For Immediate Release - March 29, 2010
Obama Installs Pesticide Lobbyist to Key Post
Siddiqui appointed over recess, over-riding public protest & democratic process
SAN FRANCISCO - Over-riding unprecedented public opposition to an agricultural trade nominee, President Obama quietly installed Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the US Trade Office, over the Senate recess. Siddiqui is a former pesticide lobbyist and vice president of regulatory affairs for Crop Life America, a lobbying group representing the interests of pesticide and biotech corporations.
Last fall over 90,000 concerned citizens joined 80+ groups in registering their opposition to Siddiqui's appointment. Groups included family farmer and farmworker groups, anti-hunger, trade, faith-based, sustainable agriculture and environmental advocates. The number of organizations uniting in opposition to Siddiqui's appointment has since grown to over 100. Critics point to CropLife's record in pushing EPA to allow testing of pesticides on children and its efforts to weaken or thwart international treaties governing the use of and export of toxic chemicals. Siddiqui's aggressive promotion of transgenic crops and his rejection of other countries' use of the precautionary principle in restricting GMO imports have also come under fire.
Dr. Marcia Ishiii Eiteman, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network, comments, "Both Siddiqui and Congress now face a well-informed and outraged citizenry and an unprecedented mobilization of public interest groups. The American public will be closely monitoring Siddiqui at his new job, and evaluating whether his actions will truly benefit small-scale family farmers in the U.S. and abroad, workers, consumers and the environment-or whether they will benefit large corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill."
Siddiqui's nomination comes at a moment of heated global debate about the best way to feed the world's 1 billion hungry people. Companies like Monsanto, which CropLife represents, claim that genetically-engineered seeds will boost yields. However, decades of scientific research show that those promises have yet to materialize, while international experts involved in the International Assessment Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) study warn against genetic engineering as a solution to world hunger. A lead author on the IAASTD report, Ishii-Eiteman adds, "The IAASTD highlights the need for better access to land, a focus on ecological techniques, building local economies, local control of seeds, and farmer-led participatory research. Siddiqui will need to quickly learn a new set of priorities to serve the public interest and support the food and livelihood security of farmers here and around the world."