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More Monsanto Men Joining Obama Administration

1.Monsanto's man Beachy joining Obama administration
2.Obama's Chief Ag Negotiator Nominee is a CropLife America Lobbyist
3.Big Ag places a foot soldier at the U.S. Trade Office

NOTE: After Tom Vilsack and Michael Taylor where could the Obama administration go next? Michelle may have an organic garden but her husband's given Big Ag and Monsanto the key's to the door. Danforth (item 1) is a former Monsanto Vice President as well as heading an institute which was established by Monsanto and academic partners with a $70-million pledge from Monsanto:

EXTRACT: Another critical ag-related trade issue is GMOs. Many nations have opted to ban GMOs on the precautionary principle. The few companies who dominate the GMO seed market-Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, and BASF, all Croplife America - find that attitude abhorrent. Siddiqui can be expected to play hardball in using trade talks as a blunt instrument to knock those precautions down. (item 3)
Beachy joining Obama administration
Kelsey Volkmann
St. Louis Business Journal, September 24 2009

President Barack Obama has appointed Dr. Roger Beachy, founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, to serve as the first director of a new federal agriculture agency.

Beachy will join the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a U.S. Department of Agriculture agency, on Oct. 5. The new agency will award competitive grants to fund research and technological innovations aimed at making agriculture more productive, environmentally sustainable and economically viable.

NIFA will replace the USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service and significantly expand its research grants program. CSREES awards between $160 million to $200 million a year, but Beachy said he and others are pushing to expand the grants program under NIFA to $700 million over the next three to four years.

Beachy said he wants to use the grants to attract the nation's "brightest and best scientists," including those at Danforth and Washington University, to help tackle the world's problems using plant science.

"Most of us realize that plants are the source of oxygen, clean up the environment, and are food, feed, fiber and fuel," he said. "They are truly renewable. As we move toward a greener future, plants will play an incredibly important role."

NIFA was developed as a result of a task force chaired by Danforth Chairman William Danforth, who recommended that Congress authorize the creation of NIFA as a way to strengthen agriculture research and to attract more scientists to the field.

"I hate to see (Beachy) less active in St. Louis even for a little while," Danforth said in a statement. "On the other hand, I believe strongly in the NIFA. No one in the world would be a better founding director. Our board saw the situation the same way."

On assuming his new role as NIFA director, Beachy will become vice chairman of the Danforth center's board of trustees, a move that was originally scheduled to occur in July 2010.

Beachy said he plans to rent a place in Washington, D.C., but also keep his home in Clayton.

Since Jan. 1, 1999, when Beachy became the Danforth center's founding president, he has helped recruit more than two dozen principal investigators and 170 plant scientists, including 95 Ph.D.s; attract more than $75 million in research grants; establish the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels through a $25 million gift from the Taylor Family; create a research park; and oversee an endowment of nearly $100 million.

P. Roy Vagelos, former president, chief executive and chairman of pharmaceutical giant Merck, is leading the search committee to find Beachy's successor. Until a new president is on board, Philip Needleman, a member of the center's board of trustees, will serve as interim president.

Needleman spent 25 years at Washington University School of Medicine, where he was professor and chairman of the department of pharmacology. In 1989, he became senior vice president of Monsanto. In 1993, he became president of Searle Research and Development. He was also senior executive vice president and chief scientist of Pharmacia from 2000 to 2003.
Obama's Chief Agricultural Negotiator Nominee a Pesticide Pusher
Huffington Post, September 23 2009

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 Agricultural Negotiator is essentially a 'spokesperson' for American agriculture (perhaps the 'bad cop' to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's 'good cop') who is in charge of selling our agricultural products abroad -- products of a synthetic agriculture that is dependent on too many oil inputs, too much water and a stable climate to persist as the norm into the future. Here is an official job description for the Chief Agricultural Negotiator from the website Progressive Government:

   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.

What might a former employee of CropLife think is sound science? And what might his agenda be for expanding our markets abroad? I'm sure Siddiqui is already a regular at agricultural industry meetings, and will be ready and willing to say just what they'd like to hear. (Before CropLife, Siddiqui also served in the Clinton administration under former Ag Secretary Dan Glickman, the Ag Secretary best known for taking part in the sign-off of GM seeds as 'substantially equivalent' to other seeds, thus an argument for why they should not be labeled.)

Here is a little bit more about CropLife from Sourcewatch:

   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%.

In other words, the Obama administration has chosen someone from an organization dedicated at all costs to chemical-based agriculture to represent our trade interests abroad. This in the name of selling more Round-Up and GM seed, as well as siphoning off our excess commodities to China for their growing CAFO industry, all for our own short term economic interests.
3.Big Ag places a foot soldier at the U.S. Trade Office-but loses a GMO court battle
Tom Philpot
GRIST, 23 September 2009

If you run a globe-spanning, U.S.-centered agribusiness firm, you're probably not sure whether to cry in your Krug or toast with it this week.*

The bad news for the GMO/fertilizer/pesticide set: A federal court in San Francisco rebuked the USDA for greenlighting genetically modified sugar beets without rigorous testing of the novel crop's environmental impact. And that could have a major impact on the GMO seed industry, because there's never been a real reckoning among federal agencies about the impact of GMOs.

Want to know who came with the official rationale that GMOs are "substantially equivalent" to conventional crops-and this worthy of a regulatory free ride? It was that noted beautiful minder Dan Quayle, sitting on an Bush I's Council on Competitiveness in the early '90s.

The sugar beet ruling, coming on the heels of a similar one on GMO alfafa, may mark the beginning of the end of that free ride.

Fully 30 percent of the globe's refined sugar comes from beets-and the U.S. is a major producer. In 2005, the USDA ruled that the use of Monsanto's new line of Roundup Ready sugar beets-genetically rigged to withstand application of Monsanto's flagship herbicide-had "no significant impact" on the environment.

Trouble is, the agency did so without issuing a detailed "environmental impact statement," as it's arguably required to under the National Environmental Protection Act-and that's why the Center for Food Safety and other sustainable-food NGOs sued the USDA.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled (PDF here) in favor of the Center for Food Safety argument.

The ruling hinged on the argument that GMO sugar beets can cross-pollinate with and genetically contaminate non-GMO beets-and even with related species like Swiss chard and table beets. (In Willamette County, Ore., epicenter of industrial sugar-beet production, these other beet types are grown commonly, too.)

"In light of the large distances pollen can travel by wind and the context that seed for sugar beets, Swiss chard, and table beets are primarily grown in one valley in Oregon, Plaintiffs have demonstrated that deregulation [of GMO sugar beets] may significantly effect the environment," the Judge White declared.

So now he's ordering a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) from the USDA on GMO sugar beets. But any rigorous EIS will include not only the cross-contamination problem, but also the  growing specter of Roundup-tolerant "superweeds," which are already rampant in many parts of the country where Roundup Ready seeds are commonly used.

The agency might even have to reckon with the recent study that showed that so-called "inert" ingredients in Roundup quite actively damage human cells.

In other words, this ruling-if it stands up under an imminent round of appeals-could be a slippery slope for Monsanto. Investors, for their part, seem a bit concerned-since the ruling was announced Tuesday, the company's shares are down about 2 percent.

Now for the good news for the great masters of the corn field: President Obama has nominated one of their own as the chief agricultural negotiator at the U.S. Trade Office.

To take the post, Islam "Isi" Siddiqui will have to leave his current perch as vice president for agricultural biotechnology and trade at CropLife America, the trade group representing the U.S. agrichemical industry (member list here). Its mission: to hip the public (and the government)  to the ""benefits of pesticides and crop-protection chemicals."

This is the crew that chided Michelle Obama for daring to opt not to use "crop protection" (i.e., toxic pesticides) in the White House Garden.

Once the Senate's conservative stalwarts recover from the shock of supporting a man named Islam, they'll surely wave Siddiqui right through.

As the Doha round of global trade talks lurches on, Siddiqui's position will be an important one. Southerm-hemisphere nations like India and Brazil are pushing for lower U.S. crop subsidies, while the U.S. is demanding wide-open markets for U.S. goods-everything from foodstuffs like industrial corn to agrichemicals. Siddiqui can be counted on to push that agenda hard.

Another critical ag-related trade issue is GMOs. Many nations have opted to ban GMOs on the precautionary principle. The few companies who dominate the GMO seed market-Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, and BASF, all Croplife America - find that attitude abhorrent. Siddiqui can be expected to play hardball in using trade talks as a blunt instrument to knock those precautions down.

* Since I'm an acolyte of the wine writer Alice Feiring, you should read my casual assumption that agribiz execs quaff Krug, an insipid status-brand Champagne, as a stinging insult.