98 Organizations Oppose Obama’s Monsanto Man, Islam Siddiqui, for US Agricultural Trade Representative

A large coalition of groups ”“ including the Organic Consumers Association ”“ has been fighting since the fall to block Obama's nomination of CropLife/biotech industry rep and former pesticide lobbyist, Islam Siddiqui, to the position of Chief Ag...

February 22, 2010 | Source: | by Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Scientist, Pesticide Action Network, and Katherine Ozer, Executive Director, National Family Farm Coalition

A large coalition of groups – including the Organic Consumers Association – has been fighting since the fall to block Obama’s nomination of CropLife/biotech industry rep and former pesticide lobbyist, Islam Siddiqui, to the position of Chief Ag Negotiator at the US Office of the Trade Rep. The nomination was approved by the Senate Finance Committee, but is stalled in the Senate. It could go to a Senate floor vote any day now. The coalition sent the following letter to the Senate on February 22, 2010.

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.

The United States urgently needs a trade negotiator who
understands that current trade agreements work neither for farmers nor the
world’s hungry. With farmers here and abroad struggling to respond to water
scarcity and increasingly volatile growing conditions, we need a resilient and
restorative model of agriculture that adapts to and mitigates climate change
and that moves us towards energy-efficient farming.

The most comprehensive analysis of global agriculture to
date, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and
Technology for Development (IAASTD) states unequivocally that “business as
usual is not an option.” We need a new, sustainable model of biodiverse,
ecologically-based agriculture that regenerates soil health, sequesters carbon,
feeds communities, protects farmworkers and puts profits back in the hands of
family farmers and rural communities. Siddiqui’s track record shows that he
favors none of these solutions.

We call on the Senate to reject Islam Siddiqui’s nomination
and reorient trade policy to serve the interests of family farmers,
farmworkers, consumers and the planet.


[List of 98 organizations below.]

Siddiqui and CropLife:

Statements and

Siddiqui was nominated by US President Barack Obama to the position of Chief
Agricultural Negotiator at the office of the US Trade Representative. He is
currently Vice President of Science and Regulatory Affairs at CropLife America.
CropLife is an agricultural industry trade group that lobbies on behalf of
Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and other pesticide and agricultural biotech

Siddiqui’s statements and positions—both as a public
official and as an industry executive— coupled with CropLife America’s
consistent record on public policy issues demonstrate a narrow and
short-sighted view of American agriculture and trade interests. This viewpoint
consistently places the special interests of large agribusiness above the
health and welfare interests the broader public, the international community
and the environment.


Trade Agreements

to the Progressive Government Institute, the Chief Agricultural Negotiator
“conducts critical trade negotiations and enforces trade agreements… 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. 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 interest are represented in
trade.” The industry groups’ interests will be more than adequately
represented, as the WTO’s Doha Round will be a perfect opportunity for the
agrochemical industry to push for trade agreements that maintain US subsidies,
lower tariffs on chemicals, promote GM crops, and unfairly benefit the
agrochemical companies that Siddiqui represents.

Source: http://www.progressivegovernment.org/appointee_data4.php?title=ChiefAgAmb-ST#desc

Influence and Defining ‘Sound Science’

part of the job description is that “He or she also coordinates closely with
the US government regulatory agencies to assure that rules and policies in
international trade are based on sound science.” Siddiqui’s background has
always favored “sound science” to mean high-cost, high-input (and high profit,
for CropLife’s members) agricultural practices being imposed on developing
countries, despite their preferences. Many countries have chosen to ban GMOs on
the precautionary principle, including the EU, but Siddiqui will be able to use
the trade talks as leverage so that CropLife’s member companies can force their
way around those precautions. Siddiqui will also be able to influence the
results of the Casey-Lugar Global Food Security Act Bill (which mandates
government funding for biotechnology research).



Siddiqui Claimed EU Rejection of GMOs was “Denying Food
to Starving People”

2003, Siddiqui applauded the Bush Administration’s decision to seek an end to
the EU’s moratorium on approval of imports of genetically modified crops.
Croplife America said the EU’s position had “no scientific foundation” and
Siddiqui said, “EU’s illegal moratorium has had a negative ripple effect of
creeping regulations and non-science-based decisions, which have resulted in
denying food to starving people. The WTO requires that international trade
rules be based on sound science, and today’s decision will send that strong
message to the EU and other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.” [Delta
Farm Press, 5/23/03]

Compared GMO Acceptance to Accepting “Microwave Ovens”

2002, Siddiqui claimed biotech foods have been proven to be as safe as traditionally
grown foods. He cited a similar distrust of a new technology many people had
when microwave ovens were first introduced; eventually, consumer acceptance of
the technology became widespread. [State Department Washington File, 11/25/02]

Criticized EU for Insisting On “Precautionary Principle” On GMOs

2002, Siddiqui criticized the European Union’s precautionary principle
rationale for rejecting the import of GMOs. Widely recognized in the
international community, the precautionary principle allows societies to
protect people and the planet when there are uncertainties or unknown risks
associated with the introduction or use of a product. Siddiqui said the
principle didn’t offer any more real protection to citizens than U.S.-
“science-based” regulations and was being used by politicians as a non-tariff
trade barrier. [State Department Washington File, 11/25/02]

Called for New Biotech Green Revolution

by Siddiqui this year on new Green Revolution: “What we need now in the 21st
century is another revolution, which some people are calling the second green
revolution… You need to have use of 21st century technologies, including
biotechnology, genetic technology, and all the other technologies, which are
being (inaudible), in terms of achieving that.”

Source: “Green
Innovation: Can Patents Help Make the World a Better Place?”
April 22, 2009

Rejected Consumer Labeling of GMOs While Working at USDA

As a special assistant for trade at USDA, Siddiqui in
1999 warned Japan that if they implemented mandatory labeling of foods
containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) it could mislead consumers
about food safety and disrupt trade. Siddiqui said, “We do not believe that
obligatory GMO labeling is necessary, because it would suggest a health risk
where there is none.” He added, “Mandatory
labeling could mislead consumers about the safety of these products and require
segregation of GMO and non-GMO foods. I fear major trade disruptions and
increases in food costs to consumers if Japan requires mandatory labeling.”
Siddiqui also said Japan, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), is
obligated to find the least trade-restrictive way of achieving its objectives.
There are a number of ways other than labeling, such as educational materials
and public forums, to provide consumers with information on genetic
engineering, he said. [Reuters, 7/27/1999]

is a Former Registered Lobbyist

2001- 2003, Islam Siddiqui was a registered lobbyist with CropLife America,
which spent just over $2 million on lobbying the federal government in 2008,
and just under $1.9 million in 2007 on issues like registering pesticides for
use in schools, limiting the Endangered Species Act so that it doesn’t inhibit
agricultural pesticide use, revision of EPA pesticide registration fees, and
fighting the EPA on restrictions to the use of fumigants.


America’s Regional Partner Targeted Michelle Obama Organic Garden

America’s regional partner had notoriously “shuddered” at Michelle Obama’s
organic White House garden for failing to use chemical pesticides and launched
a letter petition drive defending chemical intensive agriculture and urging
Michelle Obama to consider using pesticidies and herbicides. Mid America
CropLife Association is listed as a regional partner on CropLife America’s



Instrumental in Drafting First Proposed Organic Standards that Would Have Allowed
Toxic Sludge, GMOs and Irradiated Food to be Labeled “Organic”

As Under Secretary for
Marketing and Regulatory Programs at USDA, Siddiqui oversaw the release of the
first-ever proposed federal standards for organics, an accomplishment the White
House has cited in support of his nomination. However, these rules created an
uproar when USDA overruled recommendations of the National Organic Standards
Board (NOSB) and permitted the use of GMOs, irradiation and toxic sludge under
the organic label. Only after 230,000 comments flooded into USDA were these
standards strengthened. It remains one of the highest outpourings of public
sentiment on any government regulation in U.S. history. [Mother Jones]

Siddiqui Admitted USDA Overruled Organics Board

Siddiqui justified allowing for possible allowance of
GMOs, irradiated foods and toxic sludge under the organics by saying, “we
know that [the] Organics
Board had recommended against those two items in the organic agriculture. There’s a considerable debate on
these issues; it’s a public debate issue. So essentially, the department
has felt that we want to open it up, we want to seek comments. And it
could be any one of the three choices; either it could be allowed, it
could be prohibited, or it could be allowed on a case-by-case basis,
especially dealing with GMOs.
[Federal News Service, 12/15/07]

Siddiqui Admitted Allowing no GMOs in Organics Would Possibly
be “Inconsistent” with Forcing GMOs on EU

Siddiqui explained one of the reasons GMOs were not
banned under organic label was because ” … some of the agencies
within the U.S. government felt that we will be inconsistent in going to
the EU and telling them to not require GMO contents being spelt out in
ingredients.” [Food and Drink Weekly, 1/19/98]


Spent $500,000 to Defeat County Ballot Banning GMOs

March 2004, CropLife poured funding into a campaign to defeat a Mendocino
County ballot initiative – known as Measure H – that would make the country the
first to ban genetically engineered crops. In the lead up to the vote, CropLife
contributed over $500,000 – more than seven times that of the initiative
supporters – to defeat the proposal. [1] 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%. [2]”

Siddiqui Said “Pleased” by Defeat of Ballot Measures

Siddiqui, on behalf of
CropLife America, said he was pleased that voters in three California counties
had rejected proposed bans on biotech crop cultivation. “I think you’ll
see more counties in California try[proposing a ban]the next time they can get
it on the ballot,” he said, adding that similar initiatives are unlikely
in other states. [Food Chemical News, 1/3/05]


Lobbied to Allow Children to be Used for Pesticide Experiments

August 2005, CropLife America met with Bush Administration officials at the
Office of Managment and Budget and EPA to allow for children to participate in
pesticide experiments. CropLife America urged certain allowances to be made for
chemical testing on children. 
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility criticized the meeting
for excluding the perspectives of ethicists, child advocates and scientists.
EPA one month later adopted a human testing rule in line with CropLife
America’s suggestions. Environmental groups sued the EPA for failing to
adequately protect women and children. [Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility, 5/30/06]

PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruck commented on the backdoor
meeting, “These meeting notes make it clear that the pesticide industry’s
top objective is access to children for experiments. After reading these
ghoulish notes one has the urge to take a shower. For an administration
which trumpets its concern for the ‘value and dignity of life,’ it is
disconcerting that no ethicists, children advocates or scientists were
invited to this meeting to counterbalance the pesticide pushers.” [Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility, 5/30/06]

Use of Human Test Subjects

2003, CropLife America expressed pleasure that the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned
EPA’s moratorium on using human clinical test data in pesticide risk
assessment. The court ruled that EPA’s “previous practice of considering
third- party human studies on a case-by-case basis, applying statutory
requirements, the Common Rule, and high ethical standards as a guide, is
reinstated and remains in effect unless and until it is replaced by a lawfully
promulgated regulation.” “We are pleased that the court recognized
that EPA’s moratorium constituted a binding regulation issued without notice
and the opportunity to comment,” said Jay J. Vroom, head of CropLife
America. [U.S. Newswire, 6/3/03]

America Secured Continued Use Of Banned Ozone-Depleting Pesticide, Methyl

America supported the continued use of methyl bromide by farmers in the U.S.
despite its supposed ban under the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete
the Ozone Layer (Protocol) and the Clean Air Act (CAA). The Bush administration
secured an exemption of the highly controversial chemical in 2006. “By no
means is there one product that will fit all the critical uses of methyl
bromide today,” CropLife CEO Jay Vroom said. The continued exemptions are
needed while research continues on the alternative pesticides, he said, adding,
“We’re not there yet, and the American farmer needs to have these tools so
we can continue to be have viable exports.”

Source: Associated Press, Nov 4, 2006.

For more information see the website for the UN
Environmental Programme Ozone Secretariat.
The PANNA website contains extensive resources and fact sheets on methyl
bromide’s use for soil fumigation.

·       Methyl bromide, a powerful ozone depleter used on
strawberries, tomatoes, grapes and other crops. The EPA has classified methyl
bromide as a Toxicity Category I compound, the most deadly category of
substances due to causing neurological damage and reproductive harm.
Farmworkers in particular have experienced death, birth defects, blurred
vision, nausea, and dizziness as a result of direct exposure to methyl bromide.
Methyl Bromide has also been listed as a Class I Ozone Depleter under the Clean
Air Act.

bromide is a highly toxic pesticide.

·       From 1982 to 1990, at least 18 people in California died from exposure to methyl bromide. The state Department of Pesticide Regulation also reports at least 148 systemic illnesses, 52 eye injuries and 60 cases of skin damage from methyl bromide. Methyl bromide has also caused birth defects in studies required by U.S. EPA and submitted by the manufacturer.

·       Methyl bromide is toxic to the central nervous system and can damage lungs and kidneys and possibly cause cancer. Direct exposure can lead to headaches, blurred vision, nausea and dizziness. Many farmworkers and residents near fumigated fields have experienced these symptoms. [Pesticide Action Network]

America Resistant to International Regulations Over Toxic Chemicals

America has been a driving force to weaken the U.S. position on the Stockholm
Convention, a critical effort to regulate the use of toxic “persistent organic
pollutants (POPs).” These include the well known chemicals DDT, PCBs and
dioxins that have been linked to a host of serious human health problems and
environmental concerns. Even at very low levels of exposure, POPs can cause
reproductive and developmental disorders, damage to the immune and nervous
systems, and a range of cancers. CropLife America has argued that “American
sovereignty” concerns should override the treaty if the chemical regulations
are stronger than U.S. law. CropLife America explicitly calls for the U.S. to
“protect export markets for American produce and farm commodities,” even if
they use chemicals that may be outlawed by the POP treaties. [CropLife America Website]

CropLife America Argues for Allowing Usage of Toxic Endosulfans

Croplife America and
its international counterpart CropLife International, whom Siddiqui has
represented in international negotiations, have continuously argued for a
legitimate role for the dangerous POP endosulfan.  However in October 2009,
scientists declared that: “endosulfan is likely, as a result of its
long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human
health and environmental effects, such that global action is warranted.”
The finding sets the stage for a global ban under the Stockholm
Convention. Endosulfan is an endocrine disruptor, and low dose exposure
while in the womb is linked to male reproductive harm, autism, and birth
defects. High dose exposures are acutely toxic, resulting in headaches,
nausea and vomiting, seizures, and in extreme cases, unconsciousness and
death. [Manila Bulletin, 10/20/09]

America Withdrew from Landmark UN/World Bank Study on Ag Research (IAASTD) that
Highlighted Agroecological Science as Promising Way to “Feed the World”

CropLife Upset
Industry Viewpoint Not Allowed to Dictate Findings

CropLife International
participated in the UN/World Bank-sponsored International Assessment for
Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) for 4
years, before withdrawing in the final days of the process. The IAASTD
reports—authored by over 400 scientists and development experts from more than
80 countries, and subjected to two open public review processes—remains the
most authoritative study to date on agriculture research and technology.
CropLife objected to the measured but lukewarm findings of the IAASTD on
“modern biotechnology” and genetic engineering. According to the spokesman for
CropLife, their decision to withdraw in the final days was prompted by
“the inability of its members to get industry perspectives reflected in
the draft reports” —a complaint belied by the fact that IAASTD editors
repeatedly offered CropLife a “blank page” to present the industry’s
viewpoints. Ultimately, industry authors failed to submit text in time for

IAASTD concluded that an increase in investments in agroecological practices
would be necessary to meet 21st century needs, noting that
agroecological, organic, biodiverse and regenerative practices represented
highly promising and scientifically robust approaches to feeding the world
while also meeting social equity and sustainability goals, particularly under
increasing stresses of climate change, water scarcity and fossil-fuel based
energy limitations. In contrast, the IAASTD observed that chemical intensive
and GMO-based practices were unlikely to meet these goals, had in many cases
undermined public health and/or contaminated the environment, and posed severe
social equity concerns due to industry concentration, IPR and patent rules. [Bioscience Resource, New Scientist, PANNA]

Prepared by Lindsey Schneider and Vera
Glavova, PANNA, with contributions from National Family Farm Coalition. For further information on CropLife: http://www.panna.org/resources/popshttp://www.panna.org/resources/treaties

Pesticide Action
Network has worked to replace pesticides with ecologically sound and socially
just alternatives since 1982. PANNA is one of five regional facilitating
organizations serving a global network of more than 600 civil society groups in
over 90 countries who share these goals. For more information, see http://www.panna.org.

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

Center on Race, Poverty
& the Environment (CA)

Central Florida Jobs with
Justice Project (FL)

Columban Center for
Advocacy and Outreach (NE)

Community Farm Alliance

Concerned Citizens for
Clean Air (OR)

Cornucopia Institute (WI)

Earth Justice (CA)

Equal Exchange (MA)

Fair Trade Coalition (MN)

Family Farm Defenders

Farm and Ranch Freedom
Alliance (TX)

Farm Worker Pesticide
Project (WA)

Farmworker Association of
Florida (FL)

Farmworker Justice (DC)

Farmworkers Self-Help

Food & Water Watch

Food First/Institute for
Food and Development Policy (CA)

Food for Maine’s Future

Florida Immigrant
Coalition (FL)

Food Democracy Now! (IA)

Food Systems Integrity

Florida Organic Growers

Fresno Metro Ministry

Friends of the Earth (DC,

Greenpeace US (DC, CA)

Grassroots International

Growing Power Inc. (WI)

Indigenous Environmental
Network (MN)

Indiana Toxics Action

Innovative Farmers of
Ohio (OH)

Institute for Agriculture
& Trade Policy (MN)

Iowa Citizens for
Community Improvement (IA)

Kids for Saving Earth

Kentucky Environmental
Foundation (KY)

Land Stewardship Project

Lideres Campesinas (CA)

Maine Fair Trade Campaign

Maine Organic Farmers and
Gardeners (ME)

Maryland Pesticide Network

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)

Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (OR)

Oakland Institute

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)

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

The Second Chance
Foundation Washington (WA)

Washington Fair Trade
Coalition (WA)

Western Organization of
Resource Councils (MT)

World Hunger Year (NY)