29 January 2003
Pants On Fire awards (winner) – GM Watch on 2002 lies, disinformation and PR chicanery
Here's the final part of the GM WATCH end-of-year report, The Smell of Burning Trousers, on the smelters of 2002's choicest lies, disinformation, PR chicanery and unfounded abuse.
In first place for manufactured smears, Prof CS Prakash
WHEN IT COMES TO PANTS, MEET 'MR BIG!' - NUMERO UNO
In first place:
Prof Channapatna Prakash, the great deceiver - you'll believe a mannequin can lie!
Prof CS Prakash, Director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at the Tuskegee Institute in Texas and a roving GM ambassador for the US State Dept, is a man who knows how to tempt poor farmers. Last summer Prof Prakash told the Tanzanian press that "genes from biotechnology-improved crops have an important role to play, particularly in Tanzania and other developing countries, as it doubles production and is a solution towards poverty alleviation." Have you got that? It "doubles production". Not content with that enormity, Prakash told a press conference in the Philippines that, "most genetically-modified crops have longer shelf life". For Third World farmers struggling with poor infrastructure and heavy post-harvest losses these are enticing claims.
The fake claims come packaged with manufactured smears. Prakash told the assembled journalists in Manila that Greenpeace could be getting money for opposing GM crops from "some companies that think their business operations will be greatly affected by widespread use of genetically modified crops." Who could these secret backers be? According to the Philippine Star, "Prakash would not say if pesticide companies are financing the operations of Greenpeace."
Such lies and smears are far from the full extent of the Prakash fraud, however. Take Prof Prakash's "AgBioWorld Foundation". Prakash presents this as a mainstream science campaign, in support of "agbiotech", that has "emerged from academic roots and values" and which eschews corporate support. The centre piece of AgBioWorld's campaign is Prakash's petition supporting the "judicious" use of genetically engineered crops in the developing world. This declaration has always been presented by Prakash as a Third World scientist's rallying point for fellow academics. But according to the annual report of the Competitive Enterpise Institute (2000), the petition formed a key part of the CEI's much wider campaign against "death by regulation"!
Recently, Prakash has been more open about the fact that Greg Conko of the CEI was a "co-founder" of his campaign. The midwifery of an organisation described by PR Watch as "a well funded corporate front", and which opposes restrictions on smoking just as vociferously as it does those on GM foods, sits a little oddly with Prakash's claims of AgBioWorld's "academic roots and values"!
Prakash also runs the AgBioView e-mailing list which has accused critics of genetic engineering, variously, of fascism, communism, imperialism, nihilism, murder, corruption, terrorism, and even genocide; not to mention being worse than Hitler and on a par with the mass murderers who destroyed the World Trade Centre.
In 2002 AgBioView worked flat out to label the biotech industry's critics as "killers of the hungry" over their criticism of USAID and its tied GM aid for Africa. Unmentioned by Prakash was the fact that he is an advisor to USAID or that his university enjoys multi-million dollar contracts with the agency. In autumn 2002 Prakash and Conko issued an AgBioWorld press release falsely implying the activities of anti-GM activists on the food aid issue had been responsible for the deaths of 10,000 people in the Indian state of Orissa. In reality, all the deaths were due to a super-cyclone.
The fakery and sleight of hand doesn't even stop there. In April 2002 the journal Nature, in an unprecedented move, disowned the research of UC Berkeley scientists, Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, which had demonstrated the contamination of traditional maize landraces in a remote part of Mexico. Prakash has been quite happy to admit that AgBioWorld "played a fairly important role in putting public pressure on Nature" and has even claimed, in a fund-raising e-mail, that AgBioWorld's campaign led directly to the disavowal of the research.
Certainly the AgBioView list took the lead in promoting and coordinating the attacks on the Berkeley researchers. The inflammatory series of e-mail attacks that kicked off AgBioView's campaign came from a "Mary Murphy" and an "Andura Smetacek". These e-mails claimed Chapela was politically motivated and that his research could only be understood in the light of his collusion with "fear-mongering activists" with whom, it was insinuated, he had designed the research. And Smetacek even asked how much money Chapela was getting in "expenses" from the anti-biotech "industry".
Both "Murphy" and "Chapela" were fronts. "Mary Murphy" was run by Monsanto's PR company, Bivings, while the postings of "Andura Smetacek" have been traced back directly to Monsanto in St Louis. In all Prakash posted around 70 of their poison pen attacks on his list. And their attacks on Chapela were all placed at the top of his AgBioView bulletins.
Yet according to CS Prakash, he and AgBioWorld have absolutely no connections with any PR companies or biotech corporations. In reality, however, his connections with both are more direct than even the Murphy/Smetacek mails might suggest. An error message received while we were searching the messages in Prakash's original AgBioView archive - now closed - showed that this AgBioView database was hosted on Bivings' main apollo server. A technical audit of AgBioWorld's website showed it had all the hallmarks of having been designed by Bivings. Monsanto's front persona for circulating attacks on the internet, "Andura Smetacek", even created an online petition calling for the jailing of Jose Bove that stated it had been created by Smetacek *on behalf of Prakash's AgBioWorld* - Prakash was amongst that petition's early signatories.
A Monsanto PR "phantom" can speak on behalf of AgBioWorld because Prakash's AgBioWorld is, in reality, just one of a series of virtual shopwindows created by Monsanto and Bivings in order to influence the GM debate. Smetacek and Prakash even speak from the same script. When claims made about Greenpeace by Smetacek on Prakash's AgBioView list ended up in a Scottish newspaper, it resulted in a libel case. One of the claims at the centre of the case, which Greenpeace won, was that Greenpeace was getting financial backing from companies. It was agreed in the High Court that this claim was without foundation. Yet this is exactly the claim that Prakash made in the Philippines - the added twist being Prakash's failure to deny that it is the agrochemical industry that is "financing the operations of Greenpeace"!
CS Prakash speaks Monsanto's script just as readily as Monsanto's own fake persona. He is the mannequin in Monsanto's virtual shopwindow and one who seems prepared to go anywhere and say or do almost anything to promote the interests of the US biotech/agrochem industry. Witness his fake claims and smears in Manila which occurred in the build up to the approval of Monsanto's GM corn in the Philippines.
The deceit that Prakash has been involved in has been on such a monumental scale that his smoking undergarments have burnt their way into the record books.
Professor Channpatna Prakash is the... PANTS ON FIRE HOT SHOT OF 2002.
[SEE THE AWARD WINNER SPORTING HIS HOT PANTS:
Find out more:
Seeds of dissent
Part of the Network: How CS Prakash and AgBioWorld are part of a network of pro-corporate extremists
GM food and Orissa - the real story
Prof Prakash - sent to lie abroad?
Dear Professor Prakash...
Prakash mouthing Andura's script?
Prakash lies proliferate