NYT's "Questions for a Trade Official"
The online petition that's drawn 38,000 signatures
The letter from 85 groups opposing the nomination ahead of a scheduled confirmation hearing for Islam Siddiqui:
Related press release:
And NYT article:
Questions for a Trade Official
New York Times (Editorial), November 3 2009
When Islam Siddiqui appears for his Senate confirmation, possibly as early as next week, it will be time for some tough questions.
The White House has nominated Mr. Siddiqui for the position of chief agricultural negotiator in the office of the United States trade representative. He is presently a vice president at CropLife America, a coalition of the major industrial players in the pesticide industry, including Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and DuPont. That job doesn't seem to square with the Obama administration's professed interest in more sustainable, less chemically dependent approaches to agriculture.
Nor does much of the rest of Mr. Siddiqui's resume. The White House has touted his role in the first phase of developing national organic standards. But those standards, as they first emerged in draft form in the Clinton years, were notoriously loose about allowing genetically engineered crops and the use of sewage-sludge fertilizers to be labeled as "organic."
There's no disputing Mr. Siddiqui's experience in government - in California and at the national level. But the business of CropLife - an arm of which openly scoffed at Michelle Obama's plans for an organic garden ”” is to increase exports of agricultural chemicals.
This seems too narrow a perspective given the administration's interest in the more organic approach favored by many consumers and farmers - an interest reflected not only by Mrs. Obama but by the appointment of Kathleen Merrigan, an advocate of sustainable agriculture, as deputy agriculture secretary.
Everyone wants a pesticide backup, much like an antibiotic when diseases get out of control. But there are other ways to control pests - more diversity in crop production and rotation, for instance - besides chemicals. The negotiator we need is someone who can represent a broad view of American agriculture.