GENET archive


9-Misc: Monsanto's man at the U.S. Trade Office

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Monsanto's man at the U.S. Trade Office
SOURCE: Grist Magazine, USA. by Tom Philpott
DATE:   09 Jan 2006

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When Bush wants to kill a program or a department, he picks a clown to
run it. Think of FEMA's disgraced "Brownie," who did such a "heck of a
job" when disaster struck the Gulf Coast.

When the president sees something real at stake for his corporate
clients, though, he tends to anoint an ultra-qualified pro: someone,
typically, with direct ties to the industry in question. In surely the
most spectacular example, Bush placed responsibility for creating energy
policy in the crude-stained hands of Dick Cheney.

The world of agriculture presents its own examples. Over on Bitter
Greens Journal last year, I documented how the president planted an
industrial-corn man, with ties to corn-processing behemoth Archer-
Daniels Midland, as deputy head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Now I present you with Richard Crowder: erstwhile president of the
American Seed Trade Association, a 15-year veteran of Dekalb Genetics
Corporation (now part of Monsanto), former exec at Conagra and Pillsbury
-- and newly minted chief agricultural negotiator for U.S. Trade
Representative Rob Portman.

It's hard to exaggerate the importance of Crowder's new position. The
WTO's latest phase of free-trade talks, known as the Doha round, have
bogged down in a dispute between the U.S., Europe, and much of the
global south over agriculture subsidies.

As I reported here, Bush seems ready to trash the U.S. subsidy system,
which props up industrial agriculture to the tune of about $15 billion
per year, so long as the WTO rams open developing-world markets to U.S.
goods. As USDA chief Mike Johanns recently put it, "We must use the WTO
to force open markets for U.S. products."

That, evidently, is Crowder's job: muscling poor countries into exposing
their farmers to competition from their highly capitalized U.S. counterparts.

He'll have another big job, too -- this one directly pertaining to his
background as a global champion of genetically modified crops. (Note: at
Dekalb Genetics, Crowder "managed all of [the company's] business
outside of the United States involving more than 30 countries,"
according to a U.S. Trade Rep press release.)

The United States is locked in a dispute with the European Union over
the acceptance of GM crops. To maintain their outlandish growth rates,
Monsanto and its ilk need access to the giant European market for corn
and soybean seeds. The U.S. government has predictably taken up the GM
seed industry's cause, petitioning the WTO to strike down the EU's anti-
GM stance. Crowder will be there to push that agenda.

Finally, the GM seed giants cannot thrive without a draconian
intellectual-property framework, one that lets them enforce long-term
claims to royalties on their genetic traits -- even when those traits
spread through cross-pollination. In the U.S., the industry wields the
Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970, which gives it the power to patent
seed traits, and exact royalties from farmers, for 20 years after
introducing a variety.

Crowder's challenge will be to create similar frameworks in high-
producing countries like Brazil and Argentina, where farmers have
embraced GM corn and soy seeds while flouting Monsanto's demands for
royalty payments.

As a model, he may look to Iraq. Well over a year ago, the U.S.-
dominated Coalition Provisional Authority enshrined a seed framework
that reads like something dreamed up by a Monsanto attorney.



Jerry Hagstrom, "Johanns speaks of changing ag policy's effects",
Capital Press Agriculture Weekly, Salem, 30 December 2005.

"Senate confirms Richard Crowder as US Trade Representative chief
agricultural negotiator", Seed Today, Decatur, 20 December 2005.

Office of the US Trade Representative, "USTR Portman thanks Senate for
swift confirmation of Richard Crowder", Press Release, USTR, Washington
DC, 20 December 2005.


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