Distilling the myths about ag biotech (11/5/2005)

In 2003, the American Soybean Association (ASA) published "Correcting the Myths" to counter the "misunderstandings, half-truths and sometimes blatant falsehoods" spread by the critics of "ag biotech".

Two years later, according to ASA's Technical Issues Director, Kimball Nill, "we realise our document needs to be updated - because the facts just got better." The result is a new ASA report, "Dispelling the myths: The real facts about agricultural biotechnology and biotech food"

According to Kimball Nill, there's a simple straightforward motivation behind ASA's actions, "We wanted to add the rational, independent farmers' voice to the world's biotech debate, a viewpoint often unheard, and certainly often ignored, in Europe and elsewhere."

Independent??? Prior to joining the ASA, Kimball Nill served "in several positions supporting Monsanto Company's venture capital and biotechnology R&D efforts".

His current employer - ASA - also enjoys a very close relationship with Monsanto, as well as with other biotech corporations. In fiscal year 2000, for instance, ASA received $2.1 million of its $26.7 million budget from the likes of Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred, BASF, and others.

In 2001, the ASA spent $280,000 to work with the Council for Biotechnology Information and the biotech-industry backed National Corn Growers Association to achieve "a unified message about the benefits of transgenic crops." (Source: CropChoice)

That message has been brought to Europe where Kimball Nill warns, "Various pressure groups and some media are hoodwinking the public by making unsubstantiated assertions about US farmers adoption of biotechnology. Their random statements are ludicrous, untrue and deliberately misleading".

Some US farmers, however, feel ASA and similar groups, "are helping agribusiness to enhance its power and profitability at the expense of the very people they're supposed to represent – farmers." (Source: CropChoice)

Part of Nill's ASA role is to "proactively" deal with "threats & opportunities" arising from "emerging international technology related issues that could impact U.S. soybean exports". For this purpose Nill makes use of ASA's fourteen overseas offices.

Kimball Nill also works for the Agriculture Commodity Coalition which is a group of 14 farm commodity organizations, including ASA, the National Corn Growers Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation. It is funded by the biotech-industry funded Council for Biotech Information (CBI) to run a coordinated pro-GM public information campaign known as 'Tomorrow's Bounty Project' under the slogan 'Farmers for the benefits of Biotechnology'.

This gives a whole new meaning to, adding the "independent farmers' voice to the world's biotech debate"!

You can download the complete 36-page Word document "Dispelling the myths:
The real facts about agricultural biotechnology and biotech food" at

For more on Nill and the ASA:

"The myths are no longer sustainable"
Foreword from Kimball Nill, technical director, American Soybean Association

The advent of ag biotechnology has been memorable for many reasons. One of the most curious, and for me, the saddest, is the contagion of misunderstandings, half-truths and sometimes blatant falsehoods spread by its critics and rivals during the past decade. These “myths” – for often, that is all they are – have poisoned honest debate and corrupted the judgements of politicians, journalists, consumers, farmers, and tragically, the governments of some of the world's poorest countries.

In 2003, the American Soybean Association (together with eight other leading U.S. farm organizations) published Correcting the Myths. We wanted to add the rational, independent farmers' voice to the world's biotech debate, a viewpoint often unheard, and certainly often ignored, in Europe and elsewhere. We sought to communicate the facts about ag biotech, in part based on our own experiences, to counteract some of the most egregious propaganda ever to emanate from environmental and organic farming lobbyists.

Two years on, we realise our document needs to be updated - because the facts just got better. Since 2003, global biotech crop acreage has increased by 30%. Many more countries have joined the biotech revolution. Millions more gallons of pesticide have stayed in the warehouse or not been manufactured. Thousands more tons of soil have been conserved. Hundreds more developing world farmers are saved from chemical poisoning.

For the doomsayers, we can also present much more unarguable data and supporting evidence. Since 2003, dozens of scientific papers and agronomic studies have been published, validating what we had always known or suspected: that biotechnology really is helping farmers save money (the poorest ones most of all), really is protecting the environment, really is increasing food production, really is as safe as any other way of growing food.

In 1999, Patrick Holden, head of Britain's leading organic farming organization, the Soil Association, and one of ag biotech’s most resolute critics, famously told Reuters that Americans would reject ag biotech with "massive opposition within a year."
Today, biotech varieties dominate U.S. crop farming with soybean, cotton and corn production at record levels. At the same time, Britain's organic farming sector appears to be faltering, with the amount of land under organic production falling 5% in a single year. Meanwhile British farmers, like those in most of the rest of Europe, continue to be denied access to a technology used successfully by their competitors in North and South America, Asia, India, South Africa, and Australia.

With this in mind, and after studying the masses of new evidence, of which this document has space to cite merely a sample, we decided that our old title, Correcting the Myths was no longer adequate.

The myths, to borrow a favorite word of biotech’s critics, are simply no longer sustainable.

The facts have dispelled them.

Kimball Nill
Technical Issues Director
American Soybean Association
May 2005

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