The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Pesticide Action Network
(415) 981-6205 ext 325

Katherine Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition
(202) 543-5675

Alexis Baden-Mayer, Organic Consumers Association
(202) 986-6186

Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety
(202) 547-9359 x14

Jeannie Economos, Farmworker Association of Florida
(407) 886-5151

Broad Coalition Decries White House Defense of Pesticide Lobbyist Nomination

Weak Defense of Siddiqui Contrasts with Clear Pro-GMO, Anti-Organic Record


Sustainable agriculture advocates from around the country today
expressed deep disappointment with the Obama Administration's defense
of nominating Islam Siddiqui, a former pesticide lobbyist as our chief
agriculture trade representative at the office of the United States
Trade Representative. An article in yesterday's Politico ["Ag Nomination Steams Greens"] noted the controversy surrounding his nomination by environmental and family farm groups.

Siddiqui is currently a vice-president at Croplife America. Croplife is
an agrochemical industry trade group representing Monsanto, Syngenta,
DuPont and Dow Chemical, among others. Croplife America's regional
partner, Mid America CropLife Association, notoriously "shuddered" at
Michelle Obama's organic garden and launched a letter writing campaign
in protest. Katherine Ozer, Executive Director for the National Family
Farm Coalition, said, "We are still baffled by the White House
nominating a pesticide lobbyist for this key position, severely
undermining their credibility and rhetoric about the need for Americans
to have access to local, healthy, sustainable food."

The White House issued a defense of Siddiqui that unravels under
scruitiny, "During his time at USDA, Dr. Siddiqui led the first phase
of development for national organic natural food standards in the
United States." Organic Consumers Association was formed in the wake of
this controversial first phase, and expressed surprise and shock that
the White House would use this to bolster the case for Siddiqui. Alexis
Baden-Mayer, political director for OCA, said, "Our organization was
formed in 1998 due to the massive backlash consumers had against USDA's
initial controversial proposed regulations for organic food that would
have outrageously allowed for toxic sludge, irradiated foods and
genetically modified organisms to be labeled 'organic.' Only after an
unprecedented 230,000 consumers wrote USDA to protest the rules were
they strengthened. This only confirms to us why Siddiqui is the wrong
choice for this position."

Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist at Pesticide Action
Network, noted the double standard of ostensibly advocating for more
sustainable food at home while Siddiqui's appointment in fact advances
an agenda that undermines developing countries' capacity to feed
themselves: "Putting a CropLife official and former paid lobbyist in
charge of U.S. agricultural trade policy sends the worst kind of
message to the world. This appointment tells the world that the U.S.
will continue to value the interests of our massive chemical pesticide
and biotech industry over any serious concern for public health, the
environment or the well-being of farmworkers and communities around the
world. We will be calling on the Senate Finance Committee to reject
this nomination." Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for
Food Safety, added, "An Administration that nominates the top salesman
of the pesticide/biotech industry to represent U.S. agricultural
interests overseas cannot be taken seriously as an advocate of
sustainable agriculture. The U.S. should promote organic and
sustainable farming, not pesticides and GM crops."

Farmworker groups fighting for years to regulate pesticide use were
also disappointed by the White House's defense of Siddiqui. The
Farmworker Association of Florida, which represents 6,700 farm worker
families working in the tomato and citrus industries, remains disturbed
by the appointment. "Siddiqui's role at USTR will not be about
promoting organic products, but eliminating trade barriers for
developing countries to accept toxic chemicals and pesticides," said
Tirso Moreno, general coordinator for FWAF. "That is CropLife America's
agenda. They continue to try to stop any international attempts to help
us regulate pesticide uses. Farmworkers have the highest rate of
chemical-related illnesses of any occupational group. Our community
suffers from nausea, liver damage, birth defects, and cancer as a
result of exposure to these poisons. For the health of farmworkers
around the world, we urge that his nomination be rejected."