NOTE: We've no idea what the precise relationship,if any, is between James Wachai and Monsanto, but the following comment is interesting in the context of understanding how pro-GM lobbying is currently played out on the net.
In the past, making their case beyond Monsanto's own websites and listservs was via a few apparently 'independent' websites and, in particular, two big subscription listservs: Doug Powell's Agnet and, especially, CS Prakash/CEI's AgBioView.
But these days AgBioView is kept mostly on the leash - after the debacle over its tie-up with Monsanto and the compnay's internet PR firm Bivings. Instead opinion pieces are pumped out via a proliferation of blogs by pro-GM lobbyists (eg James Wachai's GMOAfrica, Shane Morris's GMOIreland, David Tribe's GMOPundit, CS Prakash's GMOfoodforthought), plus websites, while Monsanto itself churns out film clips of GM proponents from all around the world making their pitch, which are then not just openly pushed by Monsanto but 'independently' posted onto youtube.
Why was Monsanto's PR Man Violating Newsvine CoH, Again
Pamela Drew News Type: Event ”” Sun Oct 14 2007
In the course of my participation at Newsvine I have commented that it is unrealistic to believe that paid, corporate and political plants are not among us.
As a voice of influence here in cyberspace, Newsvine is an irresistible platform for shaping public opinion. There is no other goal of PR teams but to influence public opinion and indeed we are a target.
Outside of the Greenhouse, very little advertising manages to slip past the Newsvine staff and make it to the content pages of Newsvine.
There has never been any question that linking to your own blog or to advertising is the clearest violation there is here and when it happens the user is required to delete the offending links.
One reason the system works is that the Newsvine community values the platform for exchange and works to give the staff the feedback needed to handle the violations.
Like real life communities, our Newsvine community here is keenly aware of local activity. When rule breakers show up on our doorstep, we expect the team to enforce the rules we have all agreed to abide by.
Once again the Newsvine staff has done the right thing; the user has deleted the seeds that link to Monsanto and the GMO Africa Blog that is part of the ongoing PR effort.
Fortunately, a record of those links was preserved and the Biotech PR professional involved, James Wachai, author of the GMO Africa Blog, introduced to Newsvine by a user known as Ardith who is no longer with us.
At the time he first arrived and my research indicated he was a Monsanto PR professional I reported it as a violation and the offending links were immediately removed. http://gmoafrica.newsvine.com/ The fact is reflected by the article count at 2 the seed count at 36 and no content at the page.
It appears his response was to create a new user name and continue with the prohibited linking under a new name. http://biotechgmo.newsvine.com/ again we have no content but a seed count of 10 along with this user supplied bio.
*Member Since: 4/2007 I am a communication guru in agricultural biotechnology-related issues, and I seek to enhance public understanding of agricultural biotechnology.*
Links to the GMO Africa Blog's Newsvine accounts and now deleted seeds, along with a collection of other sites and articles were documented by me at a site called politicalfriendster, where I track many of the individuals who influence political policy by connecting them to their corporate interests. My connections are tagged as fedup.
PR Leap - Accelerating Search Visibility News Released: August 09, 2007 Modern Genetically Modified Food Crops Beneficial to Africa SEATTLE, WASHINGTON August 09, 2007 Biotech News
(PRLEAP.COM) James Wachai, author of the GMO Africa Blog, and a communication specialist on agricultural issues, has urged Africa to join the rest of the world in modernizing its agriculture*
The bigger questions are, why was an admitted biotech public relations professional rooted at Newsvine in the first place and why, after being required to delete an account linking to his GMO Africa Blog and Monsanto's PR site with one user name, did he create another account and do it again?
This isn't just any run of the mill blogger who has a passion for genetically altered foods.
James Wachai is featured prominently and frequently at AgBioView, the industry association newsletter along with notables from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a 'think tank' that routinely provides 'expert' opinions on Monsanto products and the Hoover Institution, another powerful think tank with heavyweights like Henry I. Miller whose bio from CEI is here.
*Henry I. Miller, M.D., is a Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Adjunct Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. His research focuses on public policy toward science and technology, especially pharmaceutical development and the new biotechnology. http://www.cei.org/dyn/view_expert.cfm?expert=150 *
Wachai is also featured at a site called Truth About Trade, another site that is dominated by feature authors who promote the adoption of gmo crops. The home page even has a counter tracking the increasing acreage.
*Counting Up! Biotech Farming Around the World - Biotech crops are sprouting up around the globe. Watch as we meet and exceed the one billion acre milestone for biotech crops as they are planted and harvested.
The acreage counter is movable, so it doesn't copy. The home page is here http://www.truthabouttrade.org/ *
Even better than that, Wachai's views are featured at Monsanto's Biotech Knowledge Center . Apparently Monsanto has a high opinion of his views as well. The link is directly to Monsanto, quoting Wachai and offering another link to what appears to be yet another, user supplied content site, where the covert PR is being promoted. Is there any way the corporate executives could be unaware of the scope of his information seeding?
*Kenya Inches Close to Food Sustainability
- James Wachai, Nov. 10, 2006 http://b-science.blogspot.com
Kenya has begun a countdown to commercializing genetically modified maize(corn). Scientists at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) and Insect Resistant Maize for Africa (IRMA) have already developed a new maize seed, resistant to the stem borer. .. *
These groups are free to promote any view they choose but what does it say about their ethics that plants are mixed among users to promote a business agenda? What does it say about the Monsanto strategy that free sites like ours and Yahoo! Answers have professional spin masters supplying corporate PR as opposed to paying to advertise?
It is no secret to many here that my personal view of the fee based seeds created by Monsanto and the other petrochemical companies to withstand lethal doses of toxic herbicides are not only dangerous to human health and the environment but a violation of individual freedom as American consumers who have been denied the right to know what we're eating and choose whether to consume them.
If we are really a free market economy then businesses compete for customers by promoting the benefits of their products and winning consumers endorsements. That is not the case with biotech; through creative legislative loopholes American consumers have been denied the right to choose.
Now we are left in a situation where the bulk of America's subsidized crops are biotech, gmo varieties. A quick look at the Environmental Working Group database shows us that nearly half of the subsidies go to the Congressional Districts with Members of Congress on the Agriculture Committee.
19 congressional districts account for half (49.7%) of crop subsidy program spending in the US between 2003 and 2005. http://farm.ewg.org/sites/farmbill2007/cdlist.php
Commodity Subsidies to Districts Represented by the House Agriculture Committee, 2003-2005 Crop Subsidy Program benefits in United States totaled $34.8 billion in program years 2003-2005.
Monsanto has the vast majority of that seed market, which means as taxpayers we are all paying to grow these gmo varieties. An article by Michael Pollan, in The New York Times, April 22, 2007 analyzed the underpriced junk foods in America's diets. Here's a bit of the point he makes.
Among other things, it determines which crops will be subsidized and which will not, and in the case of the carrot and the Twinkie, the farm bill as currently written offers a lot more support to the cake than to the root. Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat ”” three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades ”” indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning ”” U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy.If we look at the data from the USDA we see nearly all those crops are gmo varieties and the bulk of those are Monsanto's. http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Biotechnology/chapter1.htm
Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.). HT soybeans expanded to 91 percent of U.S. soybean planted acreage and HT cotton expanded to 70 percent of cotton acreage in 2007. Adoption of insect-resistant (Bt) crops, containing the gene from a soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), has also expanded. Use of Bt cotton reached 59 percent of planted cotton acreage in 2007 and Bt corn use grew from about 1 percent of corn acreage in 1996 to 49 percent in 2007.
GE crops do not increase the yield potential of a hybrid. In fact, yield may even decrease if the varieties used to carry the herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant genes are not the highest yielding cultivars.
Taxpayers picking up the tab to artificially lower the price of these crops and the benefit is going straight to Monsanto's bottom line. CNBC reported in April of this year...
Monsanto surged to a record high - Monsanto Co [MON 93.54 2.75 (+3.03%) ] after the seed company posted a higher-than-expected second-quarter profit. The results were driven by record revenues that included strong sales of its genetically modified corn and other seeds. Corn demand has increased as ethanol production has ramped up....
The bottom line showed net income for the second quarter totaling $543 million, compared with $440 million a year ago. Monsanto said it recorded record net sales of $2.6 billion for the second quarter, up 19 percent over the same period in 2006. A
Why is a company with $2.6 billion in quarterly sales planting PR material at free user supplied content sites and why when they've been caught once would they do it again? Is this a lone case of covert operations and dirty PR tricks or is there a corporate culture that accepts any strategy to sway public opinion is justified in pursuit of profit?
There's little question my view of the ethics involved reflect an attitude that many corporate heavyweights in America have and that is the rules don't apply to them. That attitude is reflected in the policies of a Congress so beholden to corporate interests that our support goes to the most powerful corporate interests at the expense of the public.
Every sector has its winners from Halliburton to ADM the largesses of the Congress is divvied up by market sector but in all cases the taxpayers get left with the tab. It's important in my view to see how the biggest beneficiaries rarely have a problem finding a way to take a free ride rather than reach into their own pockets.
There is no doubt in my mind that they know exactly what is happening right down to tracking my activities as a critic. Details of Monsanto and their supporters visiting the site for my film, immediately after I wrote about it on Newsvine, are posted at politicalfriendster as well, connecting the notable visitors tracking me at the server details for Roundup Ready Nation.
So my fellow viners, what do you think of the situation?