Disappointing millions of fair trade, organic, anti-GMO and sustainability advocates in the U.S. and worldwide, President Obama appointed Islam Siddiqui as the Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. Siddiqui was one of 15 people Obama recess-appointed to government posts last weekend to bypass Senate approval hearings.
More than 80 environmental, small-farm and consumer groups opposed the GMO advocate's Senate confirmation. Siddiqui was vice president for agricultural biotechnology and trade for CropLife America, a trade group of biotech and pesticide companies, including Monsanto. CropLife fought popular initiatives seeking to ban GMO food in California--claiming that pesticides positively impact endangered species. CropLife also lobbied the Bush administration for human and child testing of pesticides, and wrote a letter to Michelle Obama urging her to use pesticides in the organic garden at the White House.
Siddiqui also worked for the Clinton Administration at U.S. Department of Agriculture as Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Senior Trade Advisor to Secretary Dan Glickman and Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs.
Paula Crossfield at Civil Eats covers the story in "Pesticide Lobbyist Gets Posted as Chief Agricultural Negotiator." More at a great organic blog, Living Maxwell.
What does this mean for Japan and the rest of Asia?
It means that the USTR will be pushing GMO, non-organic, unsustainable practices (on behalf of industries)--as it did under the Bush administration. Asia is a region where governments have more respect for citizen concerns about the health risks of GMO (with notable exceptions like China's recent acceptance of GMO rice and India's acceptance of GMO cotton). The Japanese government has particularly listened to citizens' voices on this matter.
More than ever, grassroots organizations and consumers are going to have to encourage and support government efforts to maintain health and consumer standards that the USTR may falsely label "trade barriers."