President Obama has found himself with some strange bedfellows lately.
While on the campaign trail in Iowa, Barack Obama boasted, “We’ll tell ConAgra that it’s not the Department of Agribusiness. We’re going to put the people’s interests ahead of the special interests.”1 Despite that promise, it seems that ConAgra’s friends at Monsanto and CropLife are still finding their way into the USDA.
Last month, President Obama nominated two “Big Ag” power brokers–Roger Beachy and Islam Siddiqui–to key agency positions, putting agribusiness executives in charge of our country’s agricultural research and trade policy. Please join us in telling the President that this isn’t the change we voted for. We don’t want Big Ag running the show any more.
Siddiqui’s confirmation hearing is set for next week. Please help us reach our goal of 50,000 signatures to make a real impact.
Obama’s first agribusiness selection is Roger Beachy, to be head of the USDA’s newly created National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Beachy is the founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO. It may sound innocuous, but the Danforth Center is essentially the non-profit arm of GMO seed giant Monsanto; Monsanto’s CEO sits on its board, and the company provides considerable funding for the Center’s operations.2
As the head of the USDA’s new research arm, formerly known as the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CREES), Beachy is responsible for deciding how U.S. research dollars will be spent in agriculture.3 Translation: more research on biotech, less research on how to scale sustainable and organic agriculture.
Unfortunately, Beachy has already started work at the USDA, but the next nominee—Islam Siddiqui—still must be confirmed by the U.S.Senate. Siddiqui, the Vice President of Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, was recently nominated to be the Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the Office of the US Trade Representative.4 Amazingly, when Michele Obama planted her “organic” garden on the White House lawn, Siddiqui’s CropLife MidAmerica said the pesticide-free garden made them “shudder”.5
During his career, Siddiqui spent over 3 years as a pesticide lobbyist, an Undersecretary at the USDA and a VP at CropLife. In defending Siddiqui, the White House has stated that he played a key role in helping establish the country’s first organic standards.6 What they neglect to mention, though, is that those original organic standards would have allowed irradiation, sewage sludge and GMOs to undermine organic integrity! The standards were so watered down that 230,000 people signed a petition for them to be changed, which they eventually were.7
Fortunately, the organic community stopped Siddiqui and his cronies then, and we need your help now to do it again. If Siddiqui’s nomination is allowed to go through, then agribusiness will continue to control the seeds, the science, and the distribution of global food and agriculture.
Please join Food Democracy Now! and a broad coalition of other groups, in calling on President Obama to keep his campaign promise of closing the revolving door between agribusiness and his administration.
Thanks for standing with us and our coalition partners from across the country, including: The Pesticide Action Network (PAN), National Family Farm Coalition, Food & Water Watch, Farmworker’s Association of Florida, Institute of Agriculture & Trade Policy, Greenpeace and the Center for Food Safety in calling for President Obama to live up to his promises to put people’s interests ahead of special interests
Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! Team.
1. Obama slams corporate agriculture, two Illinois firms, The Chicago Tribune, November 10, 2007
2. Another Monsanto man in a key USDA post?, Grist, September 24, 2009
3. A New Direction on Research at the USDA? The Experts Weigh In, The Huffington Post, October 15, 2009
4. Obama’s attempt to tap an agrichemical-industry flack runs into trouble, Grist, October 10, 2009
5. Michelle’s green garden upsets pesticide makers, The First Post, April 23, 2009
6. Agriculture nomination steams greens, Politico, October 10, 2009
7. USDA Enters Debate on Organic Label Law, The New York Times, February 23, 2003 http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/26/dining/26WELL.html?ex=1047277541&ei=1&en=2%201d089423d2791bf