Monsanto's Fake Parade Hits New York (17/1/2005)

1.The Fake Parade hits New York
2.The (original) Fake Parade

1.The Fake Parade hits New York
by Jonathan Matthews

Just over 2 years ago I wrote an article called The Fake Parade which was all about how Monsanto and their associates were trying to hide the company's "soapbox behind a black man's face".

The article noted, amongst other things, how in late 1999 the New York Times reported that a street protest against genetic engineering outside an FDA public hearing in Washington DC was disrupted by a group of African-Americans carrying placards such as "Biotech saves children's lives" and "Biotech equals jobs." The Times learned that Monsanto's PR company, Burson-Marsteller, had paid a Baptist Church from a poor neighborhood to bus in these "demonstrators" as part of a wider campaign "to get groups of church members, union workers and the elderly to speak in favor of genetically engineered foods."

Now Monsanto has gone one better and has signed up its very own black advocacy group. If you don't believe me, visit the home page of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and beside images of freedom riders and civil rights activists murdered by the KKK, you'll see the Monsanto logo under the legend CORE's "corporate partner".

Tonight (17th) Monsanto's Chairman and CEO, Hugh Grant is chairing CORE's celebratory reception in honour of the Martin Luther King National Holiday.

Tomorrow (18th) at CORE's "UN World Conference on Biotechnology" Monsanto's Executive Vice President will make the closing address.

The contributors to the conference, apart from Monsanto, are a mix of rabidly pro-GM scientists and rightwing lobbyists, like Paul Driessen CORE's Senior Policy Advisor, who is part of the Wise Use-founding Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. The aim of Wise Use was to counter the environmental movement with a broad-ranging coalition of interest groups, including industry-funded front groups and 'grassroots groups', often organised by PR consultants on behalf of corporations or trade associations.

Julian Morris who is among the contributors to CORE's "UN World Conference on Biotechnology" also features in The Fake Parade. Originally billed as being present was Chengal Reddy who also played a key role in The Fake Parade (see below). His Indian Farmers Federation will be represented.

Someone else who is part of the "UN World Conference" is CORE's Niger Innis. Innis is a protege of black broadcaster Armstrong Williams. Innis stands in for Williams on the TV show America's Black Forum whenever Williams is otherwise engaged.

Williams was recently revealed as having pocketed $240,000 in federal taxpayer money for PR promotion of Bush's educational policy. The journalists who started America's Black Forum , and who now disown it, describe Williams as "the premiere Black political whore in America".

Tomorrow the stand-in and protege of America's "premiere Black political whore" will be standing alongside the Executive Vice President of CORE's "corporate partner" when he rounds up a day spent considering the remarkable contribution that GM can make to helping the world's poor and the evil people who selfishly try and obstruct its global adoption.

Under the banner of populist protest, multinational corporations manufacture the poor
By Jonathan Matthews
Environment, 3 December 2002

"Carrying his placard the man in front of me was clearly one of the poorest of the poor. His shoes were not only threadbare, they were tattered, merely rags barely being held together."

So begins a graphic description of a demonstration that took place at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg. The protesters were "mainly poor, virtually all black, and mostly women... street traders and farmers" with an unpalatable message. As an article in a South African periodical put it, "Surely this must have been the environmentalists‚ worst nightmare. Real poor people marching in the streets and demanding development while opposing the eco-agenda of the Green Left."

And seldom can the views of the poor, in this case a few hundred demonstrators, have been paid so much attention. Articles highlighting the Johannesburg march popped up the world over, in Africa, North America, India, Australia and Israel. In Britain even The Times ran a commentary, under the heading, "I do not need white NGOs to speak for me".

With the summit's passing, the Johannesburg march, far from fading from view, has taken on a still deeper significance. In the November issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology, Val Giddings, the President of the Biotech Industry Organization (BIO), argues that the event marked "something new, something very big" that will make us "look back on Johannesburg as something of a watershed event - a turning point." What made the march so pivotal, he said, was that for the very first time, "real, live, developing-world farmers" were "speaking for themselves" and challenging the "empty arguments of the self-appointed individuals who have professed to speak on their behalf."

To help give them a voice, Giddings singles out the statement of one of the marchers, Chengal Reddy, leader of the Indian Farmers Federation. "Traditional organic farming...," Reddy says, "led to mass starvation in India for centuries... Indian farmers need access to new technologies and especially to biotechnologies."

Giddings also notes that the farmers expressed their contempt for the "empty arguments" of many of the Earth Summiteers by honoring them with a "Bullshit Award" made from two varnished piles of cow dung. The award was given, in particular, to the Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva, for her role in "advancing policies that perpetuate poverty and hunger"

A powerful rebuke, no doubt. But if anyone deserves the cow dung, it is the President of BIO, for almost every element of the spectacle he describes has been carefully contrived and orchestrated. Take, for instance, Chengal Reddy, the "farmer" that Giddings quotes. Reddy is not a poor farmer, nor even the representative of poor farmers. Indeed, there is precious little to suggest he is even well-disposed towards the poor. The "Indian Farmers Federation" that he leads is a lobby of big commercial farmers in Andhra Pradesh. On occasion Reddy has admitted to knowing very little about farming, having never farmed in his life. He is, in reality, a politician and businessman whose family are a prominent right-wing political force in Andhra Pradesh - his father having coined the saying, "There is only one thing Dalits (members of the untouchable caste) are good for, and that is being kicked".

If it seems open to doubt that Reddy was in Johannesburg to help the poor speak for themselves, the identity of the march‚s organizers is also not a source of confidence. Although the Times‚ headline said "I do not need white NGOs to speak for me", the media contact on the organizers' press release was "Kendra Okonski", the daughter of a US lumber industrialist who has worked for various right wing anti-regulatory NGOs - all funded and directed, needless to say, by "whites". These include the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based "think tank" whose multi-million dollar budget comes from major US corporations, among them BIO member Dow Chemicals. Okonski also runs the websit


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