| The champagne corks will be popping at Monsanto this weekend. They have a lot to celebrate. Roger Beachy, long time head of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, will now head up the USDA's brand new National Institute of Food and Agriculture, an agency for agricultural research that was established by the 2008 farm bill. The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is essentially the non-profit arm of Monsanto (their headquarters are across the street from one another). The Danforth Center has also received donations from the Gates Foundation.
Translation: Monsanto's guy will have a lot of influence over where the USDA's hundreds of millions of dollars in research grants go. Beachy says he will not make decisions on who gets grants or how they get awarded, but no doubt his interests and views on biotechnology and other technologies will influence all aspects of the agency's functions - including who gets the grants. While he will no longer be president of the Danforth Center, he will remain on it board of trustees as the vice chairman.
This appointment is the second win for biotech industry interests this week, the first being the nomination of Islam A. Siddiqui as U.S. Chief Agricultural Negotiator in the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Siddiqui is currently Vice President for Science and Regulatory Affairs (translation: LOBBYIST) at CropLife America (a pesticide/biotech industry lobby group). It should be noted that the USTR, Ron Kirk, is no saint himself. Until his appointment, he was on the board of directors of Dean Foods.