Industry's ABC and CropGen run by same PR flaks
For details of SpinWatch's SPIN & CORPORATE POWER CONFERENCE at Strathclyde University, November 18th & 19th 2004: http://www.strath.ac.uk/Departments/Geography/html/news%20items/Nov_confefence.htm http://www.strathac.uk/Departments/Geography/
Biotech industry's ABC and CropGen run by same PR flaks
"At the heart of CropGen is a panel of scientists", according to the Mission statement on CropGen's website. CropGen defines its mission as a "consumer and media information initiative" and although it admits to being "ultimately funded" by "the crop biotechnology industry", it claims it "operates independently" of the industry.
This gives it a different profile from the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), a lobby group which was openly founded by Monsanto along with Bayer CropScience, BASF, Dow Agrosciences, Dupont and Syngenta.
Initially, the ABC was represented by Weber Shandwick, one of the world's largest PR companies. However, in November 2002 it changed to Lexington Communications, run by Mike Craven, a former aide to the UK's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott.
Prior to Lexington, Craven was the Labour Party's chief media spokesperson and before that a lobbyist with Market Access. While Craven was Managing Director of Market Access it faced accusations of a 'massive disinformation campaign' in lobbying for the European 'patents on life' directive, which was approved despite strong public opposition.
When CropGen was set up, the BBC quoted a public relations source as saying that the initiative came from the biotech companies who approached the panel members. The PR firm was Countrywide Porter Novelli which was, until the end of last year, responsible for the day to day running of CropGen.
Now if you contact CropGen the call goes through not to Porter Novelli but to the ABC's PR firm Lexington Communications. If you write to CropGen, then you should send your letter to Lexington's London office, although don't forget to address it to Cropgen's Chairman, Vivian Moses.
In other words, both ABC and CropGen are run on a day to day basis by Lexington. And what's the chance that any letter yous end to either will go across the desk of Bernard Marantelli, a PR operative from Monsanto, hired by Lexington to run its pro-GM PR campaign.
According to CropGen's Chairman Prof Vivian Moses, although the 'public should be allowed to make their own informed choice about GM foods', 'it is essential that the biotechnology industry takes the lead in helping educate people on this issue.'
It certainly is seeking to do so.
Below is a LOBBYWATCH profile of Bernard Marantelli.
For more on:
Lexington's boss Mike Craven
Bernard Marantelli - a LOBBYWATCH profile
Bernard Marantelli currently works for the London-based PR company Lexington Communications, directed by Mike Craven, having been recruited as a consultant in February 2003. He has helped Lexington with its work for the the UK biotechnology-industry lobby group, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), particularly during the UK's Public Debate on GM. The ABC was founded in 2002 by Monsanto along with Bayer CropScience, BASF, Dow Agrosciences, Dupont and Syngenta.
Prior to Lexington Marantelli worked on PR for Monsanto. Recruited in 1998, his first role was to coordinate 'scientific communication' for Monsanto's Government and Public Affairs office in London. In 2000 he was transferred to the Scientific Affairs team in Monsanto's European headquarters in Brussels where his responsibilities are said to have included 'issues management' and 'scientific communication' for the Europe-Africa region.
His exact role during the crisis over GM-contaminated food aid in southern Africa is not known. In late October 2002, Monsanto’s electronic newsletter, 'The Biotech Advantage,' carried the headline 'Academics Say Africans Going Hungry Because of Activist Scare Tactics.' The activists in question turned out to be the staff of a Catholic theological centre and a Zambian agricultural college. Their 'academic' attackers, by contrast, included AgBioWorld's founders, CS Prakash and Greg Conko, as well as AgBioWorld supporter Andrew Apel who called for the bombing of Zambia with Gm grain.
Around this time Friends of the Earth in the UK received an interrogative e-mail from one 'Max Russell-Bennett,' ostensibly a private citizen. The e-mail had an AgBioWorld press release attached which implied that thousands had died in the Indian state of Orissa as a result of resistance to GM food aid. It urged 'activists' not to make the same mistake in southern Africa. In reality, all the deaths in Orissa had been caused by a cyclone. A check on the IP address rof the 'Max Russell-Bennett' e-mail revealed that it had originated with Monsanto Belgium.
Curiously every letter in the name Bernard Marantelli can be found in 'Max Russell-Bennett' except for the final letter of the forename ('D') and surname ('I'). It would be unfair to suggest that this provides a clue to Max Russell-Bennett's real ID, but suspicion of those who work for Monsanto is inevitable in the light of the evidence that this is a company whose PR representatives engage in covert PR tactics .