The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) was created in 1889 and has the stated mission of providing for the health and safety of American agriculture while promoting good agricultural practice. It has devolved into an organization whose primary purpose appears to be to protect and defend Big Agribusiness and the profits it brings while ignoring the safety and health concerns it causes.
The latest in the saga of corruption and conflicts of interest to beset the U.S. government`s agricultural oligarchy is President Obama`s appointment of Islam Siddiqui as chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. trade representative.1 Siddiqui was appointed in a sidestepping maneuver that went around Congress, despite serious concern expressed by citizens, small farm advocates, and organic growers.
Siddiqui is not new to the government game. He was undersecretary in charge of the marketing and regulatory programs of the USDA`s organic labeling standards. These are the same standards that allowed genetically modified (GMO) crops, irradiated foods, and worse to be labeled as “organic.” He also worked hard to convince the European Union to accept both hormone-treated beef and GMO crops.
He is obviously no friend to healthy, natural, beneficial foods.
Siddiqui wasn`t alone, of course. The USDA appointed several agribusiness (Big Ag) representatives to the National Organic Standards Board in 2006 and has always done so. These included people like Tracy Miedema (from a non-organic agribusiness) and Katrina Heinze (from a large cereal maker).2
Even as far back as President Ronald Reagan, the USDA has been heavily populated with industry insiders and Big Ag representatives. Reagan appointed several hog and cattle industry insiders to high positions within the USDA. People of the same stripe, with the addition of ranking executives from Monsanto and ConAgra Foods, still occupy high positions in the USDA today.3
The decisions made by these insiders show whose side they`re really on. They look out for number one (Big Ag) and couldn`t care less about the health of Americans.
Two months after the National Academy of Sciences announced deadly outbreaks in the meat industry, the USDA streamlined its inspection system by reducing the number of federal food inspectors in meat packing plants and factory farms and by telling companies to hire their own overseers. When a fast food chain had a serious E.coli outbreak in 1993, the USDA responded by saying, “it happens – don`t condemn the product (meat) for it.”4
Conflicts of interest at the USDA are nothing new and are, in fact, apparently standard operating procedure. In 2008, U.S. Representative Rosa L. DeLauro called for the removal of the USDA`s food safety responsibilities. This was in response to the massive mishandling and obvious conflicts present in the very core nature of the USDA during the nation`s largest-ever meat recall.5
You see, at the very core of the USDA is a conflict right in the organization`s twin responsibilities: the USDA is meant to promote good agricultural practice while at the same time overseeing food safety. The two missions are in opposition, as the current methods considered “good ag practice” are industrialized farming (which does not promote health or food safety, only massive production). So how can the USDA promote one while somehow overseeing the other?
1 – Obama Puts Pesticide Pusher in Charge of Agricultural Trade Relations The Center for Biological Diversity
2 – USDA appoints corporate agribusiness reps to Organic Standards Board by Jessica Fraser, NaturalNews
3 – USDA Conflict of Interest Om Organics
4 – USDA Corporate Influence Om Organics
5 – Conflict of interest at USDA? Representative DeLauro thinks so.. Food Democracy