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Dead people astroturfing for Monsanto

NOTE: Below is an extract from an interesting article in the New York Times which describes how the U.S.'s tea party movement is being manipulated to support big business issues by the likes of Andrew Langer, head of the Institute for Liberty - a conservative astroturf (fake grassroots) group that's cosied up to tea party supporters to advance causes for corporate interests.

Langer freely admits to the Times that various undisclosed interest groups have given him money to push tea party activists on certain issues. The Times also discovered the Institute had used the names of dead people on a "grassroots" petition it sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture supporting Monsanto's efforts to relax restrictions on its herbicide-resistant GM alfalfa.

This astroturfing for Monsanto was undertaken, Langer implies, in conjunction with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI, where Langer used to work, has long been an aggressive lobbyist for GM and has had Monsanto among its donors.

CEI and its Senior Fellow, Gregory Conko co-founded (with C.S. Prakash) the vociferously pro-GM AgBioWorld campaign. Among other things, AgBioWorld was central to undermining important research that concluded that native maize in Mexico had been contaminated by GM. Some of the most virulent of the AgBioWorld attacks on the research were initiated and fueled by individuals who later turned out to be non-existent!! Their e-mails were traced back eventually to Monsanto's PR company and even to Monsanto itself.

In the present case, some of Monsanto's supporters seem to be "real"... just dead, making for yet another lurid entry in the long catalogue of fake citizens, fake organisations, and even fake public protests in support of GM.

For more on this GM astroturfing, see the article Biotech's Hall of Mirrors.
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Odd Alliance: Business Lobby and Tea Party
New York Times, March 30 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/us/politics/31liberty.html?pagewanted=2&_r=2

...[Langer] said he had sometimes chosen issues suggested by colleagues from an earlier job, at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market group heavily financed by business interests...

Last year, the two groups [CEI and the Institute of Liberty] also supported the effort by the agribusiness giant Monsanto to ease federal restrictions on its pesticide-resistant alfalfa. (In February, regulators agreed to do so.) Mr. Langer said he decided "to try out our grass-roots method on that, and frame it as a dairy issue and access to affordable food."

He got a column published in July in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, talking up Monsanto's product and asking readers to consider the value of bioengineered foods as they "stroll down the aisle of the supermarket." The institute's Web site urged members to speak up, and Mr. Langer filed a petition with the Department of Agriculture.

But a close look at that petition illustrates how a "grass-roots" campaign may be something else entirely. He submitted 8,052 comments he said were collected by telephone. The comments, under different names, were identical and began: "I was recently contacted by the Institute for Liberty and asked if I would be willing to lend my voice in support of moving these types of alfalfa to nonregulated status." The New York Times examined a random sample of 50 names, and found that three of the people were dead when the comments were submitted. Others said they had no idea their names had been used.

"I vaguely remember responding to a survey as to whether or not the affordability of food for my family was important to me," said Romeyn Jenkins of Iowa. "But that is far different than setting myself up as an authority on specific genetically engineered crops and authorizing my name for submission on form letters."