Dr C. S. Prakash is Professor in Plant Molecular Genetics and Director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at Tuskegee University, Alabama, USA, where he oversees research on the genetic modification of food crops and the training of scientists and students in plant biotechnology.
He serves on the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee and also on the Advisory Committee for the Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India. He is also an advisor to USAID, serving as the principal investigator of a USAID funded project 'to promote biotechnology awareness in Africa'. Tuskegee University receives multi-million dollar funding from USAID.
Prakash is best known for his AgBioWorld campaign, which was launched in January 2000, involving the agbioworld.org website and the heavily-subscribed AgBioView e-mail list, which Prakash personally edits. His Declaration in Support of Agricultural Biotechnology has received support from over 3,000 scientists, including Nobel Laureates like Dr Norman Borlaug, who is a keen supporter of Prakash's campaign.
Under the AgBioWorld banner, Prakash has sent petitions and press releases to international bodies and meetings, such as the International Biosafety Protocol Meeting in Montreal and to the UN Committee on Sustainable Development, as well as to science journals and the media.
His campaign has attracted extensive media coverage, including well over a hundred newspaper and magazine articles. He was also featured in Martin Durkin's controversial documentary The Rise and Fall of GM on British TV's Channel 4.
Prakash has travelled overseas to speak at a number of events on behalf of the U.S. State Department, including at the U.S. embassy in London, at a debate staged by the Institute of Economic Affairs, and at the Seeds of Opportunity conference chaired by Philip Stott.
Prakash was the lead orator in May 2003 when U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick announced the U.S.'s intention to file a World Trade Organization case against the European Union over its 'illegal five-year moratorium on approving agricultural biotech products.' (Tuskegee Scientists Expertise a Key Component of World Trade Organization Initiative)
He has given testimony to the U.S. Congressional Committee on Science and to the Philippine Senate Committee on Health, and was keynote lecturer at the inaugural meeting of AfricaBio in Pretoria. He has also hosted a media forum for journalists in New Delhi with Barun Mitra of the Liberty Institute and lectured at the M.S. Swaminathan Foundation in India.
He has worked as a 'Science Advisor' to the magazine Your World which is targeted at school students, developing a special issue on GM crops for the biotech-industry funded Biotechnology Institute. The Your World series has been used with children in schools in North America and Scotland.
His AgBioView list has been successfully used to catalyze GM supporters within the scientific community to be more proactive in supporting GM crops, most notably over issues like GM contamination of Mexican maize landraces, the rejection of GM contaminated food aid in Southern Africa, and Golden Rice.
As with other aspects of Prakash's campaigning, however, serious questions have been raised over his collaborators, his tactics and, not least, the accuracy of the information that Prakash puts into circulation.
For instance, Prakash is reported as having told a Tanzanian audience that GM 'doubles production' (The Express, Tanzania, Aug 21, 2002). In fact, as University of Minnesota economist Vernon W. Ruttan has noted: 'Thus far, biotechnology has not raised the yield potential of crops'. There is also some evidence for yield losses rather than gains, particularly with the main GM crop in global production.
Aaron deGrassi at the Institute of Development Studies, at the University of Sussex, provides another striking example of the unscientific nature of some Prakash claims. In his report Genetically Modified Crops and Sustainable Poverty Alleviation in Sub-Saharan Africa deGrassi notes, 'Another surprising example of advocacy trumping facts is C.S. Prakash, the influential biotechnology advocate who has advised the US Trade Representative. Prakash has repeatedly cited [GM] sweet potatoes [in Kenya] as a positive example of the benefits of GM for African countries, but has confessed to having no knowledge of the results of scientific trials in Kenya.'