Obama picks Monsanto shill for Agriculture Secretary

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M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Obama picks Monsanto shill for Agriculture Secretary

[url=http://www.counterpunch.org/cummins12182008.html][u]Another Shill for Monsanto[/u][/url]

by Ronnie Cummins

Yesterday's announcement that former Iowa Governor, Tom Vilsack, has been selected as the new Secretary of Agriculture sent a chill through the sustainable food and farming community who have been lobbying for a champion in the new administration.

"Vilsack's nomination sends the message that dangerous, untested, unlabeled genetically engineered crops will be the norm in the Obama Administration," said Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of Organic Consumers Association. "Our nation's future depends on crafting a forward-thinking strategy to promote organic and sustainable food and farming, and address the related crises of climate change, diminishing energy supplies, deteriorating public health, and economic depression.”

The Department of Agriculture during the Bush Administration failed to promote a sustainable vision for food and farming and did not protect consumers from the chemical-intensive toxic practices inherent to industrial agriculture. While factory farms and junk food have been subsidized with billions of tax dollars, the US industrial farm system has released massive amounts of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and increased our dependence on foreign oil.

The Secretary of Agriculture is responsible for directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its $97 billion annual budget, including the National Organic Program, food stamp and nutrition programs, agriculture subsidies, and the Forest Service.

While Vilsack has worked to restrain livestock monopolies, his overall record is one of aiding and abetting Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs, also known as factory farms). Vilsack’s support for unsustainable industrial ethanol production has already caused global corn and grain prices to skyrocket, literally taking food off the table for a billion people in the developing world.

Over the past month, Organic Consumers Association members have sent over 20,000 emails to President-Elect Obama’s Transition Team, calling for the appointment of a Secretary of Agriculture who would develop and implement a plan that promotes family-scale farming, a safe and nutritious food system, and a sustainable and organic vision for the future.

"Obama's choice for Secretary of Agriculture points to the continuation of agribusiness as usual, the failed policies of chemical- and energy-intensive, genetically engineered industrial agriculture," said Cummins. "Americans were promised ‘change,’ not just another shill for Monsanto and corporate agribusiness. Considering the challenges we collectively face as a nation, from climate change and rising energy costs to food insecurity, we need an administration that moves beyond ‘business as usual’ to fundamental change—before it’s too late,” concluded Cummins.

Vilsack’s business as usual positions have included the following:

·     Vilsack has been a strong supporter of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn.

 ·     The biggest biotechnology industry group, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, named Vilsack Governor of the Year. He is also the founder and former chair of the Governor's Biotechnology Partnership.

·     When Vilsack created the Iowa Values Fund, his first poster child for economic development was Trans Ova and their pursuit of cloning dairy cows.

·     The undemocratic 2005 seed pre-emption bill was the Vilsack’s brainchild. The law strips local government’s right to regulate genetically engineered seed.

·     Vilsack is an ardent supporter of corn and soy based biofuels, which use as much or more energy to produce as they generate and drive up world food prices, literally starving the poor. 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Michael Pollan, author of [i]In Defense of Food[/i] and a leader in the sustainable food movement, said in a radio interview that Obama will not make progress unless America's food system is included in any plans for climate change, energy or health care.

"The food system is responsible for about a third of greenhouse gases," Pollan told NPR's Renee Montagne. "It is responsible for the catastrophic American diet that is leading 50 percent of us to suffer from chronic disease, and that drives up health care costs."

A secretary for food, Pollan said, could put the focus on diversifying America's farms and using local food sources around the nation.

But those topics weren't in the spotlight when Obama selected Vilsack to be agriculture secretary, said Pollan, who also wrote [i]The Omnivore's Dilemma[/i] and [i]The Botany of Desire[/i].

"I was very disappointed in that news conference," he said, "not to hear Vilsack use the word 'food' — or 'eaters.' And the interests of everybody except eaters was discussed: farmers, ranchers, people concerned about the land."

And so, he said, [b]it's difficult not to see the choice of Vilsack as "agribusiness as usual."[/b]

In the months before Vilsack was picked for the post, Pollan wrote an article urging the president-elect to rename the Department of Agriculture as the Department of Food, led by a secretary of food. That did not happen Wednesday.

Pollan also saw "reasons to be cautiously hopeful" about Vilsack, pointing to his suggestion to cap subsidies and use the money gained to fund conservation efforts. Vilsack also has urged more food production on the local level.

But under the former governor, Iowa's feedlots expanded — and some localities lost the power to control where those feedlots are located, Pollan said.

"I'm hoping that now he will take a broader view," Pollan said.

- [url=http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98417440][u]Source[...



M. Spector M. Spector's picture