The Iowa-based organisation Truth about Trade & Technology describes itself as 'a grassroots farm organisation' and 'a nonprofit advocacy group led by American farmers narrowly focused, issue specific - as we support free trade and agricultural biotechnology'. (Statement of Purpose)
The main feature of its website is a news section which offers the latest GM-related headlines plus regular weekly commentaries by its chairman, Dean Kleckner - Kleckner Speaks Out, and more occasional comment pieces from other members of its board.
According to Truth about Trade's website, 'In the 21st century, trade and technology are inextricably linked... concerns about technology, both feigned and authentic, are increasingly used to justify protectionism. These fears are not based upon scientific fact, but upon a mixture of unfortunate misunderstandings owing to ignorance and deceptive propaganda spread by entrenched special interests.'
In a speech to the annual meeting of CropLife America, which is led by the major GM and agrochemical corporations, Dean Kleckner warned that progress in promoting biotechnology was painfully slow, 'Whenever we seem to make some progress--such as a figure of Tony Blair's significance coming down firmly on the side of science--we also have to endure the agonizing experience of watching millions of Africans starve because their political leaders can't make reasonable and humane decisions.' The context of this remark was the refusal of some African leaders to accept GM grain as food aid. However, despite the implications of Kleckner's statement, there is no evidence that anyone has starved (let alone millions!) because of such concern over GM-contamination of food aid, although there has been considerable criticism of the US's exploitation of the food aid issue for trade purposes.
Other similarly emotive but equally unsupported claims have been made on the Truth about Trade website, eg 'Did you know that thousands of children starve every day? ...it isn't because of a worldwide shortage of food. It is because of a worldwide shortage of trade and technology.' Kleckner has also been quoted as saying, 'We ought to ask those who demagoge (sic) the issue of biotechnology, how many vitamin A deficient blind children will you allow to achieve your objective? How many iron deficient women must die in childbirth for your direct-mail fund raising efforts? How many more lives will you sacrifice for your "cause"?'
He has also said, 'We have researched the protesters and where they get their money. What we find is that there aren't a lot of people involved but they're loud, well-organized and well-funded... Truth About Trade will continue to dig and ferret out information on these and other anti-agriculture groups. We intend to shine a very bright light on these groups and hold them accountable for their actions.'
Kleckner's own background is as an American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) leader, having served until 2000 as AFBF president for fourteen years. This followed ten years as president of the Iowa Farm Bureau. Several other board members of Truth about Trade also have Farm Bureau connections, including Craig Lang who became president of the Iowa Farm Bureau in 2001.
With nearly five million members the AFBF is the nation's largest farm organization and is said to be among the most powerful special interest groups in Washington, DC. But many, if not most, of its members are not farmers at all, having become members simply by buying its products, such as insurance, via a Farm Bureau company.
In fact, while posing as a nonprofit organization whose tax-subsidised activities are intended to improve the lot of American Farmers, the Farm Bureau is a gigantic agribusiness and insurance conglomerate. It has a stock portfolio that includes such agribusiness giants as Archer Daniels Midland, ConAgra, Monsanto, Phillip Morris, Dupont, Novartis and Dow. (Rightwing business in farm overalls)
The Farm Bureau's massive financial interests are said to help it promote a self-serving and extreme political agenda. In 1968 Representative Joseph Resnick of New York, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Rural Development, described the Farm Bureau, which was was founded originally in the early 1900s by the New York Chamber of Commerce, in this way: 'What might once have been a conservative, business-oriented organization is now considerably more. By my calculations, the Farm Bureau is the most efficient conduit now in existence for the dissemination of right-wing propaganda.' Resnick also declared the Bureau to be 'a perfect sewer-line for transporting right-wing ideology, particularly to our young people.'
The Farm Bureau has passed resolutions opposing, amongst other things, the Voting Rights Act - the cornerstone of US civil rights protection, the Equal Rights Amendment, gun control and an increase in the minimum wage. The anti-civil rights resolution was approved while Dean Kleckner was AFBF President. (Farm Bureau is a Front)
In recent years Farm Bureau leaders have expressed increasing antagonism towards environmentalism. Some Farm Bureaus have been notable amongst those who have formed alliances with the so-called Wise Use movement to lobby against environmental regulations. (The war against the greens)
In 2000 the