This article was first published as "Who Is the Dairy Coalition?", PR Watch, volume 8, number 1, First Quarter 2001. The original article was authored by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber and is used here with permission. As with all SourceWatch articles, feel free to edit and revise.
Created by the PR and lobby firm of Capitoline/ MS&L with funding from the National Milk Producers Federation, the Dairy Coalition is composed of business, government and non-profit groups, including university researchers funded by Monsanto as well as other carefully selected "third party" experts. Dick Weiss, director of the Dairy Coalition, now works with former Monsanto rBGH lobbyist Carol Tucker Foreman at the Consumer Federation of America. Dairy Coalition participants include:
- The International Food Information Council, which calls itself "a non-profit organization that disseminates sound, scientific information on food safety and nutrition to journalists, health professionals, government officials and consumers." In reality, IFIC is a public relations arm of the food and beverage industries, which provide the bulk of its funding. Its staff members hail from industry groups such as the Sugar Association and the National Soft Drink Association, and it has repeatedly led the defense for controversial food additives including monosodium glutamate, aspartame (Nutrasweet), food dyes, and olestra.
- The American Farm Bureau Federation, the powerful conservative lobby behind the movement to pass food disparagement laws like the one under which Oprah Winfrey was sued in Texas.
- The American Dietetic Association, a national association of registered dietitians that works closely with IFIC and hauls in large sums of money advocating for the food industry. Its stated mission is to "improve the health of the public," but with 15 percent of its budget--more than $3 million--coming from food companies and trade groups, it has learned not to bite the hand that feeds it.
"They never criticize the food industry," says Joan Gussow, a former head of the nutrition education program at Teachers College at Columbia University. The ADA's website even contains a series of "fact sheets" about various food products, sponsored by the same corporations that make them (Monsanto for biotechnology; Procter & Gamble for olestra; Ajinomoto for MSG; the National Association of Margarine Manufacturers for fats and oils).
- The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, representing the top executive of every department of agriculture in all 50 states.
- The Grocery Manufacturers of America, whose member companies account for more than $460 billion in sales annually. GMA itself is a lobbying powerhouse in Washington, spending $1.4 million for that purpose in 1998 and currently-funding a multi-million-dollar PR campaign for genetically engineered foods.
- The Food Marketing Institute, a trade association of food retailers and wholesalers, whose grocery store members represent three fourths of grocery sales in the United States.