Monsanto steps up its global campaign for GM acceptance
1.Australia: Monsanto steps up its campaign for acceptance of GM
2.Asia: Enhancing Skills in Biosafety and Biotech Communication
3.Africa: Getting round Africa's GM regulations
4.Africa: Gates Foundation awards Funds for pro-GM political lobbying and removal of regulatory obstacles
5.India: Powerful industry lobbies tutoring our judiciary
COMMENT from Dr Brian John of GM-free Cymru: Monsanto is stepping up its brainwashing campaign (actually they call it "GM advocacy and education") - this time in Australia (item 1), which it sees as fair game. The same techniques that it has used -- in partnership with the Gates Foundation (items 3/4), Danforth Center (3/4), ISAAA (item 2) and USAID (item 2) -- in Africa and other parts of the Developing World.
The buying up of seed catalogues is just part of the strategy - the other parts involve close alliances with "charitable" organizations and biotechnology lobby groups (which it funds anyway) and insinuation into US and other national government agencies and regulators. This is all perfectly cynical - but then we never did expect Monsanto to do anything other than in the corporate self-interest.
1.Monsanto steps up its campaign for acceptance of GM
ABC, 30 August 2010
Global biotechnology company Monsanto has begun an education and advocacy campaign to change the opposition many Australia consumers have to genetically modified food.
Speaking at the NSW Farmwriters Forum in Sydney, Monsanto's head in Australia, Peter O'Keefe, argued that organic and permaculture production was "not viable" on a large scale, and Australia was falling behind other countries in productivity improvements because of the reluctance to embrace GM technology.
He said something had to be done to turn around the poor global performance of wheat against other crops, which he said was caused partly by public opposition to GM crops and "crippling" government policies in Australia.
Monsanto has just reached agreement with Grains Research and Development Council to own 20 per cent of the WA research company Intergrain, a move that the GRDC and Monsanto say will produce a "revolution" in the grains industry.
The agreement gives Monsanto access to a large number of Australian varieties, while Integrain has access to Monsanto's research technology.
2.Asia and the Pacific
BT/FSBR Eggplant Collaborators Enhance Skills in Biosafety and Biotech Communication
Crop Biotech Update, 6 August 2010
Researchers and collaborators of the Fruit and Shoot Borer Resistant (FSBR)/Bt eggplant project, members of Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBC) and regional plant quarantine officers from seven Bt/FSBR eggplant multi-location trial sites in the Philippines underwent a biosafety and biotech communication skills enhancement training on July 27-28, 2010 at Los BaÃ±os, Laguna, Philippines.
Organized by the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project (ABSP) II, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), and the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) Biotechnology Information Center, the training was part of a series of capacity building and technology acceptance initiatives related to the Bt/FSBR eggplant product development. The workshop was also supported by the Department of Agriculture Biotech Program Office (DA-BPO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
A communication workshop module tailored specifically for the project allowed the participants to improve their skills to effectively share information, respond proactively to inquiries, and anticipate public's information needs in relation to issues raised about the Bt eggplant technology.
Dr. Anabelle Novero, IBC Chair from University of the Philippines Mindanao shared the difficulty of scientists and academicians to convey science-based information related to Bt technology in layman's perspective.
Dr. Eduardo Tulin, IBC Chair from the Visayas State University, expressed the importance of being equipped with factual, science-based information and the necessary communication skills in addressing possible inquiries related to the Bt/FSBR eggplant.
Dr. Desiree M. Hautea, project leader and product development manager from the University of the Philippines Los Banos - Institute of Plant Breeding reported that initial observations from the first multi location trials showed that the Philippines' Bt/FSBR biotech eggplant has high resistance to the pest. The Bt eggplant technology is expected to provide positive impact to the farmers for the control of the pest and could immensely reduce pesticide use.
3.Getting round Africa's GM regulations
Based on profile of Robert Paarlberg
Robert Paarlberg - an advisor to Monsanto's CEO, and to USAID - has "recently completed major studies of regional policy harmonization toward biotechnology in eastern and southern Africa, for the Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) on the politics of accepting biofortified food crops in developing countries, commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation."
Paarlberg's role as Monsanto CEO's Advisor would seem to tie in very neatly with the 2009 $5.4 million award by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the heavily Monsanto-funded Danforth Center. An article in the St Louis-Post Dispatch, Monsanto's home-town newspaper, baldly says that the Gates money will go towards getting round Africa's GM regulations: "The $5.4 million will go to developing the crops in the field, to safety assessments and overcoming regulatory hurdles" to the adoption of GM biofortified food crops in Africa.
It should not be forgotten, of course, that Rob Horsch, a senior Monsanto executive, is now part of the Gates Foundation, as is Lawrence Kent of the Monsanto-funded Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Both Horsch and Kent are working for Gates on the funding of projects aimed at the developing world.
The Danforth Center's then president [now at USDA], Roger Beachy, said of their appointment that it "won't hurt to have two people familiar with St. Louis researchers holding the strings to the Gates Foundation's large purse".
4.Gates Foundation awards Funds for pro-GM political lobbying and removal of regulatory obstacles
OPEN LETTER from GM Free Cymru
Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
PO Box 23350
Seattle, WA 98102
10 January 2009
Gates Foundation awards Funds for pro-GM political lobbying and removal of regulatory obstacles
We have been alerted by an article in "Truth about Trade and Technology" (a pro-GM trade newsletter) that you have awarded a substantial grant ($5.4 million) for what will effectively be pro-GM political lobbying, designed to break down regulatory obstacles to GM planting programmes in Africa and elsewhere in the world (1). This is not the impression one gets from the very bland press release from the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, but TTT is in no doubt at all, having talked to the grant recipients, as to the purpose of the award.
Quote: "The funding will help the center secure the approval of African governments to allow field testing of genetically modified banana, rice, sorghum and cassava plants that have been fortified with vitamins, minerals and proteins............."
The only mention in the Donald Danforth Center press release (2) is to the formulation of "a regulatory strategy" and otherwise the statement is full of obfuscation, dissembling and carefully manipulated spin. For example, there is not a single mention of GMOs or genetic engineering, and the term "appropriate technologies" is used instead. That is thoroughly dishonest. The use of the name "BioSafety Resource Network" (BRN) is yet another example of a name designed to encourage confidence and complacency and to mask activities which involve disruptions of plant genomes with unpredictable consequences and potentially damaging health effects. There appears to be virtually no science involved in this project, with the funding devoted almost exclusively towards lobbying, diplomacy and attempts to loosen up regulatory frameworks. This activity is essentially political, and designed to drive forward GM technology in countries which are currently rightly sceptical about it. This is NOT the
type of activity which should be funded by a charitable foundation, especially since the recipient organization has very close links with Monsanto, widely seen as one of the most corrupt and evil organizations in the corporate world.
Is the Gates Foundation totally unaware of the dangers associated with GM "biofortification" techniques and of the failure of Golden Rice? Is it unaware of the science which shows clear evidence of health and environmental harm associated with GM foods and crops? Is it unaware of the socio-economic impacts of GM crop plantings on a substantial scale, with industrial monocultures replacing balanced local farming economies, and with corporate feudalism leading to mounting farm debts, bankruptcies and suicides among farmers? These "wonder" GM crops fortified with minerals, proteins and vitamins absorb huge amounts of research effort and millions of dollars of funding, while others look on with amazement at the obsession with a bright and shiny technical fix for an invented grubby little problem.
The GM industry, and its "charitable arms", have thee simple objectives -- namely to "lower the standards for the risk assessment of genetically modified (GM) seeds worldwide, to put moral pressure on the critics of GM seed, and break consumer rejection." The ultimate aim is commercial and political, involving nothing less than the corporate control of the global food system -- and it is a sad thing indeed that the Gates Foundation should be closely involved in promoting this despicable agenda.
I will appreciate your comments on the foregoing analysis,
Dr Brian John GM Free Cymru
(1) It was confirmed by Dr Adrian Dubock (Syngenta; member of the Humanitarian Board for the Golden Rice Project; Golden Rice Project manager) at a Tufts University / Friedman School Symposium on Sept 25th 2008 (chaired by Prof Rob Russell) that there would be focus groups in developing countries, attempts to work with state-run and independent feeding programmes, and other forms of pressure exerted to get Golden Rice into the food supply as rapidly as possible and to impress upon developing nations what an "obstacle" their regulatory regimes are. https://secure.nutrition.tufts.edu/lectures/symposium_2008/dubock/
(2) DANFORTH PLANT SCIENCE CENTER RECEIVES $5.4 MILLION GRANT FROM THE GATES FOUNDATION Jan. 7, 2009 Source: Donald Danford Plant Science Center news release http://www.danforthcenter.org/about/partners.asp
5.Why do judges need to be 'sensitised'?
Down to Earth, July 26 2010
*Powerful industry lobbies, domestic and foreign, are tutoring our judiciary on how to resolve patent disputes
FOR some time now, industry lobbies in India have been on a patent high. Seminars, workshops and road shows galore have been hosted across the country to make India a 'patent-conscious' nation, that is, to turn Indians into a people who will respect intellectual property (IP) rights to a fault, but is actually a campaign geared to effecting legislative changes that entail higher levels of patent enforcement. It has been a tremendous enterprise with no let-up in energy or ideas, an initiative that gets plenty of backing from the US embassy which has a zealous official of the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) posted in Delhi as the first secretary for IP.
US academia, too, is heavily invested in this herculean task of educating Indians of various callings, but primarily from those professions that matter: judges and patent attorneys and the media. And no amount of public outrage here or in the US itself has dampened the enthusiasm of industry lobbies for 'sensitising' the Indian judiciary on the intricacies of patent law interpretations. Why is it that our judges are considered deficient in this area and not, say, in industrial disasters, forest rights environmental hazards, or the complexities of Special Economic Zones? Even more offensive is the objective of one of America's self-appointed examiners of India's patent laws, George Washington University, which says its India Project aims to see if India's Patent Act is actually"in compliance with Indian constitutional standards"!
The temerity of such an undertaking notwithstanding, GWU has been merrily organising IP seminars annually in India in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the US India Business Council in Delhi on IP issues, particularly those related to the pharmaceutical industry. Understandably, this has raised hackles across a wide spectrum of opinion here and abroad. The most egregious of these events took place at the end of February in Delhi when its IP Summit not only had drug MNCs which are involved in legal disputes in India presenting papers on the contested aspects of India’s patent law but also moot courts (mock trials) on cases that were being heard in the courts. Such one-sided summits have been staged for the past seven years.
First exposed by this column (The Insidious India project, 4 March 2010), the issue has found resonance internationally. In June, a group of nine advocacy groups based mainly in Europe and the US said "GWU's India Project has failed to present a balanced discussion on intellectual property and especially the importance of protecting public health in developing countries. Instead, the Project, which receives funding from multinational pharmaceutical corporations and software companies, has misrepresented an industry-centered perspective as an independent academic exercise. These sponsors have vested interests in an outcome where India adopts stricter intellectual property rules and their presentations are indicative of heavy industry bias. Instead of offering a true forum for discussion and debate on these critical issues, these summits are one-sided and only seek to impose a US-style IP regime on India."
Undeterred by such criticism, the Federation of Indian chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) has taken the baton from the CII in a relay race to carry on their self-appointed task of tutoring judges. Last weekend (July 24-25), it hosted the Judges Roundtable 2010 at Uttan (Bhayander), near Mumbai, to focus on challenges which the Judiciary is expected to address. The excuse this time: “the changing scenario of technology and trade policies and development of the law”. Ficci boasts that it has been intensively involved in protection of IP rights and “has taken a lead role in various sensitisation programmes as well as training enforcement agencies including police and customs "besides sensitizing judiciary on quality and speedy adjudication of IP related matters".
It's a disingenuous exercise and the list of participants is a dead giveaway. Take the one at the latest Ficci workshop. Apart from a couple of academics, the others who addressed the sessions were all practising lawyers, some of them noted for their aggressive protection of copyright and patent laws. Also making a presentation was the Business Software Alliance, the grouping of software industry giants like Microsoft and IBM, which is under fire for its figures of software piracy that are based on flawed methodology and are therefore highly exaggerated and make misleading claims about its impact on the overall economy.
Apart from the fact that no consumer representatives or institutions protecting public interests and services are ever invited to these industry seminars, the central question that warrants inquiry is why our judges need sensitisation. The India judiciary has a long history of dealing with patent legislation and their acumen in resolving difficult disputes that balance the interests of all parties have been established in the past five years. Clearly, that's the reason why industry lobbies feel they need to be re-educated.