John Vidal has captured pro-GM campaigner Prof Philp Stott at his hilarious best. It is almost impossible to believe at times that Stotty is not engaging in some elaborate exercise in self-satire, for what makes Stotty's pretentious claims to deconstruct "green spin" and environmental myth-making so priceless, is the total lack of insight he displays into his own anti-environmental zealotry, not to mention his devotion to bio-spin! (see item 2)
1.Vidal on Stotty
2.Stott's Rot - GM WATCH profile
1.Vidal on Stotty
The Guardian, Wednesday April 7, 2004
Exercising his write
Philip Stott, professor emeritus of bio-geography at London University, has surpassed himself with a Derridean "deconstruction" of environmental writing in the Independent, BBC Online and in this paper - two-thirds of which he concludes is "biased".
Here is Stotty's analysis."Environmentalism is today an hegemonic myth for most correspondents, who are subconsciously 'controlled' by its Lacanian 'points de capiton', or words of magic and power - the metawords of the metanarrative."
But there's more: "The intrinsic and extrinsic power of the words used as key signifiers should not be underestimated ... they form a core mythic language. If neither journalists nor readers are aware of this ... journalism becomes little more than political niche marketing."
Given Stotty's strong views on GM crops (good), wind farms (bad), Kyoto (useless) and organic farming (********), Eco Sounding thinks that he must consider any writing that does not support his own core positions as flawed.
But perhaps we are just being controlled by our Lacanian "points de capiton"
More at www.greenspin.blogspot.com
The state of Mizoram in northern India has declared itself organic and has refused its allocation of chemical fertiliser this year.
Three other Indian states, Sikkim, Nagaland and Meghalaya, are in the process of going wholly organic. The chief minister of a fifth, Uttaranchal, has vowed to keep his state GM-free and pursue organic vigorously, and the Madhya Pradesh government has identified 3,300 villages where only organic farming will now be practised.
Philip Stott - GM WATCH profile
Philip Stott is professor emeritus of biogeography at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. He also edits the Journal of Biogeography.
He also edits his own campaigning website Anti-Ecohype which contains a number of his articles on topics such as climate, sustainability, biotechnology and forests. More recently, this website has been superseded by a 'blog' EnviroSpin Watch. At one time Prof Stott also ran a separate 'Pro-Biotech' website. He is a regular panelist on a 'critical environmental programme' (his description) - BBC Radio 4's Home Planet.
Although he presents himself as an expert debunker of environmental myths, Stott does not appear to have had a single paper published in a scientific journal in the fields in which he most frequently applies this 'expertise', eg climate change or tropical ecology. His views are also generally at odds with the scientific consensus on such issues. (see Jeff Harvey's comments on Prof Stott's lack of relevant scientific credentials)
In a letter to The Guardian on climate change, Stott attacked the scientific consensus as the problem, saying, 'It is surely time in the UK for a more adult scientific openness about the limitations of our current knowledge.' Yet in the case of biotechnology he seems unwilling to acknowledge any limitations or uncertainties. In fact, according to Stott, genetic engineering can already be confidently declared 'an advance vital for human development' and indeed, 'essential for human survival', being the 'finest of all human adaptations'. These quotations come from an article which he describes as 'one of my more balanced pieces' (personal communication).
Prof Stott also claims to use the tools of post-modernism to expose the 'religious' zeal underlying environmental concerns. Despite this anxiety to 'deconstruct' the language of what he terms 'eco-hype', he shows no comparable interest in unpacking the language of 'techno-utopianism' or of 'sound science' myth making. On the contrary, his own writings on biotechnology are full of religious zeal and what can only be termed 'bio-hype'. Here's Prof Stott on the human genome project, 'Today, we shall truly ''eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'' (Genesis 1.17), for two teams of scientists... have come together to announce the decoding of the alphabet of human life. And ''we shall be as gods".' In another essay Stott talks of 'that Holy Grail of the human genome, our very own alphabet of life' and continues, 'We are truly standing on a great peak and a new country lies at our feet.' (Biotechnology: Mary Shelley or Galileo?)
Prof Stott displays an extreme antipathy towards those with concerns about genetic engineering and presents them as extremists with semi-clandestine political agendas. Asked in an interview to account for the current resistance to GM foods in Europe, he claimed, 'the real reason for the hysteria is indeed the exploitation of the fears... by extreme environmental groups, who often have little interest in the 'science', but who have social agendas of their own. These groups want to 'stop-the-world-and-get-off' and they will abuseand misuse 'science' to achieve their ends. They are avowedly anti-capitalist, anti-development, anti-science, sometimes even anti-farming, and most certainly anti-American, and they want to position America, and its biotech companies, as the "Great Satan." Many were at Seattle and Washington DC for the WTO and World Bank protests, and they regularly visit St Louis in small numbers to attack Monsanto, DuPont, etc.'
Ironically, Stott's vision of extremists with underlying agendas exploiting the GM debate fits many of those with whom Philip Stott aligns himself. He serves on the Advisory Forum of the Scientific Alliance, whose founder describes himself as 'a businessman who is totally fed up with all this environmental stuff' and has suggested Tony Blair introduces martial law. The Scientific Alliance's also launched a People's Alliance - which is so far to the right it has been labelled 'fascist'.
Stott contributes articles to Spiked, an online 'magazine' to which he has a link from his EnviroSpin Watch blog. Spiked is part of a semi-clandestine network of political extemists with a record of defending terrorism and denying war crimes.
Stott also regularly collaborates with a small coterie of right wing contrarians, including Matt Ridley and Julian Morris, centered principally on the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the related European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF). The latter was set up with funding from Philip Morris as part of the tobacco giant's covert PR campaign to undermine industry-critical research.
Stott likes to emphasise that he is 'a totally independent academic' and that he does not take corporate money, but he appears perfectly happy to closely collaborate with those who do. He also authors material for Tech Central Station, founded by the conservative journo/corporate lobbyist, James Glassman .
Stott appeared as a key contributor in the Counterblast TV programme attacking organic farming, presented by Roger Bate as director of ESEF. According to Stott, 'The idea that [organic] can replace other forms of agriculture is a dangerous lie.'
Even though his anti-environmental conclusions correspond precisely with those of the pro-corporate right, Stott claims to be a 'Guardian reader' and that he 'comes from the left'. It is hard to marry such claims with someone who refers disparagingly to the Society Section of The Guardian as 'tear-stained'; labels subject areas like Development Studies 'dubious'; and implies environmentalism is socialism with a green face: 'Environmentalism has become the main vehicle for the resurgence of command-and-control ideas after the collapse of the socialist model in the wake of the Cold War. Discuss...' (These comments were all taken from just one page of Stott's blog)
At the end of May 2001 the U.S. Embassy and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where Stott worked at the time, hosted a Conference entitled: Seeds of Opportunity: The role of Biotechnology in Agriculture . Stott was the conference chairman. According to the conference blurb, 'Participation will be broad-based, including ... representatives from... environmental groups'. In reality, however, not a single representative from any environmental group spoke at the conference which was heavily weighted in favour of GM.
Indeed, the only environmental group known to have been invited to contribute, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), withdrew because of doubts about the accuracy of the information it had been given. According to Graham Wynne, Chief Executive of the RSPB: 'When we received the details, the balance of the conference content was different to that which had been understood at the time of the invitation to speak.'
Although he constantly deprecates 'ad personam abuse', Stott dismisses the RSPB as the ' "Our feathered friends are more important than anything else in the world!" brigade', labelling the million-member organisation 'nerds with binoculars'! (The 'Real' Green Dictionary © Philip Stott 2001) He also dismissed Dr Arpad Pusztai as a 'maverick' during a BBC Radio 4 programme, The Moral Maze. This piece of 'ad personam abuse' is particularly ironic given that Stott's views are seriously at odds with the scientific consensus on a number of issues. (see Jeff Harvey's comments)
The environment correspondent of the Guardian, John Vidal, has described Prof Stott - in Stott-like fashion - as 'an alarming academic' who pushes George Bush's agenda (The Guardian, June 6, 2001). The director of the Environmental Research Foundation, Peter Montague, is equally blunt: 'It is evident that Professor Stott has abandoned his role as a serious scholar and has become a cheerleader for the biotech industry.'