21 September 2002
WHY TRICKY RICKY'S CARPING ABOUT GE FISH CAMPAIGN
200 grocers, restaurants, and seafood distributors, representing 40 US states, have publicly pledged not to purchase or sell genetically engineered fish. The move follows warnings from scientists at Purdue University that if just 60 genetically engineered salmon escaped from their breeding pens and joined a population of wild salmon, the wild population could become extinct in 40 generations. Escapes of farmed fish are common with 300,000 farm raised Atlantic salmon escaping into waters off the coast of Maine in 2000. The US National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has also recently recognized the concerns surrounding the use of genetically engineered animals, including fish, in the food supply.
Despite this the 200 supporters of the GE fish pledge are dismissed in the article below as just "the latest organized campaign to scare the bejeezus out of American consumers".
The article comes from the "daily headlines" of the Center for Consumer Freedom [www.consumerfreedom.com], a front organisation of Washington DC PR firm Berman & Company Inc.
Berman & Co. is owned and directed by Rick Berman who aggressively targets groups seeking to promote controls relating to alcohol, tobacco, food safety, animal rights or the environment. According to 'Tricky Ricky', "Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger...Given the activists' plans to alarm beyond all reason, we've got to attack their credibility as spokepersons."
The Center for Consumer Freedom, in its former guises as the Guest Choice Network and NannyCulture.com, was started with $600,000 from tobacco giant, Philip Morris.
Its Consumer Freedom campaign on "Food Technology" involves smearing organic food as dangerous and promoting what it calls "genetically improved food". The lie to its pro-consumer choice campaig is given by its vehement opposition to GM food labeling. Berman & Co's real concern is the Corporate Freedom of its paymasters.
Berman also likes to paint biotech opponents as terrorists, asserting that "anti-biotech extremists" are part of a "growing wave of domestic terrorism" and that the people we need to worry about are not just al-Qa'ida but "the middle-class kids down the street." [Terrorists On The March -- In America, USA Today]
The list of "anti-biotech extremists" has included not just environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, which Berman & Co. accuse of conducting a "public relations jihad" on the issue, but organisations like Christian Aid, the internationally renowned development agency of the churches in the UK and Ireland, that Berman & Co. label a "far-left leaning" group of "future-fearing radicals" that "flat-out lies about GE foods" while hiding behind "a religious facade to more easily malign farmers, scientists, food companies, and even PR people who deal with GE foods."
Berman & Co's internet campaign also includes ActivistCash.com [www.activistcash.com] which claims to "root out the funding sources" of "the most notorious and extreme groups that conspire to restrict the public's food and beverage choices". In fact, ActivistCash.com draws on information already largely in the public domain mixed with a sizeable dose of distortion and misinformation
Ironically, 'Tricky Ricky' has taken the greatest exception to attempts to root out his own financial relationship with the various lobby organisations run by Berman & Co.
Berman' even threatened a lawsuit for defamation after attention was drawn to his "funneling millions of corporate dollars - donated to non-profit organizations he runs - right into his own bank accounts. Berman pays himself the cash both directly and personally in the form of salary and benefits for his role as 'Executive Director,' as well as through payments he makes from the non-profits to his own corporation, Berman & Company, Inc., for 'consulting.' "
Berman was also implicated in a cash-for-favors scandal involving Newt Gingrich.
It's good to know though that 'Tricky Ricky' really cares about "fish that have been improved through biotechnology".
Same hook, new bait
In the latest organized campaign to scare the bejeezus out of American consumers, a coalition of anti-technology activist groups is organizing a boycott against fish that have been improved through biotechnology. The Associated Press reported yesterday that the crusade against better fish is being led by:
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) -- a front group for the organic and "natural" foods industry;
Friends of the Earth -- a long-time opponent of scientific progress; and
Clean Water Action -- a leftist group that recently teamed up with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr”šs Water Keeper Alliance. Kennedy, who is trying to sue American hog farmers out of existence, has suggested that those who raise pigs are "a greater threat than Osama bin Laden."
CFS, whose organic food-industry contributions are paying for this smear campaign, has convinced 210 restaurants, seafood distributors, and grocers to eliminate all genetically-altered fish from their supply chains. But this is a curious "victory," considering that no such product is even on the market yet.
Elliot Entis, the president of one enterprising company that”šs trying to change this, told The New York Times yesterday that activist groups aren”št really trying to keep the food supply safe. "Their private agenda," said Entis, "is to raise money for the organizations and misuse information to incite fears.”°
Most of the restaurants volunteering for this biotech fish ban are captained by members of Chefs Collaborative, a "progressive" nonprofit that preaches strict adherence to organic-only menus in an attempt to permanently "change the way people make their food choices." And aside from small, mom-and-pop retailers, the only sizable grocery company to sign on is, predictably, Whole Foods Market. This retailer already has a long history of backing environmental scare campaigns like the recent hysteria over Acrylamide in starchy foods.
In this morning's Wall Street Journal, columnist Collin Levy observes that this latest techno-phobic movement is being pushed "by the same fraidy-cats who recently convinced Zambia it would rather starve than eat biotech." Describing an earlier collaboration of the same activist players, Levy notes that "even their most famous scare campaign, accusing biotech corn of perpetrating the mass slaughter of the monarch butterfly, was ultimately squashed. The EPA admitted last year that the concern was bogus from the beginning; the corn posed no health (sic) to man, plant, or butterfly."
For another view on the GE fish issue see:
"Stop the Commercialization of Genetically Engineered Fish," Say over 200 Grocers, Restaurants and Seafood Distributors, September 18, 2002
CFS Says Recent National Academy of Sciences Study Findings Support Moratorium on Use of Genetically Engineered Fish, August 20, 2002
Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, and Clean Water Action Asks Restaurants and Grocers Not to Sell Genetically Engineered Fish, October 18, 2001
Press Release for GE Fish Petitions to Federal Agencies, May 9, 2001