How the US helped BIO lobby the Vatican
This is part of a sustained campaign. Three years ago Prakash met one of the Vatican's leading experts on bioethics Bishop Elio Sgreccia to try and head off concerns over safeguards on GM foods.
He's also known to have had detailed discussion with Bishop Jesse Varela and Rev. Father Noli Alparce of the Philippines where the Catholic Church has been at the forefront of opposition to the introduction of Bt corn.
Prakash first put together his "Scientists and Scholars" lobby group in 2002 during the food aid crisis in southern Africa, to front an attack on Zambia's Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection and the Jesuit-run Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre over their concerns about GM food aid.
As well as being intimately tied in to the biotech industry's lobbying, Prakash has long been an official GM ambassador for the US, via the US State Dept. He was also the principal guest speaker at the US press conference where the US launched the WTO action over GMOs against the EU. (see: Tuskegee Scientist's Expertise a Key Component of World Trade Organization Initiative, Tuskegee University Press Release, May 15, 2003
An interesting snippet from the Biotech Industry Organisation's website shows that the US Government actually organised a meeting between the Vatican and BIO!
"Global outreach included a visit to the Vatican to discuss agricultural biotech issues, such as the potential of biotechnology to lift food production and ease hunger in developing countries. In a trip arranged by the U.S. Department of State, BIO's vice president for food and agriculture, Val Giddings, met with Vatican officials and gave public
lectures to the Vatican diplomatic corps and the local community."
The US Government previously got Archbishop Martino to attend its big "feed the world" GM promotional in Saccamento - an event boycotted by all EU countries.
One of the official speakers at the US Dept of Agriculture event in Sacramento, incidentally, was CS Prakash.
What a small world it is!
BIO - Biotechnology Industry Organisation
GM WATCH profile
Based in Washington DC, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) was established in July of 1993 under the leadership of Carl Feldbaum. By 2004 it had grown from 16 employees and a $2.1 million budget to almost a 100 member staff with a $40 million budget by 2004. Membership has increased from 350 to over 1,000.
As the industry's major trade association, BIO represents large and small companies, as well as academic and research centers which use biotechnology to develop medical, agricultural, industrial and environmental products.
BIO's members are not only in the U.S. but in 33 other countries. They include AstraZeneca, Aventis, Bayer, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.
BIO says it aims to provide 'Biotechnology Information, Advocacy and Business Support'. It spent $14,166,000 on lobbying from 1998 to 2002. Biotech pharmaceutical companies and BIO have given more than $13 million in US election contributions since 1989.
BIO's 11th annual conference in June 2003 was addressed by President Bush, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Mark McClellan. Carl Feldbaum is being succeeded as BIO's President during 2004 by Congressman James Greenwood.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 'The association has four major lobbying priorities: blocking government price controls of biotech drugs; promoting genetically modified foods; streamlining the regulatory process for biotech products; and supporting tax incentives for the industry. Threats of bioterrorism have also propelled the industry - and its trade association - onto the homeland security front.'
A major hurdle for BIO in its promotion of the industry is its financial record. The Wall Street Journal in may 2004 in a front page article, headed 'Biotech's dismal bottom line: More than $40 billion in losses', noted, 'Biotechnology may yet turn into an engine of economic growth and cure deadly diseases. But it's hard to argue that it's a good investment. Not only has the biotech industry yielded negative financial returns for decades, it generally digs its hole deeper every year.' The WSJ pointed out that this truth becomes lost in periodic bursts of enthusiasm for biotech stocks.
David Ewing, writing in the San Francisco Chronicle commented on BIO's annual conference of June 2004, 'As of yet, most of what I'm looking for here is in the 'promise' category - and has been each year I have come to this ever-larger industry fete... Last year, this industry lost $5.4 billion, and has lost a staggering $57.7 billion since BIO last held its annual conference in San Francisco in 1994, according to an Ernst and Young study. Only a few companies have been consistently profitable in the 30 years since biotech was born - a few, such as Amgen and Genentech, fantastically so. Remove them, and the losses and numbers are far worse for the rest of the industry.'
L. Val Giddings is BIO's Vice President, Food & Agriculture, with specific responsibility for GM crops.
BIO has been quick to condemn research that raise questions about the impact of GM crops. When the scientist Arpad Pusztai was effectively fired, his research halted and his research team broken up, after he had raised questions about the safety of GM foods, L Val Giddings, on behalf of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, applauded Pusztai's dismissal, adding 'This is a study that should never have seen the light of day.' ( No Small (Genetic) Potatoes, January 10, 2000)
In April 2002 an Associated Press article on 'corporate meddling in academia' pointed the finger at BIO for instigating a campaign of pressure on the journal Nature over a Mexican maize study it had published by UC Berkeley researchers Quist and Chapela, which pointed to the contamination of native Mexican maize varieties by GMOs. 'Nature's publication of the study in September,' according to the article, 'almost immediately galvanized the Biotechnology Industry Organization into action. Led by the lobbying group, sympathetic scientists inundated the journal with complaints that the study's science was sloppy. They also denounced Chapela and Quist as politically biased.' (Corn study spurs debate over corporate meddling in academia, Associated Press).
When Nature distanced itself from the research it had published, BIO's Vice President, L. Val Giddings, told the Washington Post, 'We believe that Nature erred in publishing the article to begin with, and it seems they came to the same unavoidable conclusion. The authors . . . commitment was not to data and science but to a religious commitment to an [anti-biotechnology] dogma.'
Giddings' denunciation of the Berkeley scientists, as ideologically driven, was identical to the attacks which launched the campaign against them - attacks which surfaced first on the listserv of AgBioWorld, in messages from a 'Mary Murphy' and an 'Andura Smetacek' both of which have subsequently been shown to be fronts for Monsanto and its internet PR agency, The Bivings Group.
In November 2002 BIO's L. Val Giddings wrote to the journal Nature Biotechnology to draw attention to an event at that September's World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. It was something which would make us, Giddings wrote, 'look back on Johannesburg as something of a watershed event - a turning point.' The critical event was a pro-GM protest march which, according to Giddings, was the very first time that 'real, live, developing-world farmers' had been seen 'speaking for themselves'. In fact, almost every element of this spectacle, as presented by Giddings, was framed so as to deceive.