Praskash and Conko's claim "unsubstantiated and false" (18/5/2003)

18 May 2003

Praskash and Conko's claim "unsubstantiated and false"

The new Minister of Information in Uncle Sam's global trade war is drawing fire.
Items 1 & 2 were the top 2 items on CS Prakash's AgBioView list, Sunday 18 May 2003:
1.Re: Time for the GM Moratorium to Go - Suman Sahai
2.Response from Andrew Apel
3.How pleasant to know Mr Apel - a profile
4.More on Uncle Sam's Minister of Information
1.Re: Time for the GM Moratorium to Go/ Plus Indian Bt Cotton
- Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign, India

I have read the article Time for the GM Moratorium to Go, by G. Conko and C.S. Prakash published in the Wall Street Journal (Europe), May 13, 2003.  The article quotes, as many others do, that in India, poor farmers have benefited greatly from GM crops, in this case, Bt cotton. The article says, "But many of the same GM crops available in North America are already helping poor farmers in South Africa, India, China, and the Philippines combat often-voracious insects while reducing the amount of insecticides or eliminating them altogether".

This is simply not true of India, and the authors know it. They are both familiar with the public debate on the Indian Bt cotton experience. Gregory Conko was present at a seminar I gave in IFPRI, Washington recently, where I presented results of a field study conducted by Gene Campaign, in two Indian states where Bt cotton was grown. This study shows that Bt cotton has performed very poorly in these states, pesticide use is only minimally reduced and these savings are not enough to offset the huge difference four to five times) in the price of seed. The Gene Campaign study shows that about 60 % of the farmers could not recover their investments and made losses.

There are other reports which point in the same direction. Studies done by the FAO, Greenpeace and the Government of Andhra Pradesh (AP), show similarly poor performance. The AP state government has admitted that Bt cotton has not done well and they are seeking compensation from Monsanto for farmers who have suffered losses, as is Gene Campaign.

The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), India's apex regulatory body has asked for a state wise review of why the crop has performed poorly. The Standing Committee on Agriculture, in the Indian Parliament has pronounced after seeing the data, that it "sees no merit in Bt cotton" because the performance did not match the exaggerated claims. The GEAC has since witheld approval for commercialising Bt cotton in the North Indian states after the poor experience in South India.  

Despite all this information floating on list serves and the media, Conko and Prakash, both well known biotechnology lobbyists, deliberately make a claim that is unsubstantiated and false. This kind of misinformation can be dangerous because it can influence policy makers to take decisions that could ultimately end up hurting the farmers. The Biotech lobby must draw the line somewhere and exercise some restraint in its promotional efforts.
Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign, India.  http://www.genecampaign.org

2.Response from Andrew Apel (AgBiotech Reporter)

Maybe it's time to call a spade a spade. Since eco-faminist Suman Sahai and the Gene Campaign are "in the business" of opposing modern agriculture, nothing associated with them is credible. If either admitted that facts are more important than hysteria, they'd be bankrupt by next Wednesday.

I have to wonder if she or this group is funded by the European Union or members of the EU. All the activist groups involved in the Mexico Maize Mess were funded by Europeans, and with the US challenging the EU over its trade protectionism, it's time for the antis to come clean on who's paid for what. Those who don't already know that Europe pays activists to beat its trade-protection drum should visit http://www.consumerfreedom.com/headline_detail.cfm?HEADLINE_ID=1785

It's notable that the US is supported by a number of countries in its complaint against the EU, while the EU has no foreign supporters-- other than activist groups, many of them funded by the EU or its member states. After 9-11, anti-biotech violence became suspect, and diminished. With the US v. EU in the WTO case, the world will be equally suspicious of those who spout anti-biotech rhetoric.
3.How pleasant to know Mr Apel - a profile

Andrew Apel is the editor of the biotech industry newsletter, AgBiotech Reporter. He is also one  of C S Prakash's closest supporters. Apel used the Sept 11 attacks to put forward the view that critics of GM, like Dr Mae-Wan Ho and Dr Vandana Shiva, had "blood on their hands". With equal humanity and perception he wrote of the WTO meeting in Genoa (where the media reported brutal attacks by police on sleeping/peaceful demonstrators): "From everything I have seen, the police in Genoa never did anything other than defend themselves... Police are dangerous people, that is why they are hired for the job they have. Only a fool goes against them, and in Genoa many fools have received their due."

Apel has also been at the forefront of attempts by GM lobbyists to use the resistance of countries in southern Africa to accepting GM-contaminated food aid, as a way of attacking biotech industry critics. Apel called on the U.S. to bomb Zambia with GM grain if it continued to reject it. On a discussion list Apel wrote of the crisis, "I can almost picture the darkies laying down their lives for the vacuous ideals... their death throes, how picturesque, among the baobab trees and the lions!"

In October 2002, Monsanto's electronic newsletter, "The Biotech Advantage," carried the headline "Academics Say Africans Going Hungry Because of Activist Scare Tactics".  The "activists" in question turned out to be the staff of a Catholic theological centre and a Zambian agricultural college who had expressed concerns about GM crops.  Their "academic" attackers, by contrast, included Andrew Apel together with AgBioWorld's co-founders, CS Prakash and Greg Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
4.More on Uncle Sam's new Minister of Information:

Prof Channapatna Prakash, the great deceiver
Seeds of dissent
Corporate Phantoms
Part of the Network: How CS Prakash and AgBioWorld are part of a network
of pro-corporate extremists
GM food and Orissa - the real story
Prof Prakash - sent to lie abroad?
Dear Professor Prakash...
Prakash mouthing Andura's script?
Prakash lies proliferate

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