As usual, pro-biotech lobby groups will be out in force for the upcoming meetings in Curitiba, Brazil, of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP-8) from 20-31 March and the supplementary Biosafety Protocol, also known as the Cartagena Protocol (MOP-3), from 13 to 17 March.
The biggest lobby group will be the International Grains Council but at least delegates will know just who the IGC and its constituent bodies represent. Much more insidious are lobby groups like the Public Research and Regulation Initiative - a pro-GM lobby which will be fielding over 40 representatives, mostly picked from the developing world and trained and scripted by PRRI, to promote identical goals to those of the industry.
Also active at these events is the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) which will once again be showing its Monsanto-backed film on GM: 'Voices from Africa' on the 16th. Anyone going to MOP-3 should be encouraged to read this background article.
The Uncle Tom Award
Freezerbox magazine, 14 March 2005
Meet the civil rights group whose rhetoric comes from Wise Use, whose support comes from Monsanto, and whose agenda coincides precisely with that of George W. Bush.
A couple of years back I wrote a piece called 'The Fake Parade'. It was about a march at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg that had been widely reported as a protest by poor Third World farmers in support of GMOs. A leading light of the Biotechnology Industry Organisation declared the march "a turning point" because "real, live, developing-world farmers" had begun "speaking for themselves". What they had to say seemed pretty unpalatable to the environmental and development NGOs that have raised concerns over GM crops. A commentary on the march in The (London) Times was headlined, "I do not need white NGOs to speak for me" while, during the march itself, a "Bullshit award" was presented to the Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva for being "a mouthpiece of western eco-imperialism".
'The Fake Parade' showed the march was a charade. For instance, the main "developing-world farmer" quoted by the man from BIO turned out never to have farmed in his life. Instead, Chengal Reddy headed a lobby for big commercial farmers in Andhra Pradesh that aspired to becoming the operational arm of the trade association for the agrochemical companies active in India. Similarly, the "media contact" for the march and for the "Bullshit award" was the daughter of a US lumber industrialist, who had worked out of various free market NGOs, such as the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute. Her specialty was "counter protest".
Of course, such attempts to position biotech's soap box behind a black man's face neither began nor ended in Johannesburg. In late 1999, for instance, a street protest against genetic engineering in Washington DC was disrupted by a group of African-Americans bearing placards such as "Biotech saves children's lives." A Baptist Church from a poor neighborhood had, the New York Times revealed, been paid by Monsanto's PR firm to bus in the counter-demonstrators. But Johannesburg does seem to have been a kind of watershed. Since then, Monsantos fake parade has really begun to hit its stride. And from US administration platforms to UN headquarters, from Capitol Hill to the European Parliament, we've been treated to a veritable minstrelsy of lobbying.
Let's pick up the trail amidst the Martin Luther King Day observances in New York City this January. That was when the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) invited some 700 diplomats, scientists, journalists, and Gotham high-school students to come and consider the "implications and reality" of biotechnology at UN headquarters. CORE's "World Conference" was presided over by His Excellency, Aminu Bashir Wali, the Ambassador of Nigeria, and after lunch came the premiere of the film "Voices from Africa", showcasing the results of "CORE's fact-finding trip to Africa". The film opened and closed with comments by CORE's National Chairman, Roy Innis, who explained that it was his concern about hunger in Africa that led him to go there to see for himself and to investigate the potential for biotechnology. The film concluded with Innis saying, "We have to do everything possible to ensure that the African farmer has access to this new technology which potentially can do so much to improve his quality of life."
In a talk on biotechnology at the Natural History Museum in London in May 2003, the world-renowned American botanist, Dr Peter Raven, noted CORE's strong concern about the obstruction of technological advancement. "Last month, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of America's most venerable and respected civil rights groups, confronted Greenpeace at a public event and accused it of 'eco-manslaughter' through its support of international policies limiting development and the expansion of technology to the developing world's poor."
CORE's national spokesman, Niger Innis, described that counter-protest as "just the first step in bringing justice to the Third World." And so it proved. In September 2003, CORE's national spokesman presided over a mock awards ceremony at the World Trade Organization meeting in the Mexican resort of Cancun. The ceremony included participants carrying "Save the Children" placards while the awards went to those Innis termed advocates of "lethal eco-imperialism." "Their opposition to genetically engineered foods, pesticides and energy development," Innis explained, "devastates families and communities and kills millions every year". Cyril Boynes Jr., the director of international affairs for CORE, said the ceremony was important "to draw attention to the destructive and murderous policies of these eco-terrorists". Four months later CORE organised a "Teach-In" in New York entitled, "Eco-Imperialism: The global green movement's war on the developing world's poor". In a press release CORE's Niger Innis said that after the teach-in "eco-imperialism'" would be a household word, adding, "We intend to stop this callous eco-manslaughter".
CORE's rhetoric has been shaped by PR man Paul Driessen, COREs white Senior Policy Advisor, who moderated two of the panels at its "UN World Conference" on biotech. Driessen is the author of "Eco-Imperialism: Green Power - Black Death". The book, which has a foreword by Niger Innis, lays at the door of the environmental movement "the hunger and suffering of millions of the world's poor who are denied the benefits of genetically engineered food." Driessen and Innis are also listed as Directors of the Economic Human Rights Project - "an initiative of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, in cooperation with the Congress of Racial Equality", which aims to "correct prevalent environmental myths and misguided policies that help perpetuate poverty, misery, d
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