New "Frankenfood myth" book by lobbyists Conko and Miller (22/8/2004)

1.The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution
2.Gregory Conko - A GM WATCH profile
3.Henry I. Miller - a GM WATCH profile

1.The Frankenfood Myth: How Protest and Politics Threaten the Biotech Revolution
by Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko, Praeger Publishers, Hardcover ISBN: 0-275-97879-6; 296 pages $39.95

Foreword by Norman E. Borlaug; Prologue by John H. Moore;
List Price: $39.95 (UK Sterling Price: 22.99)
Availability: Not yet published. (Estimated publication date, 8/30/2004)

Publisher's blurb: "In this provocative and meticulously researched book, Henry Miller and Gregory Conko trace the origins of gene-splicing, its applications, and the backlash from consumer groups and government agencies against so-called "Frankenfoods"--from America to Zimbabwe.

They explain how a "happy conspiracy" of anti-technology activism, bureaucratic over-reach, and business lobbying has resulted in a regulatory framework in which there is an inverse relationship between the degree of product risk and degree of regulatory scrutiny.

The net result, they argue, is a combination of public confusion, political manipulation, ill-conceived regulation (from such agencies as the USDA, EPA, and FDA), and ultimately, the obstruction of one of the safest and most promising technologies ever developed--with profoundly negative consequences for the environment and starving people around the world.

The authors go on to suggest a way to emerge from this morass, proposing a variety of business and policy reforms that can unlock the potential of this cutting-edge science, while ensuring appropriate safeguards and moving environmentally friendly products into the hands of farmers and consumers. This book is guaranteed to fuel the ongoing debate over the future of biotech and its cultural, economic, and political implications. "

2.Gregory Conko - A GM WATCH profile

Greg Conko is the Director of Food Safety Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) where he he 'specialises in issues of food and pharmaceutical drug safety regulation, and on the general treatment of health risks in public policy'. He is described as 'particularly interested in the debate over the safety of genetically engineered foods and the application of the Precautionary Principle to domestic and international environmental and safety regulations'.

Although Conko's leading role in C S Prakash's AgBioWorld campaign has only lately been acknowledged by AgBioWorld, the CEI has been more open, describing him as ' the Vice President and a member of the Board of Directors of the AgBioWorld Foundation, [which] he co-founded with Tuskegee University plant genetics professor C.S. Prakash'.

Given Conko's leading role in AgBioWorld, it would be interesting to know his exact relationship with Monsanto's PR team, particularly Jay Byrne - Monsanto's chief Internet strategist at the time AgBioWorld was established. Byrne has ackowledged giving AgBioWorld 'advice and information' and both Monsanto and its Internet PR company Bivings have played a covert role in shaping and supporting AgBioWorld's online campaigning. Monsanto is among the companies funding the CEI (see U.S. FACING TOUGH BATTLE FOR GE CROPS by Bob Burton, IPS-Inter Press Service April 1, 2004)

Conko's many publications include papers promoting GM foods and free trade and attacking the precautionary principle, co-authored with CS Prakash, Henry Miller, Fred Smith and Kendra Okonski. Amongst these is 'Cloudy horizons in a brave new world', originally published on the European Science and Economic Forum website. In it Conko suggests that concerns about the safety of GM food are merely a cover for 'trade protectionism' and 'anti-science fearmongering'.

In March 2003 Conko took part in a debate on 'GM food: should labelling be mandatory?' held at the London office of PR agency Hill and Knowlton and organised by Spiked and the International Policy Network. Conko argued against any requirement to label GM foods. In May 2003, Conko was at the press conference at which the US Trade Secretary formally announced a US WTO case against EU restrictions on GM imports. This was followed by a CEI seminar on the negative impact of the EU moratorium on the developing world, addressed by Conko, Norman Borlaug, C. S. Prakash, and T.J. Buthelezi. In April 2004 Conko went on a lobbying trip to Australia at a time when Australian States were considering large-scale GM crop trial proposals from Monsanto and Bayer. The trip was organised by the U.S. embassy and financed by the National Centre for Food and Agricultural Policy, which receives funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Council for Biotechnology Information, CropLife America, the Grocery Manufacturers of America and Monsanto, as well as Aventis, Bayer, DuPont, and Syngenta.

3.Henry I. Miller - a GM WATCH profile

Henry I Miller M.D. is a Senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution which champions the free market and limited government.

Miller was able to put these principles into practice as an official at the Food and Drug Administration from 1979-1994 during which time he served in a number of posts involved with biotechnology. According to his Hoover Institution 'home page' , 'He was the medical reviewer for the first genetically engineered drugs evaluated by the FDA and was instrumental in the rapid licensing of human insulin and human growth hormone. He served in several posts, including special assistant to the FDA commissioner, with responsibility for biotechnology issues; from 1989 to 1994, he was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology.' (emphasis added)

Miller is a member of the UN’s Codex Alimentarius committee on GM foods. He is also a key figure in the network of right-wing pro-biotech lobby groups in the U.S. He is an 'adjunct scholar' at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a director of the American Council on Science and Health and a director of Consumer Alert. He was also part of the pro-GM/anti-organic 'No More Scares' group with Michael Fumento, Steven Milloy and ACSH’s Elizabeth Whelan .

He has authored a number of articles and monographs on GM foods, including Biotechnology Regulation: The Unacceptable Costs of Excessive Regulation. He has also co-authored a number of articles with Greg Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute which suggest that concerns about the safety of GM food are really due to 'trade protectionism' and 'anti-science fearmongering' and that GMOs require, if anything, less regulation, not more.

He has blamed the industry itself for this situation,'In this area, the U.S. government agencies have done exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them to do,' he told the New York Times.

It has been suggested that for Miller bringing a product to market quickly is more important than ensuring its safety. Miller counters with the claim that genetic engineering is a particularly safe and precise process and that genetically engineered products are therefore being unnecessarily over-regulated, something that is limiting the true potential of the technology. He told the New York Times, 'Food biotech is dead. The potential now is an infinitesimal fraction of what most observers had hoped it would be.'

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