We are starting to get a good picture of who will be in Obama’s cabinet. I know everything in the media these days is talking about the “new direction” of the U.S. government in 2009. I am sure, especially compared to these last 8 years, there will be a lot of changes in 2009. I just hope that people realize that the reality of Obama is that he is not someone who will be as aggressive with change as they might hope. Progress will come and if we embrace what we agree with and try to understand what might not be directly in line with our own personal wishes, maybe next New Year, things will indeed be looking brighter in the world.
The biggest media frenzy has been his decision to make big use of Hillary, but his numerous choices on down the list have surprised me a bit. Most are people who will likely be embraced by the status quo in Washington. But many also have some surprisingly conservative and traditional views of the departments they will be heading. But I wander, this post is about a specific pick Obama has made for his new administration.
I have received 4 emails in the past week or so asking me what I think about Obama’s choice of Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture. I’ll be brief since there is opinion and commentary on this all over the web, even on YouTube, but my opinion is that this choice is a mistake. I really don’t think Obama and his staff have much knowledge or concern about the state of farming today. Vilsack is certainly a choice with experience in the agriculture world, but he is at heart a politician with deep ties to big chemical and agri-businesses. In addition he seems to whole heartedly support genetically engineered food crops.
A man in his position, with the enthusiastic support of Monsanto, Dow, and all the other petro-chemical giants is just more of the same for the Agriculture Department. I understand that genetically engineered crops can appear to have a big upside to them, and it may be impossible to get the GMO cat back in the bag at this point. But if there was ever a position that cries out for a moderate selection, it is the USDA. This choice does not seem to be that at all.
The Organic Consumers Association had a great article before the appointment that listed the following six reasons he should not be chosen. The complete article is on their website, and a summary of the six reasons is here:
Vilsack is a huge supporter of genetically engineered crops.
The “Governor of the Year” award he is so proud of was presented by The Biotechnology Industry Organization.
He is a big fan of Trans Ova Genetics and their attempts to clone dairy cows.
He championed the Seed Pre-emption Bill in 2005 and supported other, similar legislation.
His favorite mode of air travel may be Monsanto’s private, corporate jet.
He is still a big supporter of Corn based biofuels, a technology that is being abandoned as we speak.
For further commentary, here are two links that cover both sides of this controversial choice.