The popular agriculture company Monsanto is partnering with First Lady Michelle Obama to promote nutritional foods for kids. According to reports from the Associated Press, Monsanto will spend $50 million over five years on a campaign to market ‘healthy’ genetically modified food to children. The agrochemical company will also bring its food offerings for kids in line with the new federal standards for labeling and nutrition.
Obama announced her intentions in front of crates of fresh produce on Thursday. “When I see a company like Monsanto launch an initiative like this, I feel more hopeful than ever before,” said the First Lady. “We can improve how we make and sell food in this country.”
“It’s a natural extension of what we do,” Monsanto vice president, Michael Stern, told the AP in reference to the new partnership with the first lady.
Throughout the First Lady’s trademark campaign, “Let’s Move,” she has attempted to tackle childhood obesity by promoting healthy eating. Although the first lady has largely avoided pursuing big food corporations, most often detailing the importance of personal responsibility and fitness rather than government interference, there are signs that she’s getting more aggressive. Late last year she convened a White House summit to convince agribusiness to rethink their marketing efforts towards children.
Conservatives, who have blasted Obama’s efforts to improve public school lunches as “the nanny state personified,” are equally displeased with her ventures into the private sector. “Get ready to see Michelle Obama’s face plastered all over your local grocery stores,” said one right-wing blogger.
For Michelle Obama, Monsanto represents a key ally, albeit a controversial one. It is the leading producer of genetically engineered seeds in the country and works with a vast array of farmers across the world. One move by Monsanto can ripple throughout the industry, and the company has grown increasingly bold in tackling complex social and political issues.
“We are obviously conscious about where we walk and who we walk with,” said Sam Kass, assistant White House chef and coordinator of food initiatives. “But it was clear that this is potentially transformative.”
In recent years, Monsanto has reached out to Democrats and sought out political appointments within government. Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former Vice President for Public Policy, is now Deputy Commissioner of the Federal Drug and Food Administration. Time will tell how these ties between Monsanto and the federal government effect our nation’s youth.