President Obama agriculture picks sow confusion
Roger Beachy, the new director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which has a $1.3 billion budget for research grants, comes from the Danforth Plant Science Center, funded through gifts from the Monsanto Fund, among others.
In an interview, Beachy said the institute will support all methods of farming: production, conventional or organic.
But he also said something about food safety that has small farmers quaking: “Scientific standards for food safety regulations should be the same across all farming systems. They should apply to big farms and small farms, including organic farms.”
Beachy has also described genetically engineered crops as sustainable. “The science of biotech is extremely important in feeding an ever-growing population around the world,” he said. “I don’t think sustainability should be limited to organic and local.”
Dave Murphy, founder and director of Food Democracy Now, a grass-roots organization that promotes sustainability, is angered by the effort to co-opt the word. “GMOs are not sustainable,” he said. “The problem with GMOs is that they have not provided higher yields and lower pesticide use.”
Another administration appointment, Islam “Isi” Siddiqui, who’s been nominated to become the chief negotiator on agriculture issues in global markets, was a pesticide lobbyist for the nation’s most powerful agrichemical lobby group.
As special assistant for trade to the agriculture secretary in 1999, he told the Japanese he did not want them to label GMOs. “We do not believe that obligatory GMO labeling is necessary, because it would suggest a health risk where there is none,” he said. “Mandatory labeling could mislead consumers about the safety of these products.”