Non-profit

Center for Food Safety

Website:

www.centerforfoodsafety.org/

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

52-2165893

DUNS Number:

60-341-6996

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2018):

Revenue: $3,416,236
Expenses: $3,539,790
Assets: $1,074,050

Formation:

1997

Type:

Environmentalist non-profit with a lobbying arm

Executive Director:

Andrew Kimbrell

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is a left-of-center, environmentalist nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The organization opposes biotechnology, especially the production of genetically engineered (GE) foods. [1] CFS has lobbied the federal government in support of bills to require the labeling of GE foods. [2] CFS also maintains an office in San Francisco, California and has successfully lobbied the state of California to impose regulations against certain biotechnologies. [3] [4]

CFS also launches legal campaigns to limit the production of GE foods and increase the power of the government to regulate agriculture and food production. CFS has sued both Democratic and Republican presidential administrations in order to pursue increased food regulations. In 2006, CFS initiated the lawsuit that developed into the Supreme Court case of Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms. In the case, CFS sought to stop the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa crops. [5]

CFS and its leadership have come under criticism for their lack of complexity in discussing the science regarding GE foods. [6] [7] [8] The Genetic Literacy Project has reported that CFS helped to spread a later-debunked theory that “mad cow” disease was solely the result of genetically engineered livestock. [9] CFS has also been criticized in a report published by the American Enterprise Institute as portraying its anti-biotechnology cause as having broad grassroots support when it is actually funded by wealthy, left-of-center foundations. [10]

Founding and Leadership

Andrew Kimbrell founded the International Center for Technology Assessment (CTA) in 1994. In 1997, Kimbrell created the Center for Food Safety as a separate organization, though the two nonprofits continued to use the same office space, and Kimbrell remained the executive director of both organizations. [11] [12] [13] Kimbrell previously worked as a policy director for the Foundation on Economic Trends, a nonprofit run by economist and environmentalist author Jeremy Rifkin. [14] [15] For decades, Rifkin has advocated against traditional sources of energy production, against genetically engineered food, and against the production of beef, but his work has frequently been criticized by scientists for its lack of academic rigor. [16] [17] [18]

Kimbrell is an attorney who has launched multiple lawsuits aimed at expanding the federal government’s power to regulate the economy and inhibit the production of genetically engineered food. [19] [20] Kimbrell has advocated for the government-mandated labelling of genetically engineered food. [21] According to tax documents, Kimbrell received $187,425 in compensation from CFS in 2018. [22]

Rebecca Spector, west coast director for CFS, previously worked as the director of development for Green Seal, an “ecolabeling” organization that works with federal, state, and local governments to label products based on standards of environmental impact developed by Green Seal. [23] [24] In her work with CFS, Spector has successfully lobbied the state of California to limit the production of genetically engineered fish. [25]

George Kimbrell, legal director for CFS, filed suit in the case that developed into the Supreme Court case Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms. In the case, CFS sought to stop the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa crops. [26] [27] [28] [29]

The CFS Board of Directors contains many members with decades of experience in opposing biotechnology. Deborah Koons Garcia wrote and directed the 2004 anti-GE film The Future of Food, in which Kimbrell appeared. [30] The film has been criticized as a “propaganda documentary” by The Denver Post, “one-sided” by The Hollywood Reporter, and “partisan” by Variety. [31] [32] [33]

Adele Douglass founded Humane Farm Animal Care, a nonprofit that labels animal products as “certified humane” based on standards for the treatment of farm animals developed by Humane Farm Animal Care. [34]

Randy Hayes was a founder and former president of the Rainforest Action Network, a left-of-center environmentalist organization. [35] Hayes also founded Foundation Earth, an environmentalist think tank that encourages elementary school students to take a “Pledge of Allegiance to the Earth.” [36]

Dan Imhoff founded the Wild Farm Alliance, an organization that opposes industrialized farming techniques. [37] He has written numerous environmentalist books and articles, and his work has been published in The Atlantic. [38] [39] [40]

George Naylor is a former president of the National Family Farm Coalition, an organization that supports increased government regulation of the agricultural and meat-packing sectors. [41] [42]

Political Activism

The Center for Food Safety has engaged in legal action and lobbying to achieve its goals. In the state of California, CFS has employed the lobbying group Fearless Advocacy. On behalf of CFS, Fearless Advocacy has lobbied the government of California in support of anti-biotechnology, left-of-center environmentalist regulations. [43] [44] [45] Since 2015, CFS has paid over $360,000 to Fearless Advocacy for its services. [46]

CFS also lobbies the federal government. According to available information, CFS spent $140,000 lobbying in support of bills to mandate the labeling of GE foods between 2013 and 2016 alone. [47] [48] CFS also has a sister advocacy organization, the Center for Food Safety Action Fund. [49] However, according to tax documents, the CFS Action Fund only took in $15,150 in revenue and reported net losses of $239,595 in 2018. [50]

CFS is also affiliated with the Hawai’i Center for Food Safety Action Fund. The group opposes GE-seeds and foods in the state of Hawaii. [51] [52]

CFS brings lawsuits to advance its anti-GE goals. CFS often partners with the left-of-center, public interest law firm Earthjustice in these lawsuits. [53] In 2006, CFS filed suit in the case that developed into the Supreme Court case Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms. In the case, CFS sought to stop the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa crops. [54] [55] [56] [57]

In 2016, CFS and Earthjustice sued the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to overturn the FDA’s approval of genetically engineered salmon. [58] In 2020, CFS sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to challenge the USDA’s decision not to require on-package labeling of most genetically engineered foods. [59]

CFS also writes amicus curie briefs in environmentalist lawsuit. In 2013, CFS filed an amicus curie brief in the Supreme Court case Bowman v. Monsanto, a case challenging the patent rights of Monsanto over its genetically engineered seeds. [60] The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of Monsanto and against the position supported by CFS. [61]

Aside from its litigation work, CFS engages in public advocacy campaigns to influence public opinion against genetically engineered foods. In 1999, Andrew Kimbrell sat on the board that helped design the Turning Point campaign, an anti-GE communications campaign funded by the Foundation for Deep Ecology. [62] The campaign printed advertisements in newspapers with shocking, fear-provoking headlines, including the “Extinction Crisis,” “Genetic Roulette,” and “Who plays God in the 21st century?”. [63] The CFS website currently has a “Take Action” section with links for users to send automatic form letters to their members of Congress to express anti-biotechnology opinions. [64] [65]

In 2021, CFS opposed former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s nomination to his old position by President Joe Biden. [66]

Controversy

According to the Genetic Literacy Project, the Center for Food Safety spread a later debunked theory that “mad cow” disease was exclusively the result of genetically engineered livestock. [67]

Scientists have held that the issues of chemical compounds in natural and genetically engineered foods are much more complicated than advocates like CFS present. [68] Andrew Kimbrell has been criticized on Biology Fortified, a pro-biotechnology blog, as using “jargon” in order to obscure the proven benefits of genetic modification. [69]

In 2003, the center-right American Enterprise Institute (AEI) criticized CFS in a report that was later reprinted as a chapter of a book published by AEI, Let Them Eat Precaution. [70]  The report criticized Andrew Kimbrell and CFS for being linked in leadership to dozens of “independent” organizations that in total possessed “tens of millions of dollars.” The piece accused anti-biotechnology advocates of frequently forming and dissolving new organizations to “avoid prolonged public scrutiny” and portray their cause as having broad grassroots support when it was really funded by wealthy, left-progressive foundations. [71]

Funding

In 2018, CFS had revenues totaling $3,539,790. [72] According to the Genetic Literacy Project, the Center for Food Safety has “strong financial ties to the organic and natural products industries.” [73]  The Center for Food Safety has also received funding from many left-of-center and environmentalist organizations, including Patagonia, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Alida R. Messinger Charitable Lead Trust, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Marisla Foundation, the Panta Rhea Foundation, the Firedoll Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Compton Foundation, the Columbia Foundation, the Boston Foundation, and the Foundation for Deep Ecology. [74]

References

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  2. “Client Profile: Center for Food Safety.” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/summary?cycle=2016&id=F202487. ^
  3. “Leadership.” Center for Food Safety. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/staff. ^
  4. “Victories.” Center for Food Safety. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/victories. ^
  5. Bottemiller, Helena. “Supreme Court Hears GMO Alfalfa Case.” Food Safety News. April 30, 2010. Accessed May 18, 2021.  https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/04/supreme-court-hears-gm-alfalfa-case/#:~:text=Tuesday%20the%20Supreme%20Court%20heard%20its%20first%20oral,Farms%2C%20has%20reignited%20the%20discussion%20over%20GMOs%20. ^
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  29. Bottemiller, Helena. “Supreme Court Hears GMO Alfalfa Case.” Food Safety News. April 30, 2010. Accessed May 18, 2021.  https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/04/supreme-court-hears-gm-alfalfa-case/#:~:text=Tuesday%20the%20Supreme%20Court%20heard%20its%20first%20oral,Farms%2C%20has%20reignited%20the%20discussion%20over%20GMOs%20. ^
  30. “CFS Board of Directors.” Center for Food Safety. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/board-of-directors. ^
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  32. Havis, Richard. “The Future of Food.” The Hollywood Reporter. September 28, 2005. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://web.archive.org/web/20060105005723/http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/reviews/review_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001181873. ^
  33. Koehler, Robert. “The Future of Food.” Variety. January 3, 2005. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://variety.com/2005/film/reviews/the-future-of-food-1200528865/. ^
  34. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Certified Humane. Accessed May 25, 2021. https://certifiedhumane.org/how-we-work/frequently-asked-questions/#2. ^
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  46. “Center for Food Safety.” California State Lobbying Search. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://calobbysearch.org/ ^
  47. “Client Profile: Center for Food Safety.” OpenSecrets.org. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/federal-lobbying/clients/summary?cycle=2016&id=F202487. ^
  48. “Center for Food Safety.” U.S. Senate LDA. Accessed May 19, 2021.  https://lda.senate.gov/filings/public/filing/search. ^
  49. “About CFS Action Fund.” Center for Food Safety Action Fund. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://cfsactionfund.org/about-cfs-action-fund/. ^
  50. Center for Food Safety Action Fund Form 990. 2018. Accessed May 23, 2021.  https://www.causeiq.com/organizations/center-for-food-safety-action-fund,460640219/. ^
  51. “Hawai’i CFS.” Center for Food Safety. Accessed May 24, 2021. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/hawaii. ^
  52. “About Hawai’i Center for Food Safety Action.” Hawai’i Center for Food Safety Action Fund.” Accessed May 24, 2021. https://hawaiicfsaf.org/. ^
  53. “Center for Food Safety: Legal swat team of the anti-GMO and anti-pesticide movements.” Genetic Literacy Project. April 23, 2021. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/glp-facts/center-for-food-safety-legal-swat-team-of-the-anti-gmo-and-anti-pesticide-movements/. ^
  54. “Down To Earth: Q&A With CFS Attorney George Kimbrell.” Earthjustice. June 2011. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://earthjustice.org/features/ourwork/down-to-earth-qa-with-cfs-attorney-george-kimbrell. ^
  55. Laskawy, Tom. “Supreme Court’s ruling on Monsanto’s GE alfalfa: Who won?” Grist. June 22, 2010. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://grist.org/article/food-supreme-court-ruling-on-monsanto-alfalfa/. ^
  56. “Leadership.” Center for Food Safety. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/staff. ^
  57. Bottemiller, Helena. “Supreme Court Hears GMO Alfalfa Case.” Food Safety News. April 30, 2010. Accessed May 18, 2021.  https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/04/supreme-court-hears-gm-alfalfa-case/#:~:text=Tuesday%20the%20Supreme%20Court%20heard%20its%20first%20oral,Farms%2C%20has%20reignited%20the%20discussion%20over%20GMOs%20. ^
  58. “Federal Court Declares Genetically Engineered Salmon Unlawful.” November 5, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/6186/federal-court-declares-genetically-engineered-salmon-unlawful. ^
  59. “Lawsuit Challenges ‘Bioengineered’ GMO Food Labeling.” July 28, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/6100/lawsuit-challenges-bioengineered-gmo-food-labeling. ^
  60. Boschma, Janie. “Monsanto: Big Guy on the Block When it Comes to Friends in Washington.” OpenSecrets.org. February 19, 2013. Accessed May 19, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2013/02/monsanto/. ^
  61. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/2209/supreme-court-rules-against-farmers#:~:text=Center%20for%20Food%20Safety%20%28CFS%29%20expressed%20strong%20disagreement,on%20behalf%20of%20CFS%20and%20Save%20Our%20Seeds. ^
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  65. “Tell Congress to Support the Saving America’s Pollinators Act.” Center for Food Safety. Accessed May 23, 2021. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/actions/5051/tell-congress-to-support-the-saving-americas-pollinators-act. ^
  66. “Center for Food Safety Opposes Tom Vilsack’s Potential Nomination for Secretary of Agriculture.” Center for Food Safety. Accessed May 23, 2021. https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press-releases/6215/center-for-food-safety-opposes-tom-vilsacks-potential-nomination-for-secretary-of-agriculture. ^
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  71. Byrne, Jay. “The Agricultural Biotechnology Protest Industry.” Scribd. June 12, 2003. Accessed May 24, 2021. https://www.scribd.com/document/71170991/AEI-Byrne-Biotechnology-Protest-Industry-2003. ^
  72. Center for Food Safety Form 990. 2018. Accessed May 23, 2021. https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/522165893/06_2020_prefixes_51-57%2F522165893_201812_990_2020060917181848. ^
  73. “Center for Food Safety: Legal swat team of the anti-GMO and anti-pesticide movements.” Genetic Literacy Project. April 23, 2021. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/glp-facts/center-for-food-safety-legal-swat-team-of-the-anti-gmo-and-anti-pesticide-movements/. ^
  74. “Center for Food Safety: Legal swat team of the anti-GMO and anti-pesticide movements.” Genetic Literacy Project. April 23, 2021. Accessed May 18, 2021. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/glp-facts/center-for-food-safety-legal-swat-team-of-the-anti-gmo-and-anti-pesticide-movements/. ^
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: July 1, 1999

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2018 Dec Form 990 $3,416,236 $3,539,790 $1,074,050 $311,618 N $3,298,691 $0 $271 $206,073 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $4,418,315 $4,380,584 $1,141,243 $255,257 N $4,324,564 $0 $300 $232,848 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $4,641,510 $5,248,663 $1,024,012 $175,069 N $4,172,009 $0 $675 $245,115 PDF
    2015 Dec Form 990 $5,720,841 $6,213,212 $1,740,445 $283,894 N $5,634,543 $0 $936 $0 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $5,231,088 $5,517,022 $2,156,609 $207,687 N $3,487,170 $3,200 $654 $236,089 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $3,936,286 $4,496,516 $2,486,317 $251,461 N $3,852,166 $0 $2,978 $227,991 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $7,241,563 $5,256,886 $3,016,428 $221,342 N $3,814,774 $0 $1,527 $222,540 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $2,908,093 $2,521,780 $868,860 $58,451 N $2,872,267 $0 $570 $143,312 PDF
    2010 Dec Form 990 $2,077,555 $2,057,779 $590,683 $166,937 N $1,997,948 $9,750 $289 $135,177 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Center for Food Safety

    660 PENNSYLVANIA AVE SE
    WASHINGTON, DC 20003-4346