1.Tinkering with Nature - Tampering with the Truth - GM WATCH commentary
2.The Benbrook report
3.Tampering with Nature or Tinkering with the Truth? - C. S. Prakash, Letter sent to the Editor of Bangkok Post
1.Tinkering with Nature - Tampering with the Truth
Last week a newspaper article in a Thai paper raised objections to Monsanto's attempts to blackmail the Thai government out of its moratorium on GM crops by offering to invest in making Thailand the centre of its regional operations in return for an end to the ban.
The article cited the recent report by Dr Charles Benbrook which, using official data from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), showed that pesticide use had actually increased over all in the period since GM crops were introduced into the US. Benbrook's findings are devastating for the biotech industry as they and their supporters have always claimed the exact opposite.
Prof CS Prakash has responded with a letter to the paper complaining that the article involved 'promoting misinformation about the safety and benefits of biotech or GMO crops'. In particular, he says, 'Contrary to the pseudo-scientific claims recently cited, GM technology has actually decreased the usage of pesticide by an impressive 46 million pounds in the year 2001 alone.'
If Benbrook's research is pseudo-scientific what does Prakash draw on? The answer, he says, is a 'study conducted by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy in Washington' which 'found that biotechnology-derived soybeans, corn, cotton, papaya, squash and canola increased the U.S. food production by 4 billion pounds, saved $1.2 billion in production costs and decreased the usage of pesticide by an impressive 46 million pounds in the year 2001 alone.'
Very impressive. Particularly, as 2001 was one of the years where Benbrook found USDA's data showed the exact opposite. The "pseudo-scientific" Benbrook let us not forget has served as the agricultural staff expert on the Council for Environmental Quality during the Carter Administration, was the Executive Director of the subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture with jurisdiction over pesticide regulation, research, trade and foreign agricultural issues and with oversight of the USDA. He became the Executive Director, Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences in early 1984 and during his seven-years as Executive Director, he helped establish the Board as a major voice on agricultural science and regulatory policy. He now works as an independent agronomic consultant.
The biotech industry has been so concerned by the past findings of his research on GM crops (on yield, pesticide use etc.), that it has poured money into the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy to pump out contradictory research findings.
As NCFAP put it, "In the spring of 2001,with financial support from Rockefeller Foundation (BIO [Biotechnology Industry Organisation]) Monsanto, Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) [biotech industry funded front group], Grocery Manufacturers of America, and CropLife America (CLA) [all the main biotech/agrochemical players], NCFAP researchers began an ambitious project to estimate the realized and potential impacts of 40 separate case studies of biotech crops."
An article in Nature described NCFAP simply as 'a pro-GM industry group' http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaPage.taf?file=/nature/journal/v419/n6905/full/419327a_r.html
In 2002 NCFAP's funders included:
Biotechnology Industry Organization
Council for Biotechnology Information
Grocery Manufacturers of America
E.I. DuPont de Nemours
As for CS Prakash, Aaron deGrassi of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK, in his recent report on GM crops in Africa notes, "Another surprising example of advocacy trumping facts is C.S. Prakash, the influential biotechnology advocate who has advised the US Trade Representative. Prakash has repeatedly cited [GM] sweet potatoes [in Kenya] as a positive example of the benefits of GM for African countries, but has confessed to having no knowledge of the results of scientific trials in Kenya."
("Genetically Modified Crops and Sustainable Poverty Alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Assessment of Current Evidence", which can be downloaded as a pdf from here:
How does one describe a scientist who trumpets research findings of which he has no knowledge? Or who rounds off his letter to the Bangkok Post with an exhortation to 'Listen to sound science - not opinion - on agricultural technology'?
Pseudo-scientist is perhaps a little too kind.
For more on whose behind CS Prakash and his attacks on scientists who raise questions about genetic engineering, see: Corporate Phantoms (The Guardian)
Seeds of dissent (Big Issue)
Hot Shots of 2002 - a guide to the smelters of 2002's choicest lies, disinformation, PR chicanery and unfounded abuse (NGIN)
2.Charles Benbrook wrote:
I have completed and am releasing Tuesday a.m. a new report on the impact of GE crops on pesticide use in the US since 1996. It is the first comprehensive analysis of the impacts of GE technology on pounds of pesticides applied and reaches a surprising finding. While GE crops reduced pesticide use about 25 million pounds in the first 3 years of commercialization (1996-1998), they increased use over 73 million pounds in 2001-2003, largely because of the slipping efficacy of RR technology.
The report will undoubtedly be criticized by biotech proponents, but I am convinced the model/analysis is as accurate as is possible with publicly available USDA data.
The press release is posted at --
The report is described at, and accessible via --
The direct link to the report is --
Charles Benbrook Ag BioTech InfoNet
Benbrook Consulting Services
5085 Upper Pack River Road
Sandpoint, Idaho 83864
E-mail: <[email protected]>
CU FQPA site <http://www.ecologic-ipm.com>
IPM site <http://www.pmac.net>
3.Tampering with Nature or Tinkering with the Truth?
- C. S. Prakash, Letter sent to the Editor of Bangkok Post, Dec 1, 2003
[from AgBioView - shortened]
Dear Editor, I was dismayed to learn that anti-technology groups continue to stand in the way of progress in Thailand by creating promoting misinformation about the safety and benefits of biotech or GMO crops, as evidenced in the recent opinion piece by Greenpeace published in your newspaper ("Tampering with Nature" 28 November).
A study conducted by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy in Washington found that biotechnology-derived soybeans, corn, cotton, papaya, squash and canola increased the U.S. food production by 4 billion pounds, saved $1.2 billion in production costs and decreased the usage of pesticide by an impressive 46 million pounds in the year 2001 alone.
...Thus, Contrary to the pseudo-scientific claims recently cited, GM technology has actually decreased the usage of pesticide by an impressive 46 million pounds in the year 2001 alone.
Despite these facts, misguided activists from around the world continue to travel to places like Thailand to promulgate fear based on unsubstantiated and misleading information. The reality is that none of these groups has actually provided any credible scientific evidence that would call into question the safety of foods derived from biotech crops on the market or the demonstrated benefits to the environment.
Listen to sound science - not opinion -- on agricultural technology.
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