BIO? No! BIOJUSTICE!
International Days of Action against the Biotechnology Industry
June 24-25th, 2001, EVERYWHERE
Attack Of The Mutant Carpet-baggers
The first item is taken from CS Prakash's AgBioView list.
It is particularly disappointing to see Prakash circulating smears against indigenous opposition to GMOs in developing countries, in this case the Phillipines.
Prakash had previously told us that he did not wish to be personally associated with the attacks on NGOs in developing countries which are being led by the right-wing Australian think-tank, the IPA. This followed the IPA's D'Cruz claiming, in a press release attacking Malaysian NGOs, that IPA's work on this issue had been inspired by Prakash, who had spoken in Australia at the IPA's invitation. (see item 3)
The argument that often under resourced groups opposing GMOs in developing countries are compromised by any overseas funding links is pretty rich when, as the Third World Network point out in the second item below, the likes of C.S. Prakash tour the world promoting GM crops c/o the US State Dept while the IPA itself has direct links to some of the world's most damaging industries, including foreign TNCs.
1. Attack Of The Mutant Watermelons - Don D'Cruz of the IPA
2. AUSTRALIAN REPORT IS FALSE AND OUTRAGEOUS
3. U.S Groups Funding Disinformation Campaign In Malaysia
1. Attack Of The Mutant Watermelons: The Campaign Against GMOs In The Philippines
By Don D'Cruz
[from the list of Agbioview at http://www.agbioworld.org/]
It has often been said that biotechnology will feed a hungry world. That may very well be the case in the future. But at the moment, biotechnology is only feeding hungry activists. As this paper shows, opposing biotechnology is not so much of a cause these days, as it is an occupation. And anti-biotech NGOs have begun to resemble an industry more than a movement.
As the Philippines case study amply illustrates, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are being assaulted by a sophisticated, well-resourced and co-ordinated campaign conducted by a small clique of highly-networked, media-savvy, professional activists funded by foreign money. The campaign against biotechnology in the Philippines is not a spontaneous grassroots movement, but a carefully planned and orchestrated effort.
This analysis will, illustrate some of the strategies, tactics, international and domestic networks, linkages, key personnel and funding sources of the anti-biotech campaign in the Philippines. The activists' ability to obtain foreign funding helps to show why Third-World NGOs have so aggressively sought to stop any research into, let alone any eventual introduction of, GMOs. Because just as multinationals have a financial motive for developing biotechnology, so too have the activists in opposing it.
While many of these activists may very well be totally committed and prepared to fight against biotechnology for nothing, the indisputable fact is that there are not. They are being generously compensated for their time and money, and opposing biotechnology is every part a job (one they may feel passionately about), just as it is for the scientists who are working to find solutions to the world's great problems like hunger and environmental degradation.
The source of this funding from abroad also raises some fairly interesting questions. For much of Filipino history, the desire to resist various forms of imperialism has been a recurrent theme. The question that must be posed here, which has been first posed by respected scholar Deepak Lal, is whether we are witnessing the emergence of a new form imperialism? Not corporate imperialism, or American imperialism but the ecological or eco-imperialism of western environmentalists as propagated by their Filipino proxies? And whether western environmentalists are the new colonialists?
Put simply, biotechnology is simply too important to be used as a fundraising tool for NGOs. Filipinos deserve better than this. For that matter, humanity deserves better than this given biotechnology's enormous potential to do good.
Introduction: In the Philippines, SEARICE, GRAIN, MASIPAG, PAN and IPAR are among those leading the crusade against the research, importation and eventual commercialisation of GMO or biotech products. Portraying themselves as the voice of the people, such groups have become ever more strident in their efforts to influence the present administration. Yet nothing about their own structures is transparent. How do they operate? Who are behind them? The present analysis should shed some light on these questions.
Doing so is not an easy task. After all, in the Philippines - as in most countries of the world - no laws exist requiring NGOs to disclose foreign funding. NGOs in the Philippines apparently do not even need to provide documents to justify their tax-exempt status.
Strategically, the Philippines is an especially important battleground for biotechnology, because of the presence in that country of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). IRRI has been among the most important research institutions that developed the technology for the Green Revolution. This role has made it an important symbolic target for the NGOs, with their opposition to GMOs as well as to modern agriculture more generally.
Post Script on the Philippines
Since the so-called 'People Power II' movement deposed President Estrada early in 2001, NGOs and People's Organisations (POs) which boast of their involvement in this movement have been exerting ever more influence on the decisions of Gloria Arroyo Administration, regarding pressing national issues. One such issue is that of Genetically Modified Organisms.
Recently Greenpeace is thought to have assumed the leadership in the Philippines NGOs' effort, as a consequence of President Arroyo raising a cautionary note about biotechnology several months ago. Whether this involvement by Greenpeace actually entails funding the anti-biotechnology campaign activities of other anti-biotech NGOs in the Philippines is anyone's guess. After all, Greenpeace is not the most transparent of NGOs.
Greenpeace's growing involvement in the anti-biotech campaign means that the campaign will degenerate further given this NGO's penchant and flair for snappy but simplistic soundbites and arresting but totally meaningless photo opportunities. Hopefully some good may come from this deterioration in the quality of debate is that people (particularly the media) will start to ask the hard questions of these NGOs that need to be asked. But just as importantly, their press releases and announcements are treated with the scepticism and cynicism they deserve.
This paper is based on extracts of research from NGO Watch Digest, a subscriber-only information service.
2.AUSTRALIAN REPORT IS FALSE AND OUTRAGEOUS - SAY CAP AND TWN
PRESS RELEASE: 14 MARCH 2001
The Consumers' Association of Penang and the Third World Network strongly condemn the news report carried by Bernama yesterday that we are "being funded by American radical environmentalists" to wage a "disinformation campaign" against biotechnology in countries such as Malaysia. The article relied on "investigations" conducted by an Australian based group called the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).
The article is preposterous and outrageous in its claims and we are extremely disappointed with Bernama for having run the story without checking with us beforehand and is contrary to proper journalistic ethics. We are deeply concerned that the Malaysian news agency is being used by a foreign group in Australia to smear, discredit and cast aspersions on our organisations, which are firmly rooted in Malaysian soil and who have been working to advance the cause of the Malaysian public.
In fact, a visit into the IPA website immediately reveals that it is an organization that essentially lobbies for the interests of big industry in Australia. Among the Board of Directors are representatives from Rio Tinto, Western Mining Corporation, Shell, and Philip Morris.
C. S. Prakash who is promoted by IPA as a “leading biotechnologist” is well-known as a spokesman for the biotech industry. He also promotes himself in his website as a “speaker on behalf of the US State Department”. He has traveled to many countries including Malaysia to promote biotechnology, often arranged by the US Embassy.
Given the background of the IPA which is industry linked and their scientist being a spokesperson on behalf of the US State Department, we are shocked that the IPA puts itself out as a "leading public policy think-tank" when it is clearly biased.
It is indeed highly mischievous and devious for the Australian group to question our motives and imply that we are "simply doing the bidding of their wealthy American paymasters" when we are very proud of being independent in our views about the rights and interests of developing countries and have been accused by other quarters in the past as being anti-western.
In claiming that we are involved in "a scare campaign of lies" about the biotech industry and that "there is no division in the scientific community about the safety and potential of biotechnology", it is the IPA that is not telling the truth.
Much controversy and debate exist among the scientists world over about the dangers and risks surrounding genetic engineering (GE). There is certainly no scientific consensus that genetic engineering is without risks. Contrary to IPA's claims, many scientists are concerned about the risks and hazards associated with this technology:
* in January 2001, an independent scientific study commissioned by the Government of Canada revealed that the approval system for GE foods in the country is not up to date with the scientific evidence relating to the environmental and health aspects of GE. The scientists strongly recommended that in the light of scientific uncertainty, precaution should be the basis for decision making. The scientists also expressed concern about the secrecy of decision making and the dominance of industry in genetic engineering research.
* in May 1999 the British Medical Association issued a report that called for a moratorium on the commercial plantings of GE crops in the UK precisely because there is no scientific consensus about the potential long-term environmental impact. They also recommended a ban on the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in GE food because of the threat to human health.
* in New Zealand, the Government has set up a Royal Commission on Genetic Modification to gather scientific, social and economic evidence as part of a process to implement a voluntary moratorium on applications for release and field testing of GE organisms.
* in a number of lawsuits filed against the US Government, detailed documents have been made public revealing strong dissent among the Government’s own scientists over some products that were eventually approved.
* over 390 signatories form the scientific community from 52 countries have expressed grave concerns about the dangers of genetic engineering and are calling for a moratorium on environmental releases of GE organisms in accordance with the Precautionary Principle. They have compiled detailed scientific literature from public research institutions on the accumulating evidence of such dangers.
If the IPA is interested in a scientific debate, we are prepared to engage ourselves in this debate, which is vital in the public interest. IPA should not be allowed to mislead the general public in believing that there are no dangers and risks from genetic engineering.
In Norway more than 30 GE organisms have been rejected on health and environmental grounds. The US did not approve a GE corn (“Starlink”) for human consumption because of potential allergic reactions. More and more independent scientific data is emerging that show many claims by industry such as higher yields and less chemical use are highly questionable.
The IPA also claims that there is "strong government, scientific and commercial support" for biotechnology. This implies that the Malaysian government is ignorant or is against biosafety concerns - i.e. the dangers and risks associated with biotechnology.
This is another distortion of facts. It is widely acknowledged that the Malaysian government, as way back as in 1991, led the way and played a key role in the formulation and adoption in May 2000 of the Biosafety Protocol under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The Malaysian government's role was indeed significant and far-sighted, given that biosafety concerns were only just beginning to emerge then.
The Biosafety Protocol is an international recognition of the need to legally regulate genetic engineering. It is also well-known that the US government and the biotech industry were firmly opposed to the Protocol.
The US led six main producers including Australia to block the Protocol leading to a collapse in negotiations in February 1999. Following worldwide condemnation and the persistence of the rest of the world’s Governments, the agreement was finally concluded last year. The Malaysian government has committed itself to the implementation of the Protocol and is also currently involved in the drawing up of a national legislation on biosafety.
In relation to claims that we are funded by the Foundation for Deep Ecology, while it is true that we did receive funds from the group, it is not true to say that this was for " disinformation campaigns" against the biotech industry and for a"scare campaign of lies". The Foundation money was to support activities related environmental protection and development issues, including sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, climate change and so on.
We strongly condemn the IPA report, which is false, mischievous and misleading. We believe that it was motivated by the industry and that it is attempting to stifle genuine public interest concerns such as human health and safety and the protection of biological diversity.
President of Consumers' Association of Penang and Co-ordinator of Third World Network
According to Sharon Bedder, not only does the IPA have an extraordinarily long list of corporate members but, "Almost one third of IPA's $1.5 million annual budget comes from mining and manufacturing companies." http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/sbeder/tanks.html
3. U.S Groups Funding Disinformation Campaign In Malaysia
March 13 , 2001
MELBOURNE, March 13 (Bernama) -- Malaysian anti-biotechnology groups are being funded by American radical environmentalists, according to preliminary results of an investigation conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in Australia.
IPA's month-long investigation was initiated after a number of leading biotechnology scientists such as Professor C.S. Prakash, a regular visitor to Malaysia, expressed concern over the funding sources of the well-funded disinformation campaign being waged against biotechnology in countries such as Malaysia.
The Melbourne-based IPA is Australia's leading public policy think-tank which has a long interest in economic development.
According to IPA's lead researcher, Don D'Cruz, the scientists could not understand 'who could and would want to fund a scare campaign of lies' about something that has the potential to help so many people.
"Unlike some other environmental issues, there's no division in the scientific community about the safety and potential of biotechnology," he said in a statement to Bernama.
Malaysian-born D'Cruz, 32, spent a month in the United States following the money trail. His research showed that the California-based Foundation for Deep Ecology had, according to its 1999 tax returns, paid two grants totalling US$75,000 to the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP).
The same tax returns also showed that CAP was paid an additional US$125,000 on Feb 17, 1998 and US$150,000 on April 11, 1997 for purposes of supporting another anti-biotech non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Third World Network.
The Foundation for Deep Ecology was founded by eccentric American clothing magnate (Espirit and Patagonia) Douglas Tompkins, who subscribes to a radical green philosophy, which opposes not justgenetically modified organisms but also modern industrial agriculture that emerged from the Green Revolution.
"During the 1960s and 1970s, the Green Revolution helped Malaysia achieve self-sufficiency in rice production and a number of other areas which it could never have achieved without such advances," D'Cruz said.
According to IPA, the CAP, the Third World Network and a third anti-biotech NGO, the Pesticide Action Network, all occupy the same offices in Penang and have run a coordinated campaign against the introduction of genetically modified foods, despite strong government, scientific and commercial support.
D'Cruz said these revelations raised very real questions about whether these NGOs were representing the interests of Malaysians, as they often claim, or whether they were simply doing the bidding of their wealthy American paymasters.
"In view of the immense benefits of biotechnology to Malaysians and the Malaysian economy and, the rather dishonest scare campaign based on absolutely no scientific evidence, one would have to conclude that they are representing the interests of extreme western environmentalists," he said.
The executive director of the IPA, Dr Mike Nahan, a former agricultural economist who spent a number of years working in Malaysia, said "biotechnology offers better yields, less pesticides, assistance with reforestation, better nutrient levels and brand new crops."
"It would be criminal if Malaysia did not reap these benefits due to the interference of a few wealthy foreign activists and their local front organisations," he said.