Monsanto's dirty tricks campaign against Ignacio Chapela - global protest (15/12/2004)

The attacks on Dr Ignacio Chapela were initially catalysed by a vicious and underhand campaign on the Internet. It would be great if the Net could now be used to register global protest at Dr Chapela's treatment.

Add your voice to the protests being made from around the world. Just click this link: http://www.gmwatch.org/proemail1.asp?id=7

1. Biotech Critic Denied Tenure at UC Berkeley - PR WATCH
2. Censorship: Support Ignacio Chapela - SPINWATCH
3. Monsanto's dirty tricks campaign against Ignacio Chapela - Interview with GM Watch

For more background on the Chapela case:

1.Biotech Critic Denied Tenure at UC Berkeley
THE WEEKLY SPIN, December 15, 2004
sponsored by the nonprofit Center for Media and Democracy: http://www.prwatch.org/spin

Topics: biotechnology / science
Dr. Ignacio Chapela, whose research revealed contamination of native Mexican corn with genetically engineered DNA, taught his last class at University of California, Berkeley. Chapela was denied tenure at Berkeley, despite "overwhelming support from his own department and from his academic peers," GM Watch founder Jonathan Matthews writes. Chapela had also been a critic of a $25 million research deal between UC Berkeley and the Swiss biotechnology company Novartis (now Syngenta). Chapela supporters believe he is being retaliated against for his criticism of the biotech industry. SpinWatch's Andy Rowell and Matthews exposed how Monsanto's Internet PR company, Bivings Group, was at the very heart of the campaign to vilify Chapela and his research.

[this item can be found with multiple links here: http://www.prwatch.org/spin ]

2.Censorship: Support Ignacio Chapela
SPINWATCH, Dec 14 2004

"I don't want to be a martyr by any means, but I cannot avoid now realising that this is a very, very well concerted, and coordinated and paid for campaign." That's what Dr Ignacio Chapela told SpinWatch's Andy Rowell during the fall out from the scandal over the GM contamination of native Mexican maize, which Chapela's research had exposed.

Andy Rowell and SpinWatch's contributing editor, Jonathan Matthews, went on to write the first articles published anywhere in the world to reveal how Monsanto's Internet PR company, Bivings was at the very heart of the campaign to vilify Ignacio Chapela and his research

In his book, "Don't Worry -It's safe to eat", Andy later detailed not only the direct role played by Monsanto in the whole affair but how the leading scientific critics of Chapela's research were all linked to a big corporate tie-up between the University of California, Berkeley and the biotech giant Novartis.

Chapela had been the chief critic at Berkeley of the Novartis deal and it's at Berkeley that the attacks on Chapela have continued to take their toll. Despite overwhelming support from his own Department and from his academic peers in much of the rest of the University of California, Ignacio Chapela has been denied tenure at Berkeley in the most controversial of circumstances. His contract there runs out in just a few days time.

Please add your voice to the protests being made to Berkeley's Chancellor. Just click this link: http://www.gmwatch.org/proemail1.asp?id=7

3.Monsanto's dirty tricks campaign against Chapela - Interview with GM Watch founder

excerpt from: Marina Littek of Italy's 'Green Planet' interviews Jonathan Matthews of GM Watch

Q: Tell me about your involvement in uncovering who was orchestrating the attacks on the Berkeley researcher, Ignacio Chapela.

GM WATCH: That really is a tangled web. To understand it you need to understand what happened with the Internet campaign in 2000. In 98 and 99, the biotech industry really took a hammering in the way that unfavourable information exploded across the Internet. On top of that, their own PR attempts to promote GM as the saviour of the developing world blew up in their face. Their answer was CS Prakash, who launched his website and his AgBioView list at the beginning of 2000, as part of a campaign that he said was all about supporting GM crops for the developing world.

We initially took Prakash completely at face value. We saw him as a pro-GM scientist who was genuinely standing up for a cause he believed in. But it soon became clear that his list was being used as a conduit for black propaganda. There was stuff on his list accusing those who were critical of GM of everything from murder to terrorism to God knows what. GM-critical scientists were even accused of having blood on their hands over 9/11!!

...Gradually... our research started to show us that Prakash was not operating alone but was intimately connected to a network of rightwing pro-corporate lobbyists. In fact, it turned out the co-founder of his campaign was Greg Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Over time, Prakash has been forced to be more open about this CEI connection, but back then Conko just appeared to be a contributor.

You can see why they wanted to present the whole thing as if the AgBioView campaign were really that of a lone Indian scientist rallying the science community to the GM cause. As soon as you admit to the CEI connection then you have the fact that the CEI has had money out of Big Tobacco and the likes of Dow Chemicals and Monsanto, and that it lobbies just as vigorously against restrictions on smoking and toxic chemicals as against those on GM crops.

By the end of 2001 our research had taken us further. We had a whole dossier showing AgBioView was a major vehicle for covert biotech industry PR. We'd also uncovered the involvement in all this of Monsanto's Internet PR company, Bivings. In particular, regular poison pen attacks against critics of GM had been appearing, principally on AgBioView, though later, they started turning up elsewhere as well, posted in the name of 'Mary Murphy'.

We'd tracked Murphy's IP address. It was that of Bivings. We were also interested in a similar contributor to the AgBioView list - Andura Smetacek. Smetacek kept promoting the website of a fake agricultural institute which also led back to Bivings. That website tried to link Monsanto’s critics to violence and terrorism.

At this point we teamed up with the investigative journalist Andy Rowell whose research had helped expose the treatment of Arpad Pusztai. Andy got a private detective on the case, trying to track down Smetacek, and we were also getting help from a couple of technical experts. They confirmed that Monsanto’s Internet PR firm also had a role in designing Prakash’s website and that they were running the AgBioView archive off the company's server, although they’d tried to disguise that.

It was while we were busy tracking this, that the Berkeley researchers, Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, had their paper on Mexican maize contamination published. We then witnessed this vicious campaign of vilification being unleashed on AgBioView. Chapela compared it to "being fed to the dogs".

That campaign really impacted on coverage of the research and even led to a kind of editorial disassociation from the paper by Nature, the scientific journal that had published it. And the catalysts in all of this were Murphy and Smetacek. Their hate mails against Chapela came out on AgBioView on the very day the research was published and those mails fuelled a frenzied campaign against the researchers with Prakash calling on the scientific community to inundate Nature with complaints. Because we knew who the actors were we could see the whole thing unfolding right in front of our eye

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