Monsanto's attack dog lectures National Cattlemen (30/8/2004)

What makes the following presentation to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association of interest is that it was given by Jay Byrne.

Byrne is Monsanto's former Director of Public Affairs and its former Internet Outreach Programs Director. Prior to Monsanto, Byrne worked for USAID.

Since leaving Monsanto, Byrne has become president of Internet PR company v-Fluence Interactive Public Relations, whose vice-president, Richard Levine, was formerly part of the Monsanto team for Monsanto's Internet PR firm Bivings. v-Fluence is based, like Monsanto, in St. Louis. Monsanto is one of its clients.

Byrne is believed to have been the chief architect of the covert Monsanto-Bivings PR campaign which involved attacks on the company's critics via front e-mails, such as those of 'Andura Smetacek' and 'Mary Murphy', and material posted on the website of a fake agricultural institute, the Center For Food and Agricultural Research (CFFAR). CFFAR material, attacking Monsanto's critics, was also faxed to journalists and planted at a conference. http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=171

Smetacek, Murphy and CFFAR targeted many of the same individuals and organisations mentioned by Byrne below, and in very similar terms. For instance, Michael Hansen of the Consumer Policy Institute, who is one of two people Byrne singles out in his presentation, was one of two people who had a poison-pen 'biography' faxed to the press from the non-existent CFFAR ahead of a press conference they attended.

Much of Byrne's presentation below focuses on funding, and the fake agricultural institute, CFFAR, similarly had a section of its site dedicated to stopping funding to groups critical of Monsanto. Many of the points and associations made in Byrne's presentation below were made on the CFFAR site.

Note also the recommendation of 'ActivistCash' and 'Consumer Freedom', fronts of the particularly obnoxious PR firm, Berman & Co., which has had money from Monsanto. And as Byrne keeps repeating... 'Follow the money'.

For more on Byrne (+ links to CFFAR etc.), see Byrne's GM Watch profile: http://www.lobbywatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=27&page=B

Advocacy Groups And The Money
Targeting Agriculture Growing
By Colleen Schreiber
Livestock Weekly
August 26, 2004

DENVER — The number of advocacy groups targeting beef, animal agriculture and agriculture in general are growing daily. Many of these groups are portrayed as having grassroots agendas, when in fact they are fronts for a much larger hidden agenda.

That warning came from an advocacy group watchdog speaking here last week to the annual summer meeting of the National Cattlemen's Beef association.

According to v-Fluence Interactive Public Relations, the combined annual budgets for the top anti-agriculture and food-related protest groups exceeds $500 million. This past year, BSE was front and center for some of these organizations. In fact, just 30 days after the announcement of the BSE case in Washington state last December, some 40 advocacy groups with combined annual budgets exceeding $250 million began focusing their efforts on influencing consumers and regulators regarding "mad cow" issues. They began generating industry-critical statements through coordinated press releases, ad campaigns and lobbying campaigns.

"These are not grassroots a-dollar-a-day lobbying organizations," said v-Fluence president Jay Byrne. "We're talking about a multibillion-dollar demonstration team. These are professionals. These people sit on each other's boards, they share funding, they coordinate their activities, and the money is huge. This is all they do, and they do it very well, and they do it very professionally. They are not going away," he warned.

Byrne's company has been tracking advocacy groups and their allies for the beef, dairy, and crop protection industries for the better part of 10 years. The company works with a number of agriculture stakeholder clients, providing them with e-monitoring, trend analysis, research, strategic counsel, crisis communications and outreach support. Byrne was one of the keynote speakers in NCBA's issues and activism forum.

Byrne identified Carol Tucker-Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America and Michael Hansen of the Consumer Policy Institute, a division of Consumer Union, as two of the top five leading sources of negative information on the beef industry and BSE.

Other groups, such as the organic food industry and other synergistic "alternative" and "natural health" groups, as well as class action attorneys, used scare tactics to fuel the flames about BSE. Organic Valley, for example, issued a press release on December 31 with this tagline: "Organic beef. It's what's safe for dinner."

"It implied that other beef - your beef - is perhaps not safe," Byrne told the group.

Similar kinds of activity and advertising were conducted by Whole Foods Markets, Wild Oats Markets and the Organic Trade Association.

"Whole Foods Markets began sponsoring National Public Radio programming in January, immediately following the mad cow announcements, with the phrase 'a purveyor of natural beef from cattle raised without animal byproducts and monitored throughout the entire production process.'"

A Christian Science Monitor article quoted Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, saying, "Certified organic beef has become the new gold standard for safety."

Byrne did point out that this kind of "black" marketing in the organic and natural products arena was not endorsed necessarily by those marketing "natural" beef.

BSE, however, is not the only issue these activists target. Public Citizen, another anti-agriculture activist group, is leading the "Safe School Lunch" campaign promoting organic agriculture and the banning of irradiated beef, and Consumer Federation has lobbied to significantly reduce or eliminate beef from publicly funded school lunch programs.

These activists and their organizations, he told listeners, are not just using the money for TV, radio and print advertising. They're using it for professional public relations and lobbying firms, litigation, Internet campaigns and training camps.

"Every month there is at least one activist training camp going on in this country. They bring thousands of people together through these camps, and they sometimes spend a week training them on how to engage in effective public relations, effective direct action, and effective consumer boycott campaigns."

The key influences impacting what Byrne referred to as the "new range wars" are money, marketing and the Internet.

"Howard Simons, managing editor of the Washington Post, during the Watergate scandal said it best when he said, 'Follow the money.' When we follow the money to some of the groups that are attacking you, I think you might be surprised by some of their sources," the speaker commented.

Fear is one of the marketing tools used by these groups because, as PT Barnum said, "Fear sells." As for the Internet Byrne quoted Michael Dell, founder and CEO of Dell Computer: "Think of the Internet as a weapon on the table. Either you pick it up or your competitor does - but somebody is going to get killed."

The Internet, Byrnes noted, is what ties it all together. It's where it alls starts. It's where the opinion leaders go first, media goes first and consumers go first to find information.

The Internet, he told listeners, is also dominated by people who have extreme views.

"A research study done by Stanford University showed that people with fringe or non-mainstream views had a significantly disproportionate level of influence on the Internet."

One group

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