The Biotechnology Industry Organization is rebranding itself as the Biotechnology Innovation Organization
EXCERPT: “These name changes are a sign of PR despair,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of the consumer group U.S. Right to Know. “Monsanto’s name is radioactive, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s name isn’t much better.”
Biotech industry association name change betrays “PR despair”
The name change comes in the wake of a proposed name change for biotech giant Monsanto, should it merge with Syngenta. The world's largest trade association, representing GMO giant Monsanto and other agribusiness multinational corporations and institutions in more than 30 countries, has announced a name change that consumer rights groups say is a euphemistic attempt to “counteract awful PR”. The Biotechnology Industry Organization revealed it is keeping its acronym but rebranding itself as the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, a change to take effect early next year.
According to BIO representatives, the name change aims to emphasize the industry's role in “scientific innovation”, which advocates of biotechnology approaches to food and agriculture claim are the necessary way to feed the world; however, the United Nations has repeatedly pointed to sustainable agroecological small farming as key to confronting the world's food and climate crises.
Critics argue that the name change is little more than an effort on behalf of “biotech spinmasters” to cover up the industry's toxic reputation. “These name changes are a sign of PR despair,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of the consumer group U.S. Right to Know. “Monsanto’s name is radioactive, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s name isn’t much better.”
BIO's name change comes in the wake of a proposed merger between Monsanto and Swiss agrochemical and seed giant Syngenta. Monsanto said in its merger proposal that it would develop “a new name for the combined company to reflect its unique global nature”.
Popular dislike for Monsanto was revealed in a 2014 Harris Poll of public opinion on the reputations of the “most visible” companies in the United States. Ranked 58 out of 60 corporations, Monsanto was only “out-hated” by oil multinational BP and Bank of America. “Monsanto and the some parts of the biotech industry face consumer distrust and a political backlash,” said Right to Know's Ruskin. “That backlash is for environmental and health reasons, and it is foolish to think that name changes will bail out their bad PR.”
Like Monsanto, BIO has been active in lobbying against consumer rights campaigns to pressure legislators for mandatory GMO labeling. According to the Environmental Working Group, the food and biotechnology industry poured US$63.6 million into anti-labeling lobby efforts in 2014, almost tripling the previous year's spending. BIO alone contributed over US$2 million in 2013.