The Center for Food Safety is a Washington DC-based 501c3 non-profit litigating and regulatory advocacy organization founded in 1997 to oppose industrial agriculture and food production technologies including genetically modified plants and organisms (GMOs). CFS mobilizes constituencies, organizes activists and cooperates in public relations campaigns in partnership with Fenton Communications, a widely-recognized, progressive, Washington DC firm.
The Center for Food Safety’s agenda is heavily grant driven. Most of these grants, such as the one from the Foundation for Deep Ecology, come from hardline progressive groups. CFS appears to consider these grant relationships as cooperative partnerships over shared priorities.
CFS states its operating methods as “combin[ing] multiple tools and strategies in pursuing its goals, including litigation and legal petitions for rulemaking, legal support for various sustainable agriculture and food safety constituencies, as well as public education, grassroots organizing and media outreach.”
CFS sponsors the “Keep Nature Natural” campaign, a national initiative to drive grassroots contact to the Food and Drug Administration, requesting greater Federal oversight of genetically-modified foods. In this effort, they work in concert with Chefs Collaborative, Friends of the Earth, the Organic Consumers Association, and organic marketers Whole Foods Market and Eden Foods. CFS spearheads the foundational project of the “Keep Nature Natural” campaign: a legal petition filed by CFS demanding mandatory warning labelling for genetically improved foods. According to Craig Winters, who former ran The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods, “labeling has nearly the same effect as a ban” in regards to manipulating consumer choices.
CFS is also a member of the Fenton Communications–run “GE Food Alert” coalition, the coalition responsible for public concerns over StarLink biotech corn in 2000. Other members of the coalition 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 advisory board has several organic-food activists, including a registered, 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.
CFS’s executive director, Andrew Kimbrell, plays a more influential role in guiding his group than most Big Green organization leaders, a characteristic which comes largely from his legal background. Oddly, he was originally a concert pianist and music teacher in New York City before earning his JD from New York University Law School. He later established a small law firm, Kimbrell and Mendelson, with Joseph Mendelson III, who became legal director of CFS.
Kimbrell’s early employment was instrumental in shaping his policy beliefs and ideals. Beginning in 1986, Kimbrell worked as policy director of the Foundation on Economic Trends under anti-technology guru Jeremy Rifkin. Kimbrell was mentored by naturalist millionaire Douglas Tompkins, who encouraged him to form an the anti-technology organization, International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA) in 1994. Tompkins became Kimbrell’s first major funder, providing $150,000 annually to ICTA. Tompkins ended his contributions to Kimbrell in 2003, after nearly half a million dollars in grants.
Kimbrell decided to form the Center for Food Safety in 1997. But according to IRS 990s report, filed in 1998, CFS has a total revenue of only $61,940: $15,000 from his own ICTA assets and a personal gift of $35,000 from Alida Messinger, the youngest daughter of John D. Rockefeller III, a fourth-generation member of the Rockefeller family, and a trustee of the Rockefeller Family Fund. Things improved for Kimbrell: as of 2013, CFS had received $12.2 million in 186 grants from 55 foundations.
Kimbrell was also an officer of The Turning Point Project, an anti-technology organization funded largely by by Douglas Tompkins’ Foundation for Deep Ecology. Kimbrell spearheaded TPP efforts to place a series of full-page New York Times advertisements, highlighting claims that serious problems existed within biotechnology and conventional agriculture. TPP remained a so-called “dark money” project for its first five years, as industry groups had difficulty identifying Tompkins as a primary funding source. In 2011, TPP was stripped of its tax exempt status after failing to submit an annual form 990 for the third year running.
Kimbrell was also a board member of the International Forum on Globalization, an organization that claimed to “re-envision” a new global economy, largely focused on an alternative to capitalism.
Kimbrell also co-founded the Men’s Health Network, wrote The Human Body Shop (1994); The Masculine Mystique (1995); 101 Ways to Save the Earth (1990); and edited Jeremy Rifkin’s The Green Lifestyle Handbook (1990).
Adele Douglass (President) – Douglass is the founder and CEO of Humane Farm Animal Care.
Deborah Koons Garcia – Garcia is the Director, writer, and producer of the documentaries “The Future of Food” and “Symphony of Soil.” “The Future of Food” was shown over a dozen times as a work in progress in Mendocino County, California before the March 2004 election. It is credited with persuading Mendocino voters to pass California’s Measure H, which bans the planting of genetically engineered crops in Mendocino County.
Randy Hayes – Hayes is the founder and former president of Rainforest Action Network; founder of Foundation Earth; consultant for the World Future Council.
Dan Imhoff – Imhoff is the founder of Watershed Media; food systems researcher and author of several books including CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories and Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to a Food and Farm Bill.
George Naylor – Naylor is the former president of the National Family Farm Coalition; corn and soybean farmer. Active in Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. He was a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and is still opposing the introduction of genetically modified crops.
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.
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 erroneous 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.