Since Obama tapped Islam “Isi” Siddiqui, an executive for the pesticide lobby, to serve as the chief agriculture negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, discontent with the pick has grown so quickly you’d think it had been genetically modified. On Friday, statements from 90,000 citizens and 80 advocacy groups were delivered to Capitol Hill protesting Siddiqui’s nomination.
The Finance Committee was expected to move his nomination forward on Friday, but pushed its business meeting back until sometime after the holiday. Opponents want to make that delay a permanent one. Siddiqui’s critics say he is too close to agri-business interests to perform the job adequately. Since 2001, Siddiqui worked at the agribusiness trade group CropLife America, first as lobbyist and later as vice president of science and regulatory affairs.
Last week, Pesticide Action Network North America delivered a petition to the White House signed by 77,000 people calling for Obama to remove Siddiqui’s name from consideration. Another 14,000 people have emailed their senators about the nomination, and 80 organizations—including sustainable agriculture, farmworker, environmental, trade, and anti-hunger advocacy groups— sent a letter to the Senate Finance Committee urging it to reject him.
“All eyes are on the U.S. to demonstrate international leadership in this arena by withdrawing support for the current industrial model of agriculture, which imperils both people and the planet by undermining food security and worsening climate change,” reads the online petition.
The petition also asks Obama to “reconsider” his appointment of Roger Beachy to serve as director of the new National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Beachy was the long-time president of the Danforth Plant Science Center, the nonprofit arm of Monsanto, and his selection also angered sustainable agriculture groups who were hoping that this new USDA office would embrace alternatives to industrial agriculture. But his position did not require Senate confirmation, and at this point it’s unlikely that it would be rescinded.