Mark Lynus Philippine Farmers uproot golden rice

Mark Lynas has been very busy of late – and we are not just referring to his extensive tour of Africa and the question of who paid for it.

Since Africa Lynas has been in India, and then on to the Philippines. After which he wrote a piece denouncing the Filipino farmers who'd protested against Golden Rice as lying "activists" who weren't really farmers at all, in what Slate claimed was a scoop that exposed the misreporting of the BBC, the New York Times, and other media.

But a New York Times reporter, Amy Harmon, who'd spoken to the same sources, has disputed whether it's possible to conclude that the protesters weren't really farmers, because the sources for that claim were the Government and the IRRI, which oversees the Golden Rice project, and they both have a potential interest in discrediting the protesters.

That of course didn't stop Lynas and Slate promoting his piece as: "Anti-GMO Activists Lie About Attack on Rice Crop (and About So Many Other Things)".

In fact, if you look closely at the article it contains references to farmers' groups and/or farmer-led organisations being involved in the protest, but these are dismissed either as "activists" or as belonging to the "extreme-left", or else it's implied that the farmers must just have been bussed-in by-standers.

But as the New York Times journalist made clear, Lynas/Slate had "no way of knowing" that what they were asserting about the protesters was actually true.

And when we asked MASIPAG, who participated in the protest, about the Lynas claims, they told us, "Definitely, it is a farmer-led activity and they are deliberately trying to distract the people and the media (from the fact) that the uprooting is a legitimate action done by farmers."

We at GMWatch are not in a position to know whether or not all the farmers in the protest can be lumped together into a single category of "farmer" or "activist" (isn't it sometimes possible to be both?). But we do know that Lynas has a record of dismissing the concerns of people in the global South and of disparaging the people who raise those concerns.

And he also, for someone who is so quick to brand others as liars, has a record of making claims that subsequently turn out to be poorly based or simply untrue.

This brings us to the question of the accuracy of what it says at the bottom of his Slate piece: "Cornell University supported Mark Lynas' travel costs for this research trip to the Philippines."

This is the only public disclosure we are aware of about the funding of his multiple GM promotional activities. And it seems quite possible, in the absence of any other evidence, that "Cornell University" actually means the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSP II), who helped organize his press conference at a luxury Manila hotel.

ABSP II, which among other things trains "collaborators" from around the world on commercializing GMOs, is a project led by Cornell, but it is funded by USAID, i.e. the US State Dept. Other ABSP II funders include Monsanto.

It would be interesting to know more about the exact relationship between Lynas and ASBP II because when, during his African tour, the African Biodiversity Network suggested that Lynas had taken USAID and Monsanto money, he denounced them, calling such a claim "libellous" and "a lie", and demanding an apology.

What makes this funding issue still more relevant is that while Lynas has made little public about the funding for his various GM promotional activities, he has repeatedly denounced activists and NGOs in the global South as mere fronts for Europeans, often on the basis of their funding, while warning about the danger of foreign influence. All this, while speaking from platforms provided by lobby groups heavily backed by the biotech industry and the US State Dept.

The State Dept is, of course, the biggest pusher of GMOs there is, assiduously promoting the biotech industry's global agenda in its multi-pronged efforts to get other nations to accept GM crops.

And Lynas gives the impression of being in lock-step with the State Dept on more than just the GM issue. Recently he's been promoting a military strike on Syria, tweeting "Shame on Labour", and urging all the British MPs who opposed military intervention to read Obama's speech on the need for military action.

Lynas is also now a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Emerging Technologies, and has joined the board of Sense About Science, which is headed up by Tracey Brown of the corporate-friendly ultra-libertarian LM network.

Seems you just can't keep a good man down.