Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vilsack as USDA head, Questions

I am not too pleased that Tom Vilsack has been named as the candidate for the USDA head honcho slot. There are a lot of other people that would have made a better candidate. The best summation of why he is not the best choice is made by the Organic Consumers Association.

Six Reasons Why Obama Appointing Monsanto's Buddy, Former Iowa Governor Vilsack, for USDA Head Would be a Terrible Idea
Organic Consumers Association, November 12, 2008

1. Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack's support of genetically engineered pharmaceutical crops, especially pharmaceutical corn:

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

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

4. Vilsack was the origin of the seed pre-emption bill in 2005, which many people here in Iowa fought because it took away local government's possibility of ever having a regulation on seeds- where GE would be grown, having GE-free buffers, banning pharma corn locally, etc. Representative Sandy Greiner, the Republican sponsor of the bill, bragged on the House Floor that Vilsack put her up to it right after his state of the state address.

5. Vilsack has a glowing reputation as being a schill for agribusiness biotech giants like Monsanto. Sustainable ag advocated across the country were spreading the word of Vilsack's history as he was attempting to appeal to voters in his presidential bid. An activist from the west coast even made this youtube animation about Vilsack
The airplane in this animation is a referral to the controversy that Vilsack often traveled in Monsanto's jet.

6. Vilsack is an ardent support of corn and soy based biofuels, which use as much or more fossil energy to produce them as they generate, while driving up world food prices and literally starving the poor.

Web Note, Nov. 20, 2008: Although the Organic Consumers Association is happy that former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack apparently supports a modest reduction in our nation's annual $17-25 billion subsidies (for example the often voiced reform for a $250,000 limit to individual farms per year) to chemical, energy-intensive and genetically engineered crops such as corn, soybeans, and cotton, our position is that all "non-green" subsidies should be eliminated. We can no longer afford to use U.S. tax money to subsidize chemical and energy-intensive crops that basically prop up factory farm profits and the junk food industry, make consumers unhealthy, waste valuable non-renewable resources, and destabilize the climate. We need massive subsidies instead to help American farmers and ranchers make the transition to healthy, energy-efficient, carbon-sequestering, organic crops and farm practices--before it's too late.

Similarly, we are glad Vilsack has apparently reversed his previous vocal support for genetically engineered crops, including controversial and dangerous biopharmaceutical crops, but we'd prefer a USDA Secretary who calls for on an outright ban on biopharm crops, cloned animals, and an end to all taxpayer subsidies for genetically engineered crops. If Vilsack actually is appointed USDA Secretary we'll definitely remind him of his stated position below--that he supports mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods and food ingredients and strict liability for companies and farmers causing genetic pollution with their GMO seeds and crops.

Finally, we hope Tom Vilsack (and Barack Obama) will admit that corn-based ethanol and soy-based biodiesel, although popular with Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, and subsidized corn and soybean farmers in Vilsack's home state of Iowa, are a dangerous hoax, and that the only way the US will be able to reduce our greenhouse gas pollution by 80% by 2050 (as Obama has promised), and to survive in an era of Peak Oil and evermore expensive energy, is to convert our nation's industrial, petroleum-based food and farming system (which eats up 19% of our energy and generates 37% of our greenhouse gases) to a solar-based, relocalized/regionalized system of organic agriculture as outlined in Michael Pollan's recent essay in the New York Times http://www.organicconsumers.or...

We're happy Tom Vilsack voices support for long overdue "Livestock Market Reforms," but we believe it's now blatantly obvious that factory farms or CAFO should be banned, before they do any more damage to animals, human health, water quality (including massive dead zones in the oceans), and our already destabilized climate.

We look forward to mobilizing America's 50 million organic consumer to pressure Tom Vilsack or whomever Barack Obama appoints as the new Secretary of Agriculture.

Ronnie Cummins, Director, Organic Consumers Association

If we are going to have a USDA that does what it should do with respect to the food we are eating then someone a little less friendly with big agriculture needs to be in the post. We as a nation are slowly dying from the food choices we have.
In the New York Times op-ed by Nicholas Kristof last week. Kristof reminds readers that 2% of Americans farm but 100% of us eat - we need a Secretary of Ag who can be a Secretary of Food as well.


From a press release from the Organic Consumers Association:

Today'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."

h/t Jill at La Vida Locavore

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