Don't hold your breath, Secretary Vilsack

I was struck by this passage in a Sunday Des Moines Register feature on Iowans in key posts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

[USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service administrator Michael] Michener declined to discuss the department’s strategy for promoting international acceptance of biotechnology, saying it’s still in the works. But he argues that the Obama administration can be more effective than the Bush administration, which went to the World Trade Organization to unsuccessfully break European resistance to the genetically engineered crops.

Vilsack is taking a lighter approach, Michener said, recounting a discussion the secretary had with his German counterpart.

Vilsack “made this very creative argument on how during the eight years of the Bush administration, the Europeans would lecture us on how we had to bring our citizens along and educate them on the science of climate change. He turned that around and said, ‘You know, you’ve got a similar responsibility on biotech’” Michener said.

That certainly is a “creative” analogy. Getting Americans on board with serious policies on climate change may be our only hope for avoiding a catastrophic global warming scenario. Gaining European acceptance for genetically-modified crops has no comparable global benefit (no, these crops won’t magically end world hunger).

But a more important point is after the jump.

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Organic Consumers Association against Vilsack for Ag Secretary

The Organic Consumers Association doesn’t hold back in this piece: Six Reasons Why Obama Appointing Monsanto’s Buddy, Former Iowa Governor Vilsack, for USDA Head is a Terrible Idea.

Click through to read the whole case against Vilsack. Among other things, they don’t like his advocacy of genetically-engineered crops for food or pharmaceuticals, his tendency to travel in Monsanto’s jet, and his support of biofuels.

I can’t recall anything Vilsack did as governor to address pollution from conventional farming or to promote sustainable agriculture. Then again, I was out of the state for most of his first term. If anyone wants to make the case for Vilsack as ag secretary in the comments, have at it.

I would much rather see Vilsack in a different post, such as secretary of education. He is very smart, understands policy and works hard, so he would be an asset to the cabinet–just not as agriculture secretary, in my opinion.

On a related note, if you care about food policy and sustainable agriculture, you should bookmark the community blog La Vida Locavore, featuring Jill Richardson (known to Daily Kos readers as OrangeClouds115) and Asinus Asinum Fricat, among others.

Jill’s recent posts indicate that Obama will likely improve food safety and may move us in the right direction in several other agricultural policy areas.

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