Obama’s 'Agribusiness as Usual' Problem

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Heather Pilatic, Communications Director Pesticide Action Network North America heather@panna.org

Ben Lilliston Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy 612.870.3416 BLilliston@iatp.org 

Obama’s 'Agribusiness as Usual' Problem

Biotech- and Industry-Friendly Ag Appointments have Farm, Hunger and Enviro Groups Lining Up in Protest

SAN FRANCISCO, CLEAR LAKE and ROME - More people than ever before do not have enough to eat. For the
first time since such records have been kept, the ranks of the world's
hungry passed 1 billion in 2009, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture
last week released findings that 1 in 7 Americans are "food insecure" -
a figure surprising even to anti-hunger activists. Meanwhile, Obama's
increasingly clear "agribusiness as usual" agenda has civil society
groups up in arms.

Islam Siddiqui's Senate Finance Committee vote has been scheduled for
10:00 am, Thursday November 19. Observers expect his nomination to come
before the full Senate for a vote in advance on the World Trade
Organization ministerial on November 30.

Siddiqui, a former lobbyist and current vice president for regulatory
affairs for CropLife America - the agribusiness industry trade group -
is one of a string of recent appointments that are raising concerns
among a broad coalition of sustainable agriculture, family farm,
farmworker, environmental, anti-hunger and trade groups. 80+ groups and
over 75,000 individuals have signed their names in protest and that
groundswell is growing in the lead-up to his Senate confirmation.

"On the campaign trail Barack Obama promised that he would end business
as usual in Washington; Siddiqui's nomination is a fundamental
violation of that campaign pledge," commented Dave Murphy, director of
Food Democracy Now! "Instead of dipping into the same stale pond of
radical ‘free' trade and GMO proponents, President Obama should
nominate individuals that have a new vision for agriculture that is
sustainable both economically and environmentally."

Kathryn Gilje, Executive Director for Pesticide Action Network, noted
that Siddiqui's nomination is one in a telling series of
industry-friendly appointments: "First ‘Biotech Governor of the Year'
Tom Vilsack, then Monsanto's Michael Taylor, then Roger Beachy (another
Monsanto man), then CropLife lobbyist Islam Siddiqui, and now Rajiv
Shah as U.S. AID administrator. The administration's approach to global
food, farming and foreign aid policy is coming into focus, and it seems
to be something on the order of, ‘Green Revolution 2.0 here we come.'
Never mind that the first one isn't feeding the world now."

The first "Green Revolution" exported an agricultural model dependent
on synthetic pesticides and fertilizers to the developing world with
the promise of addressing hunger and feeding a growing population. 40
years later, the Green Revolution's top-down approach to development
and resource-intensive system of farming are widely criticized as
politically and environmentally unsustainable. With what has been
called the second "Green Revolution," genetically engineered (GE) seeds
and the pesticides that go with them are promised as 21st century
solutions to the converging crises of climate, water and food. After 20
years of research and 13 years of commercialization however, GE crops
have failed to deliver on promises of increased yields, drought
tolerance or better nutrition.

Agriculture and trade policies in countries around the world have been
subject to U.S. development and foreign aid policy tools that promote
the export of agricultural biotechnology. Countries and peoples are
resisting this second "Green Revolution" on a number of points. Key
among these points of resistance have been concerns for human and
environmental health risks associated with the adoption GE crops, and a
renewed insistence upon re-localizing food and farming policy.     

"We have a global trade policy that has been stuck for over a year, in
large part because the U.S. has ignored the call to consider new
approaches to trade in agriculture that would advance food security,"
explained Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Director of International Programs at the
Institute for Trade and Agricultural Policy. "Siddiqui's promotion of
biotechnology is at odds with the sensible demands advanced by
developing country farmers to allow them the space to work out
sustainable and fair solutions that make sense in their particular
contexts."

Available for Interviews:

Kathryn Gilje, Executive Director, Pesticide Action Network,
Kathryn@panna.org, (415) 235 - 9437

Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy,
khansenkuhn@iatp.org, (202) 222-0749

Dave Murphy, Food Democracy Now!,
dmurphy123@gmail.com,  (917) 968-7369

 

Resources:

To view the petition to President Obama protesting the nominations of Siddiqui and Roger Beachy, see: http://action.panna.org/t/5185/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=2150

New York Times Editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/04/opinion/04wed4.html?scp=1&sq=siddiqui&st=cse

Democracy Now! coverage: http://www.democracynow.org/2009/11/17/obama_nominates_pesticide_executive_to_be

Politico coverage: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1009/28722.html

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PANNA (Pesticide Action Network North America) works to replace pesticide use with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives. As one of five autonomous PAN Regional Centers worldwide, we link local and international consumer, labor, health, environment and agriculture groups into an international citizens' action network. This network challenges the global proliferation of pesticides, defends basic rights to health and environmental quality, and works to ensure the transition to a just and viable society.

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