Losing Our Food Freedom

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.

Sheila Velazquez lives and writes in Northwest Massachusetts. Her work is informed by decades of experience with unions, agriculture, public health, politics and her support of populism. She welcomes contact by email: simplelifestyle101@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Sheila.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. byerly woodward said on October 31st, 2009 at 4:08pm #

    Surely there are some good candidates who are not so totally tied to agribusiness. People ahead of special interests–remember?

  2. ned lud said on October 31st, 2009 at 4:10pm #

    I just signed the petition. I would also like to take this moment, as a former small family-sized dairy farmer, to publicly CONDEMN the actions of Organic Valley–Family of Farms, and the National Farmer’s Organization, two supposedly family farmer friendly organizations, both of which vilified me as a person and failed in any number of ways to counter and/or oppose the increasingly severe measures and regulations aimed at eliminating small traditional farms and in fact added their own crimes and irresponsibility, in ways specific and deeply harmful to myself and my family and also damaging to our farm property and livestock. I hope (hope!) to one day, make them pay in court. May God help me.

  3. Sam said on October 31st, 2009 at 5:43pm #

    If I thought it would make one damn bit of difference by signing yet another petition to send to some scum of the earth war criminal in La Casa Blanca (the White House) who doesn’t give a damn about any of this stuff nor does he take his orders from us/We The People, I would sign it. But in the end, the petition is a waste of paper that it’s printed on.

    WHEN since 2000 was the last time that any petition had any bearing on these trash in power?…considering the state of things today. That’s just the reality of the situation.

    Lots of $$$$$$$$$$$$$ and corporate thieves are in control. Not petitions.

  4. Don Hawkins said on October 31st, 2009 at 6:26pm #

    Sam one thing for sure.

    That old man river,
    He just keeps rolling along.

  5. Marc Schlee said on October 31st, 2009 at 8:24pm #

    Representative democracy is killing us.



  6. Sheila Velazquez said on November 1st, 2009 at 5:41am #

    No one action will change anything. However, organizing the facts so that they can be passed on is one way to get the word out. Real representative democracy won’t kill us; it will free us. What we have to do is work toward it. And we have to get enough people involved that we will have a choice of candidates who will do just that.

  7. Peggy Troiano said on November 1st, 2009 at 1:54pm #

    We need the “positive” change promised in the Obama campaign. We, the Toxically Injured, are proof that there is quite a bit of discrepancy between what consumers are lead to believe is a safe product and what they are actually getting. Letting the fox guard the hen house is never a good choice and will only continue to allow the harm from the toxic assault we are exposed to daily and this includes President Obama’s children as well as ours.

    We need those whose very jobs are to protect our health and welfare to do so; to change their ideas and practices to protect all our citizens, our children, our pets, our livestock, our agriculture, our industry and our environment, NOT keep padding the pockets of a few. No one can afford to continue using consumer product or environmental toxins. The price tag is too high, and the bill is fast coming due. The rapidly increasing numbers of those disabled by Toxically Injured testify to that.

    We believe if one isn’t a part of the solution, one is part of the problem. I applaud Sheila and others for their efforts for a safer and healthier environment, food chain, etc.

    Your friend in Hope & Health,

    It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it! Upton Sinclair

  8. Sam said on November 1st, 2009 at 9:02pm #

    Peggy wrote:

    We need the “‘positive” change promised in the Obama campaign.


    Well that was all BS, as with most politicians. It was nothing but marketing slogans intended to dupe the gullible sheep. Obama’s voting record showed that it was BS.

    “Politician 101” requires a candidate to say anything to dupe those who will allow themselves to be duped. “Politician 101” requires a candidate to talk about “building bridges” and “pushing the envelope” and “rolling my sleeves up to get the job done,” and “drawing a line in the sand” and “I’m resigning to spend time with my family.” (That’s just a partial list of the required political language they think they must routinely spew).

    Most politicians are like a brick. They mostly look the same and act the same, especially the D and R war criminals in congress and in the White House today.

  9. bozh said on November 2nd, 2009 at 4:20pm #

    I evaluate all promises as lies. A promise can be uttered explicitly or be implicit or tacitly posited.
    Statements such, war against terror, to prevent future terror, to enhance the security of US, to preserve US fredoms/democracy, to defend US interests, etc., are explicit promises.

    But these statements also contain numerous tacit promises. “Defending US interests” promise, implies that ALL americans stand to gain s’mthing from wars on terror. And not to mention that US wld find terrorists. Or that there is even one or two in afgh’n. And find him in a crowded village sleeping in own bed!

    The statement “ending the war in iraq by yr 09”, if it was made, wld have been an explicit promise. If the yr was ommitted then the promise was a fake whether ex- or implicit.

    Just ab. in any political or priestly utterance one can discover a promise.
    Even holding an election holds hidden promises. An election promises that new executives wld bring improvements for all people or it implies that the previous administration was dumber, more corrupt and thus it had to be changed.
    New elections promise tacitly that democracy wld improve as a result of change.
    “A change we can believe in” is an obvious promise but so inane, vacuous that i upon hearing it asked will americans go for it? They did, i think!

  10. Wingnut said on November 2nd, 2009 at 11:03pm #

    Pollyticians use lots of “OUR” this and “OUR” that, too, to make you feel like you are part of the team and part of the decision-making process. Commonfolk buy right in, too… often parroting “our economy”, “our government”, and “our military” in common daily gossip. Everyone LIKES to feel included and integral. Goo-goo gah-gah petting and nurturing, ya know? It pacifies the “everything is fine” surface dwelling non-critical thinkers (non-boat-rockers).

    Many polly’s use “move forward” too, but, nobody knows which direction forward is, anymore. Based upon 178 degrees of left and right and… 178 degrees of up and down, there are actually 31684 directions that could be labeled as “forward”. 🙂

    Look out for funny little repeated cock’n’bulls like… “the bottom line is” (WHOSE bottom line?) and… “the fact that…” (trying to railroad you into believing something is a fact when its actually opinion).

    Railroading and schmooze comes in all sorts of “you’ll buy into anything” flavors. Its the magic of PR and spin. Painting and makeup. Dressing and perfuming dogturds to look and smell like Malibu Barbie.