CS Prakash's AgBioWorld is in celebratory mood:
"AgBioWorld Congratulates Prof. Calestous Juma (Harvard University) and Prof. Rob Martienssen (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory) for their selection as members of the prestigious Royal Society (UK)."
The following from a few months back helps explain AgBioWorld's exultation over Juma's selection.
Website catches fire (12 Feb 2006)
CS Prakash of AgBioWorld fame topped one of his recent AgbioView bulletins with the following message:
Note from Prakash:
Due to overwhelming hits received on our website because of the WTO ruling, our server went mad, was dead for a while, angrily spit out multiple copies of our press release to you and did not send out a follow-up news coverage of the issue. I apologize to my readers of AgBioView for this.
We believe there may be quite a simple explanation for what occurred: the AgBioWorld website caught fire.
The answer's clear from the press releases that AgBioWorld spat out to the media.
Here's what Prakash & co. claimed.
Academic and Science Community Applauds WTO GMO Ruling
Contact: Dr. CS Prakash of the AgBioWorld Foundation, 334-444-7884; Prakash(at)tuskegee.edu
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7-- Independent academics and scientists from around the globe applaud the long-awaited World Trade Organization ruling today which directs the European Union to end its defacto moratorium on biotechnology-improved crops.
WTO-GMO Ruling: Independent Academic Experts Available
TUSKEGEE INSTITUTE, AL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- 02/07/2006 -- The AgBioWorld Foundation, a non-profit coalition of global academics committed to sharing science-based information on agricultural biotechnology issues, has compiled a list of academic experts available to provide analysis and commentary regarding the World Trade Organization dispute, "EC - Measures Affecting the Approval and Marketing of Biotech Products" (WT/DS291).
On the AgBioWorld list of "Independent Academic Experts" available to advise the world's media were such luminaries as "Gregory Conko, Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute". The CEI is a Washington based pro-corporate pressure group that takes money from Monsanto, Dow, Exxon, Big Tobacco etc. Unsurprisingly, it dismisses global warming, opposes restrictions on smoking and promotes GMOs.
As a leading light of the CEI, Conko is hardly independent and nor, for that matter, is he an academic. Yet, as one of the AgBioWorld press releases admits somewhere near the bottom, it was Conko who co-founded "the AgBioWorld community" of "global academics".
CS Prakash himself is a previous winner of GM Watch's PANTS ON FIRE award. His smoking undergarments were acknowledged not just because of all the bogus claims he's made about the supposed successes of GM crops but also because he promoted AgBioWorld as an independent academic effort when it's been heavily dependent on Monsanto's PR firm, Bivings.
It was Bivings who designed AgBioWorld's website and ran its archive off their server, and it was Bivings who with Monsanto coordinated poison pen attacks on Monsanto's critics that were launched, and given prominence, courtesy of AgBioView.
These AgBioView attacks, made under the aliases "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek", drew much admiration from Prakash and his supporters. For instance, another of those listed amongst AgBioWorld's "Independent Academic Experts" ready to analyse the WTO dispute was someone who responded to Monsanto's PR attacks with particular appreciation:
...In sum, I have one word for your comments - MAGNIFICENT! Keep on posting your comments.
In an article - appropriately entitled "Genetically Modified Nonsense", DeGregori even claimed that opposition to GMOs in Europe was the result of much of the European population having been "brainwashed". And according to the blurb for his book, "Bountiful Harvest", "DeGregori argues that innovations such as bioengineered foods have increased life expectancy, crop yields and generally improved human well-being"!!!
Nor is DeGregori the only person on CS Prakash's list of "Independent Academic Experts" displaying a questionable contact with reality. Take, for instance, Dr. Henry I. Miller who co-authored a book on GM with Prakash's CEI sidekick Greg Conko. In "The Frankenfood Myth" Miller and Conko claim that GMOs have suffered their global set back due to their over-regulation by the United States. They claim this despite the fact that the US operates an entirely voluntary system of GM approvals - a system that Miller freely admits was designed and dictated by the biotech industry itself. Yet Miller and Conko argue that the industry's fatal error was to agree to any regulatory controls on GMOs at all!
Miller links to a veritable network of right-wing lobby groups. He operates primarily out of the Hoover Institution but is also an 'adjunct scholar' at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a director of the American Council on Science and Health and a director of Consumer Alert. He was also part of the pro-GM/anti-organic 'No More Scares' group with the journalist Michael Fumento, who was recently sacked by Scripps Howard News Service for failing to disclose receiving $60,000 from Monsanto.
Another "Independent Academic Expert" on the Prakash list with grave problems with reality is Calestous Juma of Harvard. Juma, who was once memorably described by a well-known journalist as "the most up himself academic I've ever encountered", has just published a bizarre article on the WTO dispute in which he claims that the real concerns in Europe about GMOs have little to do with their potential impact on health or the environment: "The focus on safety is largely a smokescreen used to conceal concerns about Europe's loss of competitiveness in biotechnology."
To anyone living in Europe such a claim is plain silly. Nobody with any knowledge of the debate here could doubt that the concerns over safety are genuine, widespread and profound, as has been been reflected time and again in samplings of public opinion.
GM opposition in Europe has been driven from the grassroots, often in the teeth of political, bureaucratic and industry enthusiasm for GMOs. That is why market analysts have concluded that the WTO ruling will fail to benefit the biotech industry, because EU food manufacturers and supermarket chains will continue to exclude GM ingredients because of the level of consumer opposition they face. The idea that this opposition has been driven by industrial and trade interests is perfectly risible
As a final reality check, just put together some of the theories of Prakash's "Independent Academic Experts", and see what a topsy-turvy world you get. According to AgBioWorld's experts, GM crops have been unfairly vilified despite the fact that they are already helping people live longer while enjoying "improved human well being", (a) because of the excessive burden of US regulation demanded by the biotech industry and (b) because of brainwashed Europeans acting under the direction of trade interests driven to desperation by their loss of biotech competitiveness. This is a fantasy world where the corporate-led drive to impose GMOs is inverted into a corporate conspiracy to exclude them!
A website awash with such inflammable nonsense was bound - sooner or later - to combust, or as Prakash tells us, go "mad", play "dead", then angrily spit out a torrent of noxious press releases.
Never was the need for a PANTS ON FIRE brigade more apparent.
To find out more about the PANTS ON FIRE awards: