1. Business as usual in Bangkok? NGIN
2. Bangkok Post - Campaign to begin against GM goods designed to counter upcoming meeting on biotechnology
1. Business as usual in Bangkok?
According to Food First's Peter Rosset there are 3 key strands to biotech industry propaganda: greenwashing, poorwashing and hopekilling, ie GM's good for the environment, good for the hungry, and there is no alternative. So prepare yourself for global poorwashing week starting Tuesday July 10. That's when a report will be published accusing GM critics of ignoring the needs of developing countries and holding back efforts to feed the starving and malnourished.
That naive claim will come courtesy not of Monsanto, CS Prakash or some corporate-funded far right think tank, but from a UN survey of the quality of life in countries around the world to be published on Tuesday. By a bizarre coincidence that's the very day that a major OECD/British government conference with a major focus on the significance of GM crops for the developing world kicks off. The conference entitled 'New Biotechnology Food and Crops: Science, Safety and Society', will be held in Bangkok, July 10-12, 2001. http://www.oecd.org/bangkok/programme.htm
According to a UK Foreign Office press release this conference is "to take forward the international debate on new biotechnology". Its results will be presented to the G8 Summit of Heads of State and Government in Genoa in July to support their discussions on "new biotechnology", and will feed into other major debates, particularly in the OECD, FAO/Codex and WHO, and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
Even some of those who will be taking part -- see Bangkok Post article below -- argue that the OECD conference will provide "a forum to promote acceptance of GM products in developing countries".
The conference will be launched by Britain's Deputy Prime Minister. Where the British government is coming from on this issue is well established. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Blair and co continue to see biotech as potentially a massive benefit to business and the UK's economic competitiveness. Its chief spokesperson, until recently, on GM issues, Mo Mowlam, famously told biotech execs: "Rest assured, the government is ready to support and enhance the competitiveness of the biotechnology industry. We believe you are a real success story in the UK...We want the UK to remain a leader in this field.." [Mowlam tells UK biotech firms to defend products, Reuters Jan 25, 2000 - http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/tom.htm]
But what about the OECD? This is an organisation which reflects the economic interests of the world's major economies and its head, Donald J. Johnston, paints a rosy picture, "...with modern biotechnology the world has discovered a vast new field which is full of potential for creative activity and, for the scientific community at least, patentable and profitable innovations." http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/fav.htm
Indeed, acccording to Mark Cantley who has headed the Biotechnology Unit in the OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry, GMOs are actually "inherently safer and more precise" and so require no special regulation at all: "I accepted fully the OECD report, published in 1986...which inter alia recognised, 'that there is no scientific basis for specific legislation to regulate the use of recombinant DNA organisms'.... Nothing that has occurred during the subsequent 12 years has invalidated those judgments". http://www.biotechknowledge.com/99/jan/952nkccontinue14.html
The last OECD/British government conference of this sort, held in Edinburgh (Feb 29 - March 2 2000), was described by Dr Arpad Pusztai -- the only GM critical food scientist to be invited -- as not so much a scientific meeting, more a propaganda forum for airing the views and promoting the interests of the biotechology industry! Needless to say the organisers somehow forgot to invite any critics of GM from the developing world.
The clearest evidence of the Edinburgh conference organisers' real intent was actually provided by the treatment of Pusztai himself. Pusztai was repeatedly vilified by a whole series of GM proponents, often without even being given a chance to respond. http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/watchingdrpusztai.htm
The chairman of the Edinburgh conference was Sir John Krebs, the pro-GM zoologist bizarrely appointed to head the UK's Food Standards Agency. Krebs, who is a leading Fellow of the Royal Society, has of course also played a key role in the attempt to control media coverage of contentious issues like GMOs. http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/pants1.htm
The chairman of the Bangkok conference will be the Earl of Selborne. Lord Selborne is also a leading Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also one of19 Fellows who sent a letter to the Daily Telegraph attacking the media's handling of the Pusztai affair. The letter argued that those such as the Royal Society were well placed to help the media, the public and politicians better distinguish "good science" from "bad science". The signatories included Peter Lachmann whom the Guardian subsequently identified as the Fellow who threatened the editor of the Lancet over its planned publication of Pusztai's research.
Lord Selborne is on the board of the UK's leading plant biotech institute, the John Innes Centre. The JIC has attracted repeated criticism for the inaccuracy of its pro-GM propagandising in the media, at public meetings and to government ministers. http://members.tripod.com/~ngin/biospin.htm
Selborne is also Chairman of the UK Chemicals Stakeholder Forum, and is a past President of the British Crop Protection Council. The latter provides a forum for those in "the business of crop protection", and is particularly renowned for its "annual Brighton Conference [which] has become an institution for international agriculture companies to discuss industry trends, showcase technologies and do business". http://www.sustdev.org/agriculture/news/00/04/0073.shtml
So for Lord Selborne next week in Bangkok could well be business as usual.
Campaign to begin against GM goods designed to counter upcoming meeting on biotechnology
Bangkok Post, July 6, 2001
Thai and international activists will join forces with consumer protection groups and farmer organisations to launch a campaign against genetically modified products next week. The campaign is a response to an international conference on biotechnology, scheduled for July 10-12 and organised by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The activists believed the "New Biotechnology Foods and Crops: Science, Safety and Society" conference would be geared as a forum to promote acceptance of GM products in developing countries. Organisers said the campaign against GM products would be launched on July 10.
Participants would include BioThai, a network of groups advocating protection of biological resources, Greenpeace International, Consumer International and Third World Network. They would form a group called "People's against GMOs."Auaiporn Suthonthanyakorn, of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the fact that Thailand was picked as a venue for the conference showed the intention of developed countries to force Thailand to allow in more GM products.
The activists said BioThai and the Foundation for Consumers had already turned down an invitation for them to become part of the conference's steering committee. The conference's programme was already fixed and their participation would not make any difference, they said.
Another activist claimed the conference would be focusing primarily on scientific aspect of GMOs in a bid to divert public attention from the ongoing debate which covered socio-economic, religious and ethical aspects. "The conference is aimed at weakening the strong feeling against GMOs in developing countries while the OECD had failed to persuade their public to accept GM products," said Saree Ongsomwang, of the Confederation of Consumers Organisations.