The industrial agriculture complex has been doing back flips for the last few weeks, first because of the ascendancy of Blanche Lincoln (ConservaDem-AR) to the high throne of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where she promises to pinch climate legislation (or at the very least shove it aside until next year) and push a southern Big Ag agenda in the Senate for rice and cotton interests. Now, the White House has announced Islam A. Siddiqui, current Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America (you will remember the organization as the one that sent the First Lady a letter admonishing her for not using pesticides on the White House garden) as nominee for Chief Agricultural Negotiator, who works through the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) to promote our crops and ag products abroad.
Why does it matter if the Vice President from the trade association representing pesticides and other agricultural chemicals takes over the Office of Agricultural Affairs at the USTR? Well, because that office, according to the USTR website "has overall responsibility for negotiations and policy coordination regarding agriculture." That means he would oversee the office dedicated to:
Free Trade Agreements (FTA) and World Trade Organization (WTO) Development Agenda (Doha) negotiations on agriculture, operation of the WTO Committees on Agriculture and on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures, agricultural regulatory issues (e.g., biotechnology, cloning, BSE, nanotechnology, other bilateral SPS issues, and customs issues affecting agriculture), monitoring and enforcement of existing WTO and FTA commitments for agriculture (including SPS issues), and WTO accession negotiations on agriculture market access, domestic supports and export competition, and SPS matters.
The Chief Agriculture Negotiator for the United States conducts critical trade negotiations and enforces trade agreements that relate to U.S. agricultural products and services. Also works to expand the access for America's farmers and agricultural producers to overseas markets and is responsible for directing all U.S. agriculture trade negotiations anywhere in the world. This includes multilaterally in the World Trade Organization (WTO), regionally in the Free Trade Area of the Americas, and bilaterally with various countries and groups of countries such as Australia, Central America, Chile, Morocco, and the South African Customs Union. The ambassador also resolves agricultural trade disputes and enforces trade agreements, including issues related to new technologies, subsidies, and tariff and non-tariff barriers and meets regularly with domestic agricultural industry groups to assure their interests are represented in trade. He or she also coordinates closely with U.S. government regulatory agencies to assure that rules and policies in international trade are based on sound science.
The image [the pesticide industry] presents is one of a hi-tech, efficient, responsible, and green industry that is already thoroughly regulated to assure the safety of its products. While the industry quietly pursues an anti-regulatory agenda to assure no pesticides would be removed from the market, its trade association claims its aim is to "promote increasingly responsible, science-driven legislation and regulation."
In March 2004, CropLife poured funding into a campaign to defeat a Mendocino County ballot initiative - known as Measure H - that would make the country [sic] the first to ban genetically engineered crops. In the lead up the the vote CropLife contributed over $500,000 - more than seven times that of the initiative supporters - to defeat the proposal. Despite the massive campaign against the initiative, the bio-tech industry suffered a humiliating defeat. The measure passed by a margin of 56% to 43%.
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