job the President has done thus far I have continued to have respect for Mrs. Obama.  Her mission to teach people how to grow their own produce is commendable.  More than that it’s admirable.

The White House kitchen garden has inspired thousands of school gardens across the nation.  That is a positive not only because it teaches children to have a relationship with their food but because it has helped ease a little of the burden on the cash strapped tax payers in this country.

But. . .

HypocriteRecently it was revealed that Mrs. Obama has been meeting behind closed doors with the National Restaurant Association (the other NRA) in an attempt to impose her personal views on the menus of tens of thousands of restaurants.  The First Lady has tried everything short of having her husband send in the troops.  She has spent the past year trying to strong arm restaurant owners to reduce the size of portions and to, in essence, replace everything a child likes to eat with everything they hate.

With all due respect, Mrs. Obama, get your nose out of my menu.  Let’s set aside for a moment that this is an egregious infringement on our civil liberties.  Let’s also jump over the fact that a non-employee of the federal government is attempting to make US domestic policy.  Let’s get straight to the burr under my saddle.

When Mrs. Obama went from setting a positive example of proper diet to mandating proper diet she moved into the category of hypocrite.  It’s one thing to wage the war on obesity.  It’s a whole different story when you try to force me to follow your example while your husband is auctioning off the nation’s food system to the very people responsible for causing the obesity epidemic.

In 2007 then Senator Obama spoke at the Iowa Democratic Primary Debate saying, “. . . we can also improve the economic engines in a lot of these rural communities, and that is something that I’m absolutely committed to doing as President, but it’s going to require overcoming the excess influence of agribusiness lobbying.”  He would go on to say “I don’t take a dime of their [lobbyist] money, and when I am President, they won’t find a job in my White House.”

Well Mr. Obama’s very first hire after his election was to tab Monsanto lobbyist Tom Vilsack to head the USDA.  His very first hire mind you.  Not White House Chief of Staff, not Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense but Secretary of Agriculture.  Campaigns, after all, are not cheap.  He has since gone on to place no less than six lobbyists for the agribusiness giant into policy-making positions in the USDA and FDA that directly regulate Monsanto.

Granted Michelle is not responsible for Barry’s business dealings.  After all we elected him, not her.  However, before Mrs. Obama dare try to force us to reorder our homes she should first take a look at her own.

I believe that in covertly trying to manipulate the populace into changing their eating habits while her own husband continues an unholy alliance with agribusiness is nothing short of hypocrisy.  There is nothing worse than a hypocrite for a hypocrite combines all of the distasteful characteristics of a con artist with the self-righteous edicts of a narcissist.

The respect I once had for the First Lady is now gone.  I cannot trust someone capable of such hypocrisy.  By employing cloak and dagger techniques like this Michelle Obama has done serious damage to her own image.  However, it would be easy for Mrs. Obama to earn our trust back.  She simply need to publicly admonish the President for hiring Vilsack, Michael Taylor and all those other Monsanto lobbyists.  Do that, Mrs. Obama, and you begin to regain our respect; do it not and I must politely ask you to butt out.

Seriously, USDA – A Food Safety Mobile?

The USDA has come up with a brilliant plan to help consumers survive the next salmonella outbreak.  It’s called the Food Safety Mobile.  The goal of this roving banana of knowledge is to bring safe food handling skills to the masses.  Because after all, these USDA Food Safety Truckconstant outbreaks aren’t the result of questionable farming practices by Big Ag companies but rather the fault of the American people for recklessly choosing to eat their lettuce raw.

This is yet another sign that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and his cronies are completely unqualified for the job.  Vilsack is not a farmer, nutritionist, doctor, chef or scientist.  He is a lobbyist, specifically a lobbyist for Monsanto.  That’s why he and his staff continue to miss or ignore the fact that the problem is not with consumers cross contaminating their food but rather with factory-farming that is more factory than farm.  In short, Vilsack doesn’t get it.

The Food Safety Mobile is the heart of the USDA’s $1.37 billion push to teach Americans how to wash fruit.  In addition to the traveling roadshow the program also maintains a toll-free hotline for your food safety questions providing assistance in both English and Spanish and an online chat.  Both are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.  Oh, and I would be remiss not to mention the youtube channel, food handling demos, coloring books and of course the Food Safety Mobile Discovery Game.

This is such a waste of tax payer dollars.  Hey, Mr. Vilsack, here’s a thought – instead of buying a million dollar lunch truckFood Safety Mobile how about not imposing dangerously lax regulations on genetically modified foods in exchange for campaign contributions for your boss?  That way you could save the over-taxed and ignored citizenry a nickle or two.  Not to mention how it would help clean up one of the most corrupt branches of the federal government.

You can take a virtual tour of the USDA’s Food Safety Mobile HERE but be warned – the decor has been known to trigger epileptic seizures.  You’d think a billion dollars could by an interior that doesn’t look like Walt Disney threw up.

Stop Monsanto’s Newest Frankenfood

The Obama Administration is set to approve yet another environment-destroying Monsanto product.  For what was supposed to be an environment-friendly administration this news proves them anything but.  This regime’s record on the environment (see Gulf Oil Spill) makes the Bush Administration look like the Sierra Club.  But there is still time to help avoid this disaster ans save the future of organic food.  I received this very important letter from Food Democracy Now:

Once again, the organic industry is under assault. As we alerted you earlier this year, Monsanto is eager to resume the marketing and sale of their Roundup Ready™ alfalfa.

Tom Vilsack, USDAFortunately, the possibility that Monsanto’s Roundup Ready™ alfalfa may be deregulated by the USDA has caught the attention of two leading members of Congress: Senator Patrick Leahy (D. Vermont) and Congressman Peter DeFazio (D. Oregon). We are joining with our partners at Center for Food Safety in encouraging members of Congress who support regulation of GMO alfalfa to sign their “Dear Colleague” letter, addressed to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, asking him to maintain the ban on GMO alfalfa, protecting farmers, the environment and the organic industry.1

If your legislator has not done so already, they have until the end of this week – 48 hours – to sign this letter and join their colleagues in asking Secretary Tom Vilsack to maintain the ban on Monsanto’s genetically-modified (GMO) Roundup Ready™ alfalfa.

This past March we invited you to send in your comments to the USDA asking them to not permit GMO alfalfa to be grown, jeopardizing the organic industry. Your response was overwhelming: in a 48-hour period more than 56,000 Food Democracy Now! members responded telling Secretary Vilsack that you value organics and the livelihood of farmers over corporate profits. We need to do it again.

We have 48 hours: Can you sign a letter to your congressman telling them that you want them to tell Secretary Vilsack to stop the approval of GMO alfalfa?


GMO Alfalfa and Organics

As you may already know, in April of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the deregulation of Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa.2 If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Monsanto, it could spell ruin for the organic industry. While we’re still waiting for a ruling from the Supreme Court, this is no time to be passive. If remarks from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia are any indication, we need to keep fighting. Justice Scalia’s words, regarding contamination of organic alfalfa were: “This isn’t contamination of the New York City water supply…This is not the end of the world.”

It may not be the end of the world, but it could spell the end of the organic dairy industry as well as end the export market of U.S. organic and natural alfalfa.3 Studies have shown, that if approved, contamination of organic alfalfa is certain.4 Once contaminated, the organic dairy sector, the cornerstone of organic agriculture, stands to lose billions of dollars, while thousands of other American farmers will lose a vital market in Europe and Japan where GMO-free alfalfa is widely sought.

Will you please take a moment to sign a letter to your representative asking them to sign this letter to Secretary Vilsack. And if you really want to take part in food democracy today, take another moment to call their office, showing your strong opposition to GMO alfalfa.


This is essentially the first time that a member of Congress has shown interest in championing an issue related to anti-GMO.  This is a crucial moment and it’s vital that we make our voices heard to our representatives and senators. We are counting on you today to sign your name and make the call.

Several senators and representatives have already signed, along with numerous non-profit organizations, businesses and companies to send a clear message to Congress saying “NO” to GMO alfalfa. We need your voice today – please join us. There may never be a better opportunity.

Thank you for participating in food democracy –

Dave, Lisa and The Food Democracy Now! Team

If you’d like to see Food Democracy Now!’s grassroots work continue, please consider donating. Every bit helps, whether it’s $5 or $50. We rely on the generosity of folks like you to keep us going. Thanks for all that YOU do!. We appreciate your support!



1. “Dear Colleague Letter, Join Bicameral Letter Asking USDA to Maintain Ban on Genetically Engineered Alfalfa”, Senator Pat Leahy, Representative Peter DeFazio, The National Organic Coalition.

2. “Alfalfa, from Monsanto’s Lab to the Supreme Court” The American Prospect, April 26, 2010.

3. “Roundup Ready alfalfa already impacting organic growers” Organic Seed Alliance website, May 25, 2010.

4. “GE Alfalfa Before the Supreme Court” Organic Seed Alliance website, April 27, 2010.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards

2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up


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