Vatican speaker engages in inflammatory smears
NOTE: This profile of one of the speakers at the Pontifical Academy of Science's GM "study week", which kicks off at the Vatican tomorrow (Friday 15 May 2009), perfectly illustrates the corrupt character of an event which is being flagged up as providing objective expertise on the GM issue.
The profile shows how on the very topic that he's been invited to speak about at the Vatican, Andrew Apel has repeatedly made statements that can only be characterised as wildly inaccurate spin and smears.
Apel's SpinProfile contains multiple embedded links to sources and related profiles. For these go tohttp://www.spinprofiles.org/index.php/Andrew_Apel
SpinProfiles, accessed 14 May 2009
Andrew Apel is the former editor of the biotech industry newsletter, AgBiotech Reporter, headquartered in Cedar Falls, Iowa, U.S.A. Apel has also been a regular contributor and guest editor of CS Prakash's AgBioView email list. He currently edits the website GMObelus.
Apel is among those invited to contribute to a closed door meeting at the Vatican in Rome in May 2009 to discuss a campaign backing GM crops. The study week was organized by the GM scientist Ingo Potrykus, who is a member of the Pontifical Academy. Apel's topic, Financial Support of Anti-GMO Lobby Groups, was summarised in the study week publicity as follows:
'Financial support for anti-GMO lobby groups is substantial, and severely distorts public discourse over a topic which would otherwise be uncontroversial. Governments, primarily in Europe, support the lobby groups in an effort to appear "green" to their constituencies. Private enterprise, in Europe and elsewhere, support them in order to protect vested financial interests, or to enhance public perception of their products... [The payments] disclose the existence of an international "protest industry" which serves its own interests, and the interests of its funders. Sums spent directly by private enterprise on these groups are not easily quantified. These groups will continue to oppose agricultural biotechnology so long as it continues to be politically or financially advantageous to do so.'
Apel has long shown extreme antipathy to organisations and individuals critical of GM crops and has made repeated efforts to link them to acts of violence. He used the September 11 attacks, for example, to put forward the view that critics of GM, like Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Dr. Vandana Shiva, had blood on their hands. He wrote:
'With the recent attacks on workers in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, attacks perpetrated by those who put political ideology above human life, we have an opportunity to re-evaluate the politics of Greenpeace (which has openly declared human welfare to be at the bottom of its agenda), and similar groups which advocate destruction and its attendant misery as a means of advancing their purposes. Those who destroy for political purposes are not unknown to this group... Vandana Shiva has blood on her hands, so does Mae-Wan Ho. So do others of their ilk. I recommend these folks lay low, very low, until political terrorism becomes fashionable again.'
A few months later Apel sought to link GMWatch founder, Jonathan Matthews, to terrorism, claiming, 'He takes money from Greenpeace and has been associated with at least one terrorist group.'  Apel appears to have based this association with terrorism on an Earth First newsletter containing an item with a link to a website - http://members.tripod.com/~ngin - founded by Matthews. The item concerned a completely non-violent 'picnic protest'. In an e-mail to GMWatch in 2008 Apel stated, 'I have described your ilk as "liars", "cretins", and "baby-killers".'
Apel wrote of the death, injuries and often arbitrary and violent arrest of hundreds of protesters at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Genoa:
'Eco-reactionary protesters in Genoa, Italy have engaged in violence of such magnitude it eclipses everything since Seattle, even Gothenburg or Prague... Cops are cannon-fodder for street punks... A representative of someone's favorite cause has died... Maybe Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth (FOE) will decide he was an anti-biotech activist. Anything suffered by police officers in the course of defending civility and democracy will be ignored, while this dead activist will become a cult symbol... watch it happen, people, just watch.'
He also posted a spoof article attributing quotes to a 'non-violent activist' indicating such protesters engage in 'bombing sh*t', and 'blow sh*t up'.
Apel has ridiculed Native American concerns over GM contamination of wild rice - 'Native Americans have found a new way to increase their income'. He was also at the forefront of attempts to use the resistance of countries in southern Africa (2002/3) to accepting GM-contaminated food aid, as a way of attacking biotech industry critics. Apel suggested there might be a moral imperative for the U.S. to bomb Zambia with GM grain if it continued to reject it. On the same discussion list Apel also wrote of the crisis, 'I can almost picture the darkies laying down their lives for the vacuous ideals... their death throes, how picturesque, among the baobab trees and the lions!' In October 2002, Monsanto's electronic newsletter, 'The Biotech Advantage,' carried the headline Academics Say Africans Going Hungry Because of Activist Scare Tactics. The 'activists' in question turned out to be the staff of a Catholic theological centre and a Zambian agricultural college who had expressed concerns about GM crops. Their 'academic' attackers, by contrast, included Andrew Apel together with AgBioWorld's co-founders, CS Prakash and Greg Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Apel's GMObelus website has a section called 'NGO Watch' (the same name as aggressive anti-civil society projects run by right-wing lobby groups like the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute of Public Affairs). In April 2009 this contained links to just three items, one of which was a piece entitled 'Riot' Tourism on the Rise. Nothing in the article appears to have any connection with GM crops.
Apel is equally loose in his statements characterising the funding of NGOs critical of GM crops. He has claimed, for instance, in his role as guest editor of CS Prakash's AgBioView, that Friends of the Earth receives nearly half of its funding from the European Commission and he implies that this may be because Friends of the Earth's GM agenda suits the Commission. Likewise, a piece on Apel's website titled 'Europeans oppose GM cassava for Africa' reports on the opposition to field-testing of a GM cassava by Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) and over 30 other groups *in Nigeria*. Apel poses the question, 'Why would European governments oppose such a project?' and follows this by the statement: 'The Friends of the Earth are almost entirely funded by the European Commission and the Netherlands.'.
But according to Nnimmo Bassey, the Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN), 'ERA is not funded by the EU'. Likewise, another national group - Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FoEEWNI), gets approximately 90% of its income from individual supporters. It is only Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) in Brussels which receives any substantial funding from the European Commission. And even in this case, FoEE's director points out that FoEE's position on issues like GM 'demonstrate that we do not follow the line of the Commission'. She also points out that 'without funding for NGOs (something that is legally set out in financial frameworks, for example the Life+ programme at European level and national decrees at national level), the public debate in Brussels would be unacceptably steered by corporate lobbyists.'
Interestingly, Apel's own contributions to the public debate on GMOs have frequently been made in close coordination with individuals and organisations enjoying significant corporate backing. Quite apart from his years as editor of a publication 'aimed at decision makers in the worldwide agricultural biotechnology industry', he has also been a guest editor and frequent contributor to AgBioWorld, in which Monsanto and its PR agency the Bivings Group have played a covert role, and which was co-founded by Greg Conko of the Monsanto-backed Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Danelle Baker Freiberg Publishing Targets Ag Biotechnology Industry, December 1997
Study Week, Transgenic Plants for Food Security in the Context of Development, 15-19 May 2009, Casina Pio IV
Andrew Apel, The Face of Terrorism, 17 September 2001
Andrew Apel, Another Man of Mystery, 27 May 2002
See the final link in Andrew Apel's 'References', Another Man of Mystery, 27 May 2002
G8 Britons tell of police 'brutality', BBC News, 26 July 2001
Andrew Apel, Martyrs in Genoa, 23 July 2001
Andrew Apel, Re: US plan to use Valium and GM microbes as weapons, 27 May 2002
Andrew Apel, Attack of the Food Worshippers!, 22 May 2002
Andrew Apel, Re: Why not bomb them with food aid?, 29 September 2002
Andrew Apel, Re: Vote NO Wytze, 13 October 2002
Andrew Apel, Guest Editor, PG Economics welcomes new ISAAA brief, AgBioView, 13 February 2008
Andrew Apel, Europeans oppose GM cassava for Africa, GMObelus, 21 March 2009
Nnimmo Bassey in a personal communication to Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, forwarded to GMWatch (e-mail, 11 May 2009)
Clare Oxborrow of Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland told GMWatch (e-mail, 24 April 2009) that FoEEWNI's combined income was made up as follows:
Gifts & Donations from Individuals 80%
Grants from Trusts & Foundations 7%
Statutory Grants 1%
Fundraising Events 1%
Trading & other income 2%
Interest on cash 1%
So approximately 90% comes from individuals (via gifts, donations and legacies)
Magda Stoczkiewicz, Director Friends of the Earth Europe, NGOs and Funding, European Voice, 22 May 2008
Danelle Baker, Freiberg Publishing Targets Ag Biotechnology Industry, December 1997
Andrew Rowell, Immoral Maize, extract from Don't Worry, It's Safe to Eat, Earthscan Ltd, 2003
Bob Burton, US struggles in rearguard campaign for GE crops, IPS-Inter Press Service, 1 April 2004
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