Food Democracy Now is circulating a petition to be presented to President Obama. I have signed and passed it on to growers and supporters of organic and sustainably grown food. If you want control of our food supply in the hands of corporate agricultural, stop here. If you want our food supply to become safer and more secure, read on and sign the petition.
Dear President Obama,
We urge you to withdraw the nomination of Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agriculture Negotiator and to reconsider your support of Roger Beachy as director of the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Siddiqui is CropLife’s current vice president of science and regulatory affairs, and until last month, Beachy was the head of Monsanto’s de facto nonprofit research arm. As two textbook cases of the “revolving door” between industry and the agencies meant to keep watch, Siddiqui and Beachy’s industry ties demonstrate that both men are too beholden to corporate agriculture to serve the public interest.
Appointing Siddiqui to this critical post within the U.S. Trade Representative’s office sends a clear signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. plans to continue down the worn and failed path of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture by pushing pesticides, inappropriate biotechnologies and unfair trade arrangements on nations that do not want and can least afford them. Siddiqui’s professional record is revealing on several points:
- Siddiqui was a paid lobbyist for 3 years for Croplife America, which represents the chemical pesticide and ag biotechnology interests. Members include Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta.
- CropLife America’s regional partner had notoriously “shuddered” at Michelle Obama’s organic White House garden for failing to use chemical pesticides and launched a letter petition drive, urging the First Lady to consider using insecticides and herbicides in her garden.
- CropLife America has consistently lobbied the U.S government to weaken and thwart international treaties governing the use and export of toxic chemicals such as PCBs, DDT and dioxins.
- Siddiqui’s past service at the USDA included overseeing the initial development of national organic food standards that would have allowed GMOs and toxic sludge to be labeled “organic”— until over 230,000 consumers forced their revision.
As the global food crisis deepens and we head into the Doha round of trade talks at the WTO, the U.S. needs a lead negotiator who understands that the current configuration of trade agreements works neither for farmers nor for the world’s hungry. All eyes are on the U.S. to demonstrate international leadership in this arena by withdrawing support for an industrial model of agriculture that imperils both people and the planet, by undermining food security and worsening climate change.
In his capacity as director of NIFA, Roger Beachy will be in charge of the nation’s agricultural research agenda and purse strings for the next six years. Given Beachy’s previous career running the Danforth Plant Science Center, a nonprofit closely linked to and funded by Monsanto, we believe that billions more in government funding will be funneled into genetic engineering and chemical pesticide research. Meanwhile the real solutions to our growing agricultural problems, provided by sustainable and organic agriculture research, will suffer from a lack of federal funding and attention.
Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, agricultural biotechnology—of the kind aggressively promoted and marketed by CropLife— has failed to deliver on any of its promises of higher yields for U.S. farmers, “enhanced nutrition” or drought-resistance for developing country farmers. What Monsanto’s research agenda has yielded is skyrocketing herbicide use, resistant “super-weeds”, rising debt for farmers, polluted waterways, threats to the health of farmworkers and rural communities, and unparalleled corporate consolidation in the agrochemical and seed industries. The top 10 agribusinesses control 89% of the agrochemicals market, 66% of the modern biotech market and 67% of the global seed market.
With farmers here and abroad struggling to respond to water scarcity and increasingly volatile growing conditions, we need a resilient and restorative model of agriculture that adapts to and mitigates these effects of climate change. In the most comprehensive analysis of global agriculture to date, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), states unequivocally that “business as usual is not an option.” We need a model of agriculture that regenerates soil health, sequesters carbon, feeds communities, and puts profits back in the hands of farmers and rural communities. Industrial agriculture—and Roger Beachy, Islam Siddiqui and CropLife in particular—favor none of these solutions.
While we appreciate your Administration’s recent gestures in support of local food systems, we fear these initiatives will not fulfill their potential unless the monopolistic power and political influence of the agricultural input industry is directly confronted. We therefore respectfully ask you to withdraw your appointments of Siddiqui and Beachy, and replace them with candidates who have a sustainable vision for U.S. agriculture and trade.
As parents, farmers, advocates, scientists and people who eat food, we remember your promise on the campaign trail: “We’ll tell ConAgra that it’s not the Department of Agribusiness. It’s the Department of Agriculture. We’re going to put the people’s interests ahead of the special interests.” We, the undersigned, are writing to hold you to that promise.