Civil Eats @ Common Dreams - Confident after his success with health insurance reform, President Obama exerted his executive power on Saturday by making fifteen appointments during the Senate's recess. Among the appointments was Islam Siddiqui, who will now be serving as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (I've written here about what that job entails).
Siddiqui had been working since 2001 as a lobbyist and then later as vice president of science and regulatory affairs at CropLife America, a lobbying organization for the pesticide and biotech industries. CropLife famously sent Michelle Obama a letter trying to convince her to use pesticides on her organic garden on the White House lawn. But while that move pushed the group into the media spotlight, behind the scenes the group in which Siddiqui has had a strong hand in leading has been lobbying to weaken regulations on biotechnology, pesticides and other agriculture chemicals both in the US and abroad, including securing exemption for American farmers in a worldwide ban of the ozone-depleting chemical methyl bromide in 2006, taking part in secret discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency to be allowed to test pesticides on children, and Siddiqui personally chided the European Union for "denying food to starving people" for using the precautionary principle in the case of GMOs.
While his nomination was held up for other, partisan reasons, over 80 environmental, consumer and farm groups opposed the nomination in a letter to the Senate Finance Committee, and tens of thousands of people called their senators and signed a petition in opposition. But as President Obama ramps up his effort to increase our exports in agricultural and other products abroad (which I critiqued here), he has sought a warm body to fill this position - and I've suggested before, a ‘bad cop' to balance Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack's ‘good cop' abroad. Read more.