It's time to invite your votes for the inaugural Harold Burson "PANTS ON FIRE" award for services to PR puffery involving at least two of the following:
b)agribiz organic slander
The first recipient of this prestigious honour will be invited to give a few words to the listening world, via email, and will receive a scorched pair of Y-Fronts through the post as a memento of their infelicitous contribution to the annals of public relations "Perception Management" -- a phrase coined by the man for whom the award is named, Harold Burson, co-founder of Burson-Marsteller, the public relations behemoth presently spinning the GM story like mad.
Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean that the nominees need come from the field of PR -- at least, nominally. Our first ever roll call includes a biotech industry lobby group, a food safety body and its pro-GM head, and a supposed "journalist" from across the pond.
**NOMINATION ONE: CropGen**
First up we have the following delightful piece of self-description from CropGen, sent in by Karly Graham.
"CropGen has been established to make a case for GM crops (crop biotechnology). Where we see real benefits we'll say so loudly. But if we have concerns we'll be just as vocal. CropGen is funded by, but operates independently of, the crop biotechnology industry."
These are the panel members of CropGen :
1 Vivian Moses - Biotechnology
2 Jim Dunwell - Plant Science
3 Nigel Halford - Plant Science
4 Peter Lutman - Plant Science
5 Helen Millar - Consumer Affairs
6 Guy Poppy - Ecology
7 Howard Slater - Microbiology
8 Will Waites - Food Microbiology
To see the kind of way those on CropGen make a case for "real benefits" from biotech, see how CropGen's Nigel Halford disingenuously sells biotech to farmers: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/false.htm Or for how Halford behaved at the OECD conference in Edinburgh earlier this year -- vicious attack in public/grovelling apology in private -- see: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/watchingdrpusztai.htm
The book titles of their leader, Prof Moses, are also a bit of a give away. They include -- I kid you not:
*From Cells to Sales
*Biotechnology: the science and the business
"Sucking up to industry" is thought to be still in press
**NOMINATION TWO: Sir John Krebs and the Food Standards Agency**
The FSA has been billed as a "force for change" but under its current leadership it has emerged as more a source of GM industry spin:
1. Sir John Krebs, the pro-GM zoologist bizarrely appointed to head the UK's Food Standards Agency. Sir John was the perfect choice -- a man whose "independence" from biotech was known from the start to be roughly on a par of that of the male anglerfish from the female.
2. Krebs' role as the OECD's GM conference chair in Edinburgh -- an occasion described by Pusztai, the only critical food scientist invited, as not so much a conference more: "a propaganda forum for airing the views and promoting the interest of the GM biotechnology industry." (for more on Krebs at the conference see http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/watchingdrpusztai.htm )
3. The FSA's complete failure to re-examine the safety of GM foods, while taking advice from exactly the same people as before (ACNFP)
4. The FSA's proposed research monitoring of the health effects of consuming GM foods which has described as "worthless" by Tim Marshall, a senior lecturer in epidemiology, and which even Prof Will Waites, a spokesman on behalf of the biotech industry lobby group Cropgen (see above), has dismissed as meaningless: "It took decades to prove the link between smoking and ill health, and that was fairly obvious." ( see news report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_798000/798762.stm)
5. The director of the Scottish arm of the FSA is one Dr George Paterson - the former director general of Health Canada's Food Directorate. Paterson has been linked to major food safety scandals in Canada involving the ignoring of internal government scientists' health warnings on a GM product and the giving of fast track approval for a GM crop! For more on this see: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/fsa.htm
6. Sir John opining about organic food on the BBC's Country File prog. Amazingly enough for such a scientist of "independent" mien, Sir John seems to echo a great many of the sentiments expressed by another of our nominees - see below.
(Actually, the BBC 's Country File prog almost gets a nomination for the Harold Burson "Pants on Fire" award, after making claims on the basis of research involving -- I kid you not -- 3 carrots!! A true test would have been to take tonnes of all three kinds of carrots, and do the tests at a realistic threshold of sensitivity. However, even such crass journalism cannot seriously compete with the nominee below)
**NOMINATION THREE: John Stossel**
John Stossel is corporate America's favourite journalist, mainly because of the speed with which PR lies flash from the desks of the flaks and out of his mouth, subjected to no critical scrutiny whatsoever. In fact, Stossel has worn out two producers already, honest souls who resigned when Stossel's attention was drawn to inconvenient facts he wanted no truck with, and which he proceeded to ignore in his reports. This selective touch with the truth has earned Stossel the respect and love of Corporate America, which has leapt to his defence after his trashing of organic foods, well documented on this mailing list -- see also: http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/organic.htm
Stossel's already been forced, through gritted teeth, to apologise for declaring that a test commissioned to prove the existence of E. coli on organic foods (in common with all foods, John, as I'm sure you know) had shown no pesticide residues on organic or "conventional" foods: hardly surprising, said the commissioning scientists, as they didn't do any tests for pesticide residues. Whoops! Wishful thinking on the part of Stossel.
Helpfully, this new piece of groundbreaking research commissioned by a world-respected broadcaster (ie the one with the 3 carrots),, will likely be repeated by Stossel in a smart-arsed, I-told-you-so kind of way at the end of one of his studies on how greed is good (honest, he has made a report on this very subject). US ngineers please inform us if this happens!
So there we have it; our first monthly roll of dishonour:
TWO: Krebs and the FSA
Hard to choose, eh?
PS for those divided by a common language I should point out that the word "pants" here is used to signify underwear and not trousers