When the Obama administration announced that it was nominating a former pesticide lobbyist to be the chief agricultural negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative, it sparked more than the usual Internet chatter.
“Obama’s Chief Agricultural Negotiator Nominee Is a Pesticide Pusher;” screamed one website. ‘Obama’s Ag Policy Is Giving Me Whiplash,” lamented another. “Obama Backtreads,” scolded a third.
The nomination of Islam Siddiqui, vice president for science and regulatory affairs at CropLife America, struck an off-key note among environmentalists — and not just because they think pesticides and chemicals are unsafe for humans and detrimental to the environment. Perhaps more important was the sense of betrayal. After all, it was Michelle Obama herself who had demanded a pesticide-free garden for the first family at the White House, suggesting — environmentalists thought — that the Obama administration was sympathetic to their cause.
“We are seriously disheartened by this appointment,” said Katherine Ozer, executive director of the National Family Farm Coalition, which represents family farmers. “While we have been encouraged by the first lady and USDA’s promotion of sustainable agriculture and local food, Siddiqui’s role will undermine those goals both here and abroad by promoting our current broken, chemical-intensive, industrial-agriculture model.”
The Pesticide Action Network, which documents what it says are the hazardous impacts of pesticides on crop production, farm animals and humans, said Siddiqui’s nomination last month called into question “just how committed the Obama administration is to promoting sustainable agriculture and reducing hunger in the developing world.” Full Story