Remember when the pesticide lobby attacked First Lady Michelle Obama because she wasn't championing the use of chemicals in her White House garden?
Somehow a top official from CropLife -- the powerful chemical industry trade group that went after Michelle Obama's organic garden -- has been nominated to serve as America's chief agricultural negotiator for international trade.
The nominee's pro-pesticide group actually went as far as to organize a protect of the lack of "crop protection products" (read: pesticides) in the organic White House garden, explaining to its members:
"The garden is a great idea and the photo op of the First Lady and local elementary schoolchildren digging up the ground was precious... [But] did you realize that it will be an organic garden?"
If confirmed by the Senate, this man, Isi Siddiqui, who has spent the last several years of his career fighting various restrictions and bans on environmentally hazardous pesticides, would bring that inappropriately aggressive stance on broadening pesticide use to the White House and influence trade negotiations with Europe and the developing world.
President Obama's restrictions on lobbyists in government would definitely be undermined by Siddiqui even though he is not technically a current registered lobbyist. Siddiqui's record at CropLife shows why he should not be the chief agriculture negotiator. He labored to minimize restrictions on pesticides in NAFTA. He advocated for pesticides as a treatment for bee colony collapse disorder despite the fact that pesticides have been implicated as a leading cause of bee deaths. And worst of all, during Siddiqui's tenure CropLife succeeded in exempting US farmers from a worldwide ban on the antifungal methyl bromide, a potent ozone depleter.
Siddiqui's defenders in the White House point to his work implementing the original organic label at the USDA in 1998 as an indication of his "commitment" to sustainable agriculture. However, under Siddiqui the USDA attempted to weaken -- some have argued kill -- the original organic standards by overriding guidelines proposed by the organic advisory board. The USDA organic label as proposed by Siddiqui's office would have allowed the use of sewage sludge, irradiation, GMOs, and even some synthetic pesticides. Thankfully, a public outcry convinced the USDA to reverse the decision.
We need to stop Siddiqui again. Ask President Obama to drop the nomination of Islam Siddiqui as chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
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