Sunday, April 04, 2010

Recess Appointments - Score One for Monsanto

When Democrats hear the term Recess Appointments they usually either think of a Bad President (like Bush) trying to sneak some industry lobbyist (or maybe John Bolton) into a position of authority, or a Good President (like Obama) trying to get some good upstanding person past a blindly-unthinking Republican roadblock. They seldom consider the other possibilities.

I heard on the radio show Ring of Fire yesterday an interesting exchange about recess appointments. The host for the day, David Bender, was talking to a caller who brought up Obama's 15 recess appointments, which apparently have been compared to Bush's 15 recess appointments in a similar situation. Turns out that Obama has had more than 70 (I think it was 74) fairly vital appointments held up by the Republicans for a year, and now has appointed 15 of these during the recess. Bush, on the other hand, had 5 appointments similarly held up, and then recess appointed 15 nominees. In other words, Obama recess-appointed about 7% of his nominees who had been blocked for a year. Bush recess-appointed three times as many as were blocked! (...including that shining light of the pantheon of diplomacy, John Bolton...) Folks trying to equate the Republican tactics (blocking 74 appointments) with the Democrat tactics (blocking 5) are obviously way way off base.

I still hold out some faint hope that Obama will prove to be a good president in the long run (despite huge misgivings I have after his first year in office.) The part of me that can still imagine that he's an intelligent, well meaning guy felt good to hear about this.

Good until I read this:

Obama gives key agriculture post to Monsanto man

Gary Ruskin | Green Change | 03.27.2010

Today, President Obama announced that he will recess appoint Islam A. Siddiqui to the position of Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

Siddiqui is a pesticide lobbyist and Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America, an agribusiness lobbying group that represents Monsanto.

Following is a letter sent by 98 organizations to U.S. Senators in opposition to Siddiqui's appointment, and a fact sheet about him.

Dear Senator:

The following 98 organizations are writing you to express our opposition to the nomination of Islam Siddiqui as Chief Agriculture Negotiator at the office of the United States Trade Representative. Our organizations— representing family farmers, farmworkers, fishers and sustainable agriculture, environmental, consumer, anti-hunger and other advocacy groups—urge you to reject Dr. Siddiqui’s appointment when it comes up for a floor vote, despite the Senate Finance Committee's favorable report of his nomination on December 23, 2009.

Siddiqui’s record at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and his role as a former registered lobbyist for CropLife America (whose members include Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and Dow), has revealed him to consistently favor agribusinesses’ interests over the interests of consumers, the environment and public health (see attached fact sheet). We believe Siddiqui’s nomination severely weakens the Obama Administration’s credibility in promoting healthier and more sustainable local food systems here at home. His appointment would also send an unfortunate signal to the rest of the world that the United States plans to continue down the failed path of high-input and energy-intensive industrial agriculture by promoting toxic pesticides, inappropriate seed biotechnologies and unfair trade agreements on nations that do not want and can least afford them.

[. . .]

Please read the rest for a rundown on a truly ghastly appointment, made without oversight, without any real recourse, opposed by just about every environmental group you've ever heard of. Think I'm kidding?

98 organizations who signed on to the letter to the Senate:

Alaska Community Action on Toxics (AK)
AllergyKids (CO)
American Raw Milk Producers Pricing Association (WI)
Beyond Pesticides (DC)
Breast Cancer Action (CA)
California Food and Justice Coalition (CA)
Californians for GE-Free Agriculture (CA)
Californians for Pesticide Reform (CA)
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CA)
Center for Environmental Health (CA)
Center for Food Safety (DC)
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment (CA)
Central Florida Jobs with Justice Project (FL)
Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (NE)
Community Farm Alliance (KY)
Concerned Citizens for Clean Air (OR)
Cornucopia Institute (WI)
Earth Justice (CA)
Equal Exchange (MA)
Fair Trade Coalition (MN)
Family Farm Defenders (WI)
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (TX)
Farm Worker Pesticide Project (WA)
Farmworker Association of Florida (FL)
Farmworker Justice (DC)
Farmworkers Self-Help (FL)
Food & Water Watch (DC)
Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy (CA)
Food for Maine’s Future (ME)
Florida Immigrant Coalition (FL)
Food Democracy Now! (IA)
Food Systems Integrity (MA)
Florida Organic Growers (FL)
Fresno Metro Ministry (CA)
Friends of the Earth (DC, CA)
Greenpeace US (DC, CA)
Grassroots International (MA)
Growing Power Inc. (WI)
Indigenous Environmental Network (MN) Indiana Toxics Action (IN) Innovative Farmers of Ohio (OH) Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (MN)
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (IA)
Kids for Saving Earth (MN)
Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KY)
Land Stewardship Project (MN)
Lideres Campesinas (CA)
Maine Fair Trade Campaign (ME)
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners (ME)
Maryland Pesticide Network (MD)
Mississippi Association of Cooperatives (MS)
Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MO)
Mvskoke Food Sovereignty Initiative (OK)
National Family Farm Coalition (DC)
National Farm Worker Ministry (MO)
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association (DC)
New York Environmental Law & Justice (NY)
Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council (CT)
Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)
Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (ME)
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (OR)
Oakland Institute (CA)
Ohio Conference on Fair Trade (OH)
Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project (OK)
Oregon Fair Trade Campaign (OR)
Oregon Toxics Alliance (OR)
Organic Consumers Association (MN)
Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples (WV)
Pesticide Action Network North America (CA)
Pesticide Free Zone (CA)
Pesticide Watch (CA)
Physicians for Social Responsibility/Los Angeles (CA)
Public Citizen (DC)
Rochesterians Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NY)
Rural Advancement Foundation International USA (NC)
Rural Coalition/ Coalición Rural
Safe Alternatives for our Forest Environment (CA)
Science and Environmental Health Network (IA)
Sciencecorps (MA)
Search for the Cause (CA)
Sierra Club (CA, DC)
Small Holders Alliance of Massachusetts (MA)
Student Action with Farmworkers (NC)
The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (CO)
The Safe Lawns Foundation (ME)
The Second Chance Foundation Washington (WA)
Washington Fair Trade Coalition (WA)
Western Organization of Resource Councils (MT)
World Hunger Year (NY)

I couldn't help thinking as I read this of how we were assured that the current Health Care Bill may have lots of flaws, but they will be fixed, that negotiations and further bills can expand it and make it better.

This reminds me that we were told by President Clinton that NAFTA would be improved and bettered by later negotiations. Should such a "NAFTA fixing session" ever occur, this very appointee would be exactly that negotiator.

As an example of the eco-world's reaction to the nomination, here's an article that came out in November, when Obama first nominated the guy:

Foodista Blog:

Obama Nominates Pesticide Lobbyist as Chief Agricultural Negotiator

November 12th, 2009

Haven’t heard of Islam Siddiqui? You should know him. The Obama administration preferred if you didn’t, but you should know him. Why? Because he may soon have the power to directly influence the food you eat.

President Obama recently nominated Islam Siddiqui to the role of Chief Agricultural Negotiator at the Trade Office. He will be charged to lead an organization which represents our agricultural interests both here and abroad. The problem is, Islam Siddiqui is a former pesticide lobbyist for CorpLife. He is the same guy who openly chided Michelle Obama for not using “crop protection” (a.k.a. toxic pesticides), in the new White House vegetable garden. CorpLife even set up a letter writing campaign. He’s also the same guy who undermined the European Union’s attempt to ban hormone-treated beef in 1999 and rejected the mandatory labeling and disclosure of genetically modified animals in Japan, stating, “Mandatory labeling could mislead consumers about the safety of these products”.

What happened to the push by this White House for sustainable agriculture and chemical-free, local foods? What happened to President Obama’s vow to ban lobbyists from his administration?

Michelle Obama demanded a pesticide-free garden for her family at the White House, so shouldn’t the American people be given a fair shot of having the same for their families?

Photo by deharris

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