obama’s pesticide-pushing nominee: islam ‘isi’ siddiqui

obama's pesticide-pushing nominee: islam 'isi' siddiquifrom mother jones: When Michelle Obama announced plans to plant an organic garden at the White House, nearly everybody thought it was a great idea. Everybody except for the pesticide industry. Representatives from a branch of the industry’s main trade association, CropLife America (CLA), wrote to the First Lady asking her to respect the role of “conventional agriculture;” they added in a separate note to supporters that the thought of the White House’s chemical-free vegetables made them “shudder.” But the public swipe at the president’s wife didn’t stop the administration from nominating senior CLA executive Islam “Isi” Siddiqui to a key post: chief agricultural negotiator for the office of the US Trade Representative (USTR). If confirmed, Siddiqui will be responsible for, among other things, negotiating international agreements governing the use of pesticides.

CLA is the American branch of CropLife International, a powerful global lobby; its members include agriculture giants such as Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, and DuPont. Siddiqui joined the CLA in 2001 as a registered lobbyist, and since 2003 has served as its vice president of science and regulatory affairs. In that position, he’s played a critical role in setting CLA’s domestic and international agenda.

Chiding Michelle Obama for not using “crop protection products” in her garden is one of the milder tactics CLA has deployed in service of its cause. During Siddiqui’s tenure at the organization, it has lobbied aggressively to weaken domestic and international regulations on pesticides and other agricultural chemicals.

obama's pesticide-pushing nominee: islam 'isi' siddiquiIn 2005, the group participated in secret talks with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Management and Budget on permitting pesticide testing on children. In 2006, CropLife America helped secure an exemption for American farmers for a worldwide ban on methyl bromide, an ozone-depleting pesticide. It has also actively worked to remove what it terms “trade irritants” on pesticides under NAFTA. In its 2008 annual report, CLA highlighted its “relentless” efforts to persuade negotiators to cut language “discriminatory to pesticides” from the 2008 Farm Bill. Meanwhile, its parent organization has fought to eliminate all tariffs on pesticides in World Trade Organization trade negotiations.

After the nomination was announced, more than 80 organizations—including environmental groups and organic and local farm interests—wrote to the Senate Finance Committee in protest. “The Obama administration has said they’re not going to put lobbyists in these roles in government, and [Siddiqui] was a lobbyist, he worked for industry,” explained Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist working on food and environmental issues at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The question is whether he can take a scientific, unbiased perspective on what works and doesn’t work, rather than a trade agenda that primarily [supports] large US companies and the technologies they prefer.”

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