Here's the excellent Third World Network/CAP press statement responding to the recent IPA, CS Prakash attack on their integrity.
As a result of TWN's press release reports countering the IPA/Prakash smear were carried by The Star (Malaysian daily) and the Sun Daily. There was a good report carried in a Malay-language newspaper, Berita Harian, that quoted the Minister of Environment as saying he believed that the IPA's accusation was baseless, and that from his experience most of the NGOs in Malaysia worked in the interest of Malaysian society.
It is perfectly clear in whose interests the IPA and Prakash operate, as this statement makes abundantly clear.
Apologies for the widely spaced formatting. Please persevere as this is also a very useful response to the Prakash-type hype from the IPA that "there is no division in the scientific community about the safety and potential of biotechnology"!
AUSTRALIAN REPORT IS FALSE AND OUTRAGEOUS - SAY CAP AND TWN
PRESS RELEASE14 MARCH 2001
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The Consumers' Association of Penang and the Third World Network strongly condemn the news report carried by Bernama yesterday that we are "being funded by American radical environmentalists" to wage a "disinformation campaign" against biotechnology in countries such as Malaysia. The article relied on "investigations" conducted by an Australian based group called the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).
The article is preposterous and outrageous in its claims and we are extremely disappointed with Bernama for having run the story without checking with us beforehand and is contrary to proper journalistic ethics. We are deeply concerned that the Malaysian news agency is being used by a foreign group in Australia to smear, discredit and cast aspersions on our organisations, which are firmly rooted in Malaysian soil and who have been working to advance the cause of the Malaysian public.
In fact, a visit into the IPA website immediately reveals that it is an organization that essentially lobbies for the interests of big industry in Australia. Among the Board of Directors are representatives from Rio Tinto, Western Mining Corporation, Shell, and Philip Morris.
C. S. Prakash who is promoted by IPA as a ‘leading biotechnologist’ is well-known as a spokesman for the biotech industry. He also promotes himself in his website as a ‘speaker on behalf of the US State Department’. He has traveled to many countries including Malaysia to promote biotechnology, often arranged by the US Embassy.
Given the background of the IPA which is industry linked and their scientist being a spokesperson on behalf of the US State Department, we are shocked that the IPA puts itself out as a "leading public policy think-tank" when it is clearly biased.
It is indeed highly mischievous and devious for the Australian group to question our motives and imply that we are "simply doing the bidding of their wealthy American paymasters" when we are very proud of being independent in our views about the rights and interests of developing countries and have been accused by other quarters in the past as being anti-western.
In claiming that we are involved in "a scare campaign of lies" about the biotech industry and that "there is no division in the scientific community about the safety and potential of biotechnology", it is the IPA that is not telling the truth.
Much controversy and debate exist among the scientists world over about the dangers and risks surrounding genetic engineering (GE). There is certainly no scientific consensus that genetic engineering is without risks. Contrary to IPA's claims, many scientists are concerned about the risks and hazards associated with this technology:
* in January 2001, an independent scientific study commissioned by the Government of Canada revealed that the approval system for GE foods in the country is not up to date with the scientific evidence relating to the environmental and health aspects of GE. The scientists strongly recommended that in the light of scientific uncertainty, precaution should be the basis for decision making. The scientists also expressed concern about the secrecy of decision making and the dominance of industry in genetic engineering research.
* in May 1999 the British Medical Association issued a report that called for a moratorium on the commercial plantings of GE crops in the UK precisely because there is no scientific consensus about the potential long-term environmental impact. They also recommended a ban on the use of antibiotic resistance marker genes in GE food because of the threat to human health.
* in New Zealand, the Government has set up a Royal Commission on Genetic Modification to gather scientific, social and economic evidence as part of a process to implement a voluntary moratorium on applications for release and field testing of GE organisms.
* in a number of lawsuits filed against the US Government, detailed documents have been made public revealing strong dissent among the GovernmentÃs own scientists over some products that were eventually approved.
* over 390 signatories form the scientific community from 52 countries have expressed grave concerns about the dangers of genetic engineering and are calling for a moratorium on environmental releases of GE organisms in accordance with the Precautionary Principle. They have compiled detailed scientific literature from public research institutions on the accumulating evidence of such dangers.
If the IPA is interested in a scientific debate, we are prepared to engage ourselves in this debate, which is vital in the public interest. IPA should not be allowed to mislead the general public in believing that there are no dangers and risks from genetic engineering.
In Norway more than 30 GE organisms have been rejected on health and environmental grounds. The US did not approve a GE corn (Ã¬StarlinkÃ®) for human consumption because of potential allergic reactions. More and more independent scientific data is emerging that show many claims by industry such as higher yields and less chemical use are highly questionable.
The IPA also claims that there is "strong government, scientific and commercial support" for biotechnology. This implies that the Malaysian government is ignorant or is against biosafety concerns - i.e. the dangers and risks associated with biotechnology. This is another distortion of facts. It is widely acknowledged that the Malaysian government, as way back as in 1991, led the way and played a key role in the formulation and adoption in May 2000 of the Biosafety Protocol under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The Malaysian government's role was indeed significant and far-sighted, given that biosafety concerns were only just beginning to emerge then.
The Biosafety Protocol is an international recognition of the need to legally regulate genetic engineering. It is also well-known that the US government and the biotech industry were firmly opposed to the Protocol. The US led six main producers including Australia to block the Protocol leading to a collapse in negotiations in February 1999. Following worldwide condemnation and the persistence of the rest of the worldÃs Governments, the agreement was finally concluded last year. The Malaysian government has committed itself to the implementation of the Protocol and is also currently involved in the drawing up of a national legislation on biosafety.
In relation to claims that we are funded by the Foundation for Deep Ecology, while it is true that we did receive funds from the group, it is not true to say that this was for " disinformation campaigns" against the biotech industry and for a"scare campaign of lies". The Foundation money was to support activities related environmental protection and development issues, including sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, climate change and so on.
We strongly condemn the IPA report, which is false, mischievous and misleading. We believe that it was motivated by the industry and that it is attempting to stifle genuine public interest concerns such as human health and safety and the protection of biological diversity.
President of Consumers' Association of Penang and Co-ordinator of Third World Network