WASHINGTON Nov 4 The Obama administration's
pick for chief agricultural trade negotiator defended himself
on Wednesday against charges from environmental groups and
others who said he would favor big agribusiness over small
farms and organic farmers if confirmed.
Islam "Isi" Siddiqui, a senior farm trade official during
the Clinton era, has been a vice president since 2001 at the
chemical trade lobby CropLife America. Environmental groups say
that job should disqualify him from consideration for the new
"All the allegations ... and attacks which I have seen are
directed at the trade association that I worked for for eight
years," Siddiqui said at a confirmation hearing before the
Senate Finance Committee.
"There is no evidence in my public service of 32 years
where I made any disparaging remarks against organic or
sustainable development," he said.
The chief agricultural trade negotiator works in the U.S.
Trade Representative's office on issues affecting U.S. farm
exports, which were worth more than $115 billion in 2008.
More than 80 groups -- including small-farm, organic, and
environmental organizations -- have asked the Senate committee
to reject Siddiqui's appointment because he is too close to
businesses that make chemicals and genetically modified crops.
"Siddiqui's record and statements ... show his clear bias
in favor of chemical-intensive and unproven biotechnology
practices that imperil both our planet and human health while
undermining food security and exacerbating climate change," the
groups said in a letter to the committee.
Siddiqui worked for the California agriculture department
and the U.S. Agriculture Department before joining CropLife,
which represents BASF BASF.DE, Bayer CropScience (BAYE.BO),
Dow AgroSciences (DOW.N), du Pont Co (DD.N), Monsanto Co
(MON.N) and Syngenta SYNN.VX.
He was a registered lobbyist for the group from 2001 until
Siddiqui has strong support from mainstream agricultural
groups, 46 of which signed a letter backing him for the job.
Senator Blanche Lincoln, head of the Senate Agriculture
Committee, said she would vote for Siddiqui's nomination, and
urged other senators to do the same.
Senator Pat Roberts, a Republican from Kansas, also praised
Siddiqui's qualifications for the job.
If confirmed, Siddiqui said he would work on technical
issues that have prevented U.S. beef from entering certain
markets since late 2003, when the United States found its first
case of mad cow disease.
"I have found that scientific evidence can be a powerful
tool in breaking down trade barriers," he told senators.
He also said we would try to engage the European Union to
accept more genetically modified crops, and would pursue more
access for U.S. farm products through World Trade Organization
(Additional reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by David