AgBioView attacks "Benbrook's science and credibility" (9/9/2005)

The following attack (item 1) on the agronomist Dr Charles Benbrook is sadly all too predictable.

It went out on today's AgBioView list and it effectively accuses Dr Benbrook of being corrupt, calling him a "professional misinterpreter and a misleader" on biotech issues who is guilty of continuously "cherry picking data for his slanted analysis". "People like Benbrook do these kind of things," it says, to earn a living. In Benbrook's case, it specifies, it is done "at the behest of the organic and other anti-GM lobby who hire him".

Those "like Benbrook" who are, according to the AgBioView attack, paid to mislead and deceive are contrasted with "busy professional scientists [who] must keep busy doing their honest to good research work that will stand scrutiny of their professional peers". The fact that, amongst other things, Dr Benbrook was for seven years Executive Director of the Board on Agriculture of the US's National Academy of Sciences, is dismissed as irrelevant - simply something "flaunted" by the anti-GM lobby to try and lend "credibility to his "scientific" (sic) analysis".

The irony is, of course, that with Dr Benbrook's background and credentials, if he were remotely minded to earn an income doing dodgy science in the way that is being suggested here, he could have earned himself a fortune by now, while enjoying a massive research budget, courtesy of the biotech industry and its various front institutes. The only cost would have been to his integrity.

Because Dr Benbrook, unlike so many others, has kept his integrity intact and has refused to go down that route, he has been the victim of the most disgusting personal attacks (you may remember the claim of another AgBioView attack dog, Alex Avery, that Dr Benbrook had "the metaphorical blood of starvation victims on his hands"*). Indeed, the industry has set up and lavishly funds the likes of the National Center for Food and Agriculture simply to attack Dr Benbrook's work.

Meanwhile, Dr Benbrook, to the chagrin of the industry and its supporters, has drawn on independent university controlled trial data and official US Department of Agriculture data to show how GM crops are not doing the job that is being claimed for them by the industry.

This latest attack on Dr Benbrook comes courtesy of another AgBioView attack dog, Dr. Sivramiah ("Shanthu") Shantharam. Dr Shantharam is the President of Biologistics International and was formerly with Syngenta. One of his posts at Syngenta was The Head of Stakeholder Relations and Technology Communications. He has also been responsible for developing Syngenta's "public affairs and communications strategies" for Golden Rice.

It's revealing - though with his "communications strategies" background perhaps not entirely surprising - that Dr Shantharam has the gall to accuse anybody of seeking to deceive others with misinformation that would not stand up to informed scrutiny. On one occasion, Dr Shantharam claimed in print that "gene contamination is a bogus issue" and quite irrelevant to the case of the Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser because, "Court records clearly establish that Schmeiser had planted gm canola which he had purchased illegally."**

The trial court records, in fact, establish exactly the opposite. The lead investigator for Monsanto in the Schmeiser case told the trial court under oath that, "We have no proof that anyone sold seed to Mr Schmeiser." (June 8, 2000, p.87) The Court of Appeal in reviewing the trial court evidence stated, "The uncontradicted evidence of Mr. Schmeiser was that he has never purchased Roundup Ready Canola." The Court of Appeal went on, "Monsanto had initially alleged that Mr. Schmeiser had somehow acquired Roundup Ready Canola in 1997 but that allegation was withdrawn..." (paragraph 18) When the case later came to the Supreme Court, no suggestion of any illegal purchase (or brown bagging) of GM seed by Percy Schmeiser was made at any stage.** In other words, the only "bogus concoction" was Dr Shantharam's demonstrably false accusation against Percy Schmeiser.

Dr Shantharam tells us below that the Internet is full of false allegations about "corrupt scientists supported by the industry". It would, of course, be descending to Dr Shantharam's level, to suggest that the Internet is actually full of false allegations *by* corrupt scientists (and others) supported by the industry. ***

How far it is from the truth, we leave you to judge.

1. Today in AgBioView from : Sept 7, 2005
Benbrook's Science and Credibility
Sivramiah Shantharam

Charles Benbrook is a professional misinterpreter and a misleader of biotech issues at the behest of the organic and other anti-GM lobby who hire him for his unusual savvy. His professional and career credentials like being a former staffer at the National Research Council, an arm of the US National Science Academy are flaunted by the anti-GM lobby to bring credibility to his "scientific" analysis. His supporters swear by his analysis, and that is their right. Everyone needs something to hold on to.

Benbrook has always been cherry picking data for his slanted analysis for ever. That is his privilege. Apparently, when the likes of Benbrook get paid by the organic and other lobbies, they are supposed to be honest and truthful in their analysis, but when other scientists who support the art and science of biotechnology say a word in support of biotechnology, they are all corrupt scientists supported by the industry. Internet is full of all sorts of such self-serving reports like this one, and one must not waste too much of time reading and worrying about them. People like Benbrook do these kind of things to earn their livelihoods, and busy professional scientists must keep busy doing their honest to good research work that will stand scrutiny of their professional peers. Dogs keep barking and the caravan keeps moving on.

2. Some (accurate!) information about Dr Benbrook

Dr Charles (Chuck) Benbrook served as the agricultural staff expert on the Council for Environmental Quality/The White Hou


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