1.Biodiversity talks hi-jacked by corporate interests?
1.Biodiversity talks hi-jacked by corporate interests?
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), 13 May 2008

Talks on the UN Convention on Biodiversity and Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (COP9/MOP4)take place in Bonn from 12th - 30th May. Key issues on the agenda include liability for GM contamination, genetically engineered trees and the role of GM Terminator technology.

Corporate Europe Observatory is working with the Activism Network COP 9 - bringing together small farmers and campaigners from around the world - and will be busy monitoring the activities of corporate lobbyists at the talks. The biotech industry has campaigned vigorously to limit the effects of the Cartagena Protocol and will be working hard in Bonn. For more information, see:

CEO will also be putting other so-called public interest groups under scrutiny after unveiling the close ties between the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) and industry. This group, which claims to represent the public research sector, brings together key figures from the world of biotech research, most of whom receive funding from the biotech industry.

A CEO investigation highlights just how closely allied to industry this group really is - but also reveals how it has won EU funding to promote its aims and help change public perceptions of the GM industry. Read the report "How Public are the Public Research Lobbyists of PRRI":
Corporate Europe Observatory
Briefing for COP/MOP, Bonn, 2008 [EXTRACT ONLY]

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) biosafety negotiations have been the target of biotech industry lobbyists and pro-biotech governments from the outset. But some have taken a more subtle approach to their lobbying, hiding their agenda beneath a veneer of public interest. Scrape beneath the surface however and their links to the biotech industry become clear.

One such organisation is the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) which appeared on the scene after the first biosafety negotiations under the CBD. Apparently independent from industry, this group claims to represent the "public research sector" but how public is public research when GM is involved?


PRRI members' links with industry

A number of PRRI members have close links to industry. As stated above, Dr. Gerard Barry, who is now an employee of the International Rice Research Institute, was formerly a research director at Monsanto. PRRI chairman, Prof. Phil Dale, works at the John Innes Centre, a research centre which receives tens of millions of pounds in funding from big biotech corporations. And PRRI member Roger Beachy, is founding president of the Danforth Center, set up and funded by Monsanto, along with other biotech companies, as well as former co-chair of the scientific advisory board of the Akkadix Corporation, a global agricultural biotechnology company.

Willy de Greef, until recently a PRRI member, was former global head of regulatory affairs for Syngenta until 2002, then becoming director of his own private consultancy. De Greef left PRRI in April 2008 to become the new Secretary General of EuropaBio, the European biotech industry lobby group, where he sees his challenge as "to overcome society's fear of change and convince decision makers to welcome innovative improvements".

Syngenta, De Greef's former employer, has been a key player in the Global Industry Coalition which has represented the biotechnology industry during the Biosafety Protocol negotiations.

De Greef was involved in an early initiative to give a voice to "public researchers" when the Global Industry Coalition brought together a panel of researchers in 1997 during the course of the Biosafety Protocol negotiations. Although unsuccessful, this appears to have provided a model for PRRI with the crucial difference that the researchers are now presented as wholly independent of industry.

Piet van der Meer, another key player in PRRI, is married to a lobbyist for the Global Industry Coalition (a lobby group of biotech and seed corporations with a special focus on the Biosafety
Protocol), Laura Reifschneider. Piet van der Meer was involved in negotiating the Biosafety Protocol, ostensibly as a non-partisan expert, but others found him far from impartial. Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Chair of the Africa Group at the Protocol negotiations, described him as the most unfair of the chairs in the negotiations. "Many of our delegates were, understandably, not very fluent in English. He used to make them sound as ridiculous as he could by finding fault with how they said what they said, instead of focusing on the content," he recalled. "Sometimes he championed ideas,
disregarding the fact that he was chairing." 5

Piet van der Meer went on to be Programme Manager at the United Nations Environmental Program-GEF Projects on Implementation of National Biosafety Frameworks where he was also criticised for his industry bias. He eventually quit.

Dr Steven Strauss, co-chair of the PRRI working group on genetically engineered (GE) trees, is director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative (TBGRC previously known as TGERC) at Oregon State University and is a well-known advocate of the commercial benefits of genetically engineered trees.

Members of TGERC, who contribute to research through financial and in-kind contributions, have included Arborgen, the world’s biggest forest biotechnology company currently running field trials with GM poplar, eucalyptus, pine, sweetgum and cottonwood trees6; the paper and packaging group Mondi and paper company Potlatch. Recent work on GE trees has been funded by the US Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Agricultural Research Service (ARS), together with Arborgen.

"That someone who has been funded by the likes of Weyerhaeuser, Monsanto and International Paper passes himself off as a publicly funded researcher is an affront to real publicly funded
research." Anne Petermann, Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.

5 GM Watch, 13 March 2006,