Avery challenged over "blood of starvation victims" smear (23/3/2005)

Looks like Monsanto ordered a distraction campaign in the run up to the current bad news week -- publication of the GM farm scale trial results, generating headlines like "The end of GM crops", and the admission that tons of rogue GM corn has gone into the food chain worldwide.

The industry will have had time to prepare for both and surely it cannot be just coincidence that, on one side of the Atlantic, we've had a wave of invective against critics of GM, as "extremists", "fundamentalists", etc, while on the other AgBioView's attack dogs have suddenly been let off the leash - not least, as these attack dogs have been pretty much kept out of the fray since the exposure in 2002 that AgBioView was being used as a front for poison pen attacks by Monsanto and its PR firm - see "Monsanto's Web of Deceit"

Now, suddenly, the pit bulls are back savaging the "execrable Zambian Jesuits", "infamous Oxfam", and accusing even Tony Blair of wanting to do down GM! At the same time a whole array of different people are being charged with having the "blood of starvation victims" on their hands.

Below we reproduce an interesting exchange of correspondence between AgBioView attack dog, Alex Avery, and Robert Vint over the GM food aid crisis in Zambia in 2002. For Avery's previous attack along these lines on Chuck Benbrook, see:
'Avery says Benbrook has blood on his hand'
For a profile of Avery see:
For more nasty stuff see
'Today in AgBioView - Money and Blood!'

Back in 2002 Dr Benbrook told the Zambians he supected that, "To a large extent, this 'crisis' has been manufactured (might I say, 'engineered') by those looking for a new source of traction in the evolving global debate over agricultural biotechnology." 3 years on, it looks like the crisis is now being reworked by those desperate for a new source of distraction in the GM debate.

1. More to Blame for Zambian Decision to Reject U.S. Food Aid
- Alex Avery <[email protected]>

Chuck Benbrook emailed me upset that I singled him out in answering who is to blame for the Zambian decision to reject U.S. food aid corn and that I implied that he had blood on his hands. I do believe that among others, Chuck has the metaphorical blood of starvation victims on his hands. However, in the interest of fairness, Chuck wasn't the only one who advocated Zambia's unconscionable decision.

The Zambian delegation's report to Zambian President Mwanawasa noted in an appendix who they met with in their various visits in the U.S. and other countries. Here is a partial list of the organizations and people who met with the Zambian delegation and likely warned against accepting U.S. food aid corn given their past anti-biotechnology positions:

United States -- Consumer Union (Ed Groth, Michael Hansen), Friends of the Earth (Bill Freese), US Public Interest Research Group (Richard Caplan), National Environmental Trust (Matt Rand), Center for Science in the Public Interest (Greg Jaffe, Doug Gurian Sherman), Council for Responsible Genetics (Sujatha Byravan, Susan Fasten, Brandon Kein)

United Kingdom - Institute of Science in Society (Lim Li Chin), Genetic Engineering Network International (Joyce Hambling), Genetif Food Alert (Robert Yint)

Norway - Norwegian Institute of Gene Ecology (Terje Traavik of Philippines disease outbreak fame).


2. ---------- Forwarded Message ----------
Subject: re: More to Blame for Zambian Decision to Reject U.S. Food Aid
Date: Tuesday 22 March 2005 8:51
From: Robert Vint <[email protected]>
To: Alex Avery <[email protected]>, [email protected]
Cc: [email protected]
Open Letter To: Alex Avery (cc C.S.Prakash)
From: Robert Vint, Genetic Food Alert

Dear Alex,

Your AgBioView article "More to Blame for Zambian Decision to Reject U.S. Food Aid" is entertaining stuff! Several articles from US politicians and lobbyists such as yourself have suggested that we be tried in the International Criminal Court for mass murder. Maybe you will allow my response to be published on AgBioView before my execution?

There are several problems with your case:

Firstly, there are no victims. Most donor nations offer cash to recipient nations to buy food as locally as possible. Surrounding nations and other parts of Zambia had surplus crops. When the US refused to offer cash to Zambia, the Zambian Government simply used its own financial reserves to buy food from Kenya and other African nations.

Secondly, the people you are accusing committed the offence of participating in a consultation exercise organised by the US and UK Governments for Zambian scientists. Discussing scientific matters as part of a dialogue in which opposing views were heard hardly constitutes murder. The Zambian scientists listening to these various views were doctors and professors – mainly educated in American universities. Surely you don't believe that because they were black they could be easily brainwashed by Westerners? My specific crime, by the way, was to suggest to the Zambian delegation that they obtained and reviewed the original safety research on GM foods. I'm a great supporter of sound science and empirical research. Oddly both the US and UK Government representatives refused to provide this data - or even to confirm its existence. Maybe you could provide it?

Thirdly, the USA does not recognise the International Criminal Court - so your only legal option is to have us deported to Guantanamo Bay.

On a more serious note, you and your colleagues claim that GM crops are 'feeding the world' - yet no GM crop variety currently yields more food per acre than the best conventional varieties. The USA, which could once claim to be 'feeding the world' in the sense that it was a net exporter of food, has since the introduction of GM crops, become a net importer. US farms, unlike Mexican ones, need massive subsidies to compete on the international market.

Furthermore, hunger is still widespread in the USA :
- see www.secondharvest.org/hunger_by_state.asp?s=44
for a map of hunger in the USA state by state,
and www.secondharvest.org/hunger_stories.asp?s=44
for personal accounts of hungry Americans.
I'm not sure how GM crops are supposed to be helping them.

Last year Zambia had a bumper harvest and supplied 100,000 tonnes of its surplus to the World Food Programme. Maybe the WFP should be tried for crimes against humanity for failing to use this food to feed the hungry Americans?

Finally, I don't know your economic views, but I imagine that you think, as I do, that it makes better economic and humanitarian sense (both nationally and globally) to help the poor to look after themselves rather than to let them become dependent on handouts and lose the capacity for self help. The European Union and Japan realise that dumping free food on nations stops their farmers from selling their food. Dumping food year after year leads to a situation where farmers give up growing food - despite the demand and the fertility of the land. That is why the EU and Japan help nations to buy food for aid from farmers as close as possible to where food is needed - and why they allow recipient nations to choose what kind of food they buy. This supports local production and helps ensure food shortages don't arise there in future years. The USA, in contrast, has actually enshrined in federal law a requirement that all aid to hungry regions should take the form of dumped US grain. I wonder how many people have died in the long term because of the

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