For years now I’ve warned of the many potential dangers of genetically engineered (GE) foods, pointing out that such crops might have wholly unforeseen consequences.
In recent years, such suspicions have increasingly proven correct, forcing the biotech industry to up the ante of their propaganda campaign.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Monsanto: Battered, Bruised, and Still Growing sets the stage for the discussion that follows. The dark heart of Monsanto has been exposed in recent years, and they’re in dire need of an image makeover.
I bet they probably have the best and brightest propaganda experts on speed dial these days. In the featured article, the company is lauded for “fending off” California Proposition 37 last November, as labeling foods containing genetically engineered ingredients would be “befuddling” to consumers.
“I’d be up for the dialogue around labeling. Maybe we’ll look back and say [Prop 37] was the start of a more reasonable debate. But it was a confusing proposition,” Monsanto Chief Executive Hugh Grant tells the Wall Street Journal.
Grant goes on to talk about how the company is now going “back to the basics of reconnecting” with their customers, and how consistency in messaging and predictable pricing is helping turn the tide that has threatened to engulf them over the past three years.
Biotech Industry Ups Propaganda Efforts with Undercover Ambassadors
Part of this makeover program appears to be the recruitment of seemingly independent “ambassadors” to covertly lobby the GE agenda. The appearance of being an independent voice is imperative for the role to be effective, SpinWatch2 said in a recent article.
According to an October 2011 article in the Guardian, leaked emails from a PR company working with EuropaBio listed potential candidates for the role3, including Lord Patten, chancellor of Oxford University and BBC Trust chairman; Sir Bob Geldof; former Irish EU commissioner and attorney general David Byrne; former UN secretary general Kofi Annan; and Mark Lynas, an environmentalist and writer who claims to have helped create the anti-GE movement back in the mid-1990’s. According to the Guardian:
“The 10 or more ambassadors will not be paid directly, but the lobbyists have offered to write, research and place articles in their names, arrange interviews and speaking engagements with the Financial Times and other international media, and secure for them what could be lucrative speaking slots at major conferences.
In addition, EuropaBio says it will introduce them to the highest-level European bureaucrats and MEPs in order for them to make the case for GM within EU institutions.”
In 2011, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas responded to the news by saying:
“This brazen attempt by EuropaBio to recruit covert ‘ambassadors’ to ‘change the debate’ on GM is yet further proof that the powerful GM lobby will stop at nothing to push its hugely unpopular and unnecessary products onto European citizens. We need far stronger regulation on corporate lobbyists across the EU to prevent this kind of insidious behind-the-scenes maneuvering from seriously undermining our democratic system.”
The Art of Spin, and the World of ‘War Craft’
When confronted, the above named candidates denied knowledge of EuropaBio4, known as “the voice for the biotech industry at the EU level.” Most, including Mark Lynas, also claimed they’d reject the offer to peddle GMO policy should they be asked.
What a difference a year makes. While Lynas suddenly began writing about his “conversion” in 2010, he recently took to the stage as a veritable born-again proselytizer of genetically engineered crops at the January 3 Oxford Farming Conference5.
What better ambassador for the tattered and bruised Monsanto than a “former foe” having “seen the light of science” and, of his own free will (supposedly), deciding to mend his ways and right the wrongs he’s done against the biotech industry?
“I want to start with some apologies,” Lynas says. “For the record, here and upfront, I apologize for having spent several years ripping up genetically modified (GM) crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.
As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.
So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.”
Gimme a break… If you believe the conversion of Lynas was based on scientific enlightenment, I have a religion of my own you might be interested in. To me, this has all the hallmarks of a carefully crafted propaganda campaign. People have likened Lynas’ opening statements to Martin Luther King apologizing for the civil rights movement, or the Pope renouncing Catholicism. Indeed.
But while many choose to see his new stance as evidence that concerns about genetically engineered foods have been unfounded and overblown, all I see is someone who has sold their soul to the proverbial Devil. You can tell that this is part of a spin campaign for the sheer fact that Lynas goes to great lengths to take as much credit as possible for founding and steering the anti-GM movement. This way, his conversion becomes far more powerful.
Spin and Propaganda Techniques — Are You Still Deaf and Blind to Them?
As SpinWatch points out in its revealing article6, concerns about genetically engineered foods began decades before Lynas entered the scene. Crediting him as “the mastermind of the anti-biotechnology campaign” is PR talk. It’s the jargon of propaganda. And it has one sole purpose — to build up Lynas as a trustworthy independent voice on issues relating to genetically engineered foods.
“… while Lynas says he co-founded the anti-GM movement in 1995, the first wave of resistance to the possible uses of genetic engineering in food and farming began two decades earlier in the mid-1970s,” SpinWatch notes.
“By the early 1980s concerned US scientists and academics had founded the Council for Responsible Genetics, and by the late 1980s a US network called the Biotechnology Working Group was meeting regularly to plan joint strategies and actions regarding the new technology. It was composed of approximately 20 national and local NGOs, and included regular participation by representatives of the European Greens and an Australian NGO, GenEthics. By the early 1990s the Consumers Union and the Union of Concerned Scientists were also on the case.
Concern over GMOs had also begun to appear on the international policy agenda in the years running up to the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, which called for the establishment of a Biosafety Protocol. It was also at Rio that the first international workshop on GMOs took place. Among those addressing it was Vandana Shiva. This is worth noting because Lynas implies in his speech that it was the movement that he supposedly co-founded in the UK in 1995 which “exported” GM opposition worldwide. In reality, concerns over GM in food and farming were already well established on the world stage.”
… After hearing how Lynas was portraying himself, Sue Mayer contacted him7 to say, ‘I think I can lay claim to having been one of the leaders of the campaign in the UK thoughout the 1990s and until 2007 when I left GeneWatch. It’s strange that although we did speak on the phone once in the late 90s we never met and I missed the fact that you helped start the anti-GM movement!!’ Mayer added, ‘I think this is a very misleading claim and you should feel ashamed of yourself. I wouldn’t normally worry about people puffing themselves up like this but I am concerned that you are letting this be used to promote yourself and the biotech industry.’
Mayer is not alone. Nobody we have spoken to among the many leading figures of the 1990s counts Lynas as either a founder or a leader. Indeed, if he was even involved in the grassroots actions of 1995-1996, then nobody we spoke to remembers it.
Beware: Front Groups with an Aim to Mislead You
Now that Washington State has been confirmed with enough signatures to allow voters to take a stand on GMO labeling, Monsanto and their henchmen are revving up their propaganda campaign, which also includes friendly-sounding front groups8 paid to spead misleading information and industry propaganda, while pretending to serve you.
“We think labeling is really intended to frighten people away from a technology,” said Healther Hansen of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests. “It’s implying that there is something wrong with the food and we think that’s misleading to the consumer,” Komo News writes9. Who is Heather Hansen? She’s a contract lobbyist from the William Ruckelshaus Center at WSU10. And, William Ruckelshaus11 was a board member for — you guessed it — Monsanto…
Why GE Crops are NOT the ‘Most Tested’ Product in the World
Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant claims genetically engineered crops are “the most-tested food product that the world has ever seen.” What he doesn’t tell you is that:
- Industry-funded research predictably affects the outcome of the trial. This has been verified by dozens of scientific reviews comparing funding with the findings of the study. When industry funds the research, it’s virtually guaranteed to be positive. Therefore, independent studies must be done to replicate and thus verify results
- The longest industry-funded animal feeding study was 90 days, which recent research has confirmed is FAR too short. In the world’s first independently funded lifetime feeding study, massive health problems set in during and after the 13th month, including organ damage and cancer
- Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta rarely if ever allow independent researchers access to their patented seeds, citing the legal protection these seeds have under patent laws. Hence independent research is extremely difficult to conduct
- There is no safety monitoring. Meaning, once the GE item in question has been approved, not a single country on earth is actively monitoring and tracking reports of potential health effects
All in all, if their genetically altered seeds have something wrong with them that potentially could cause consumer illness, Monsanto would rather NOT have you find out about it. Not through independent research, nor through a simple little label that would allow you to opt out of the experiment, should you choose not to take them on their word.
Why don’t they want labeling? Because you might sue them for putting your health in danger! Doesn’t this remind you of the public health debate that went on for decades over another multi-billion dollar industry — cigarettes?
For decades the companies producing this cancer-causing product denied they caused any harm, denied nicotine was addictive, and even ran advertisements featuring doctors claiming cigarettes were good for your cough. They produced study after study by their own scientists claiming there was no health threat whatsoever from cigarettes. Executives from every major cigarette company even lied to Congress under oath, claiming they had no knowledge cigarettes were addictive, when in fact they did know — they even manipulated the nicotine content12 of cigarettes to keep you hooked! Bet you didn’t know that, did you?
Genetically engineered foods are just another wolf in the same old sheep’s clothing. The propaganda and the fraud have worked so well for so long, why bother changing something that works so well? Don’t fall for the same old scheme! Instead, read what the few independent researchers are really saying about the science behind genetically engineered foods. You can find all previous articles on this topic on my dedicated GMO News page.
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people’s initiative 522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
“Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn’t required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn’t have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn’t it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers.”
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn’t have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let’s not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.