Monsanto funding another "front group" (2/7/2003)

Monsanto made a $200,000 donation to a front group of PR firm Berman & Co  it has emerged thanks to a whistle blower. The group received another $200,000 from Excel/Cargill amongst other corporate contributors, according to PR Watch.

The group in question is the Center for Consumer Freedom which began life under the name "the Guest Choice Network" with the help of $600,000 from tobacco giant, Phillip Morris. Their campaign on "Food Technology" involves smearing organic food as dangerous and promoting what it calls "genetically improved food". Despite being pro-consumer choice, the Consumer Freedom campaign vehemently opposes GM food labelling.

Berman & Co., whose self-declared offensive strategy is to "shoot the messenger" [http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2001Q1/berman1.html] uses its front groups to paint GM 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]

The list of "anti-biotech extremists" includes mainstream environmental groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, which it accuses of conducting a "public relations jihad" on the issue, and even organisations like the Five Year Freeze and Christian Aid, the development agency of the British and Irish churches, whom Berman & Co. labelled 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"!

"Tricky" Rick Berman, the owner of Berman & CO., may not be best pleased at this sudden exposure of Consumer Freedom's funding. Despite being behind "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" (it actually draws on information already largely public mixed with distortions and misinformation!), Berman himself has taken extreme exception to attempts to root out his own financial relationship with the various lobby organisations run by his PR firm.

Tricky Ricky 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.
http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/2001Q1/berman2.html  major


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