Today's Topics in AgBioView.
* The Real Price when the Product is Alarm!
* French Research Minister Condemns Anti-GMO Action
* GM Rally Spurred By Death Of Sister
* Issac Assimov on Commoner
* Poor Nations Can't Afford Biotech Food Fear
* Germany Sees GM-Research Exodus
* A Notion That Doesn't Fly
* Monbiot Coercion
* Riots Inc. The Business Of Protesting Globalization
* The Business of Identity Preservation
* Technology, Poverty and the Future of the Developing World.
* An Activist Makes 15 Suggestions For Successful Campaigns
* Harmonious Reciprocity (Vandana Poetry Included)
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The Real Price when the Product is Alarm!
Dean Kleckner, Chairman, Truth About Trade and Technology
(Editorial Forwarded by: Mary J Boote )
Last month, astronomers announced the discovery of several new moons orbiting the planet Saturn. They're just a few miles in diameter, and it took a powerful array of modern telescopes to spot them. But they really aren't 'new' at all--they've been out there for eons.
Something similar happened last year in the world of soybeans--a subject that understandably draws much less attention than astronomy. Using the very latest equipment, researchers found that the world's most commonly used genetically modified crop contains a previously undetected strand of DNA. It's been there ever since the seed was first developed nearly a decade ago and therefore represents no cause for alarm. Yet a group of fear-mongering activists at Greenpeace is treating this news as the agricultural equivalent of learning that one of those little moons around Saturn is wobbling a bit and just possibly could head for Earth.
This may serve Greenpeace's narrow political agenda, but it also does real harm to American farmers. Their propaganda caused soybean prices to tumble as traders worried that the public might not appreciate all the science showing that genetically modified crops are both safe and nutritious to eat and that they pose no threat to the environment. There was also the legitimate concern that foreign protectionists in search of any bogus excuse to ban American farm products from their markets now have a bit more ammunition in their public-relations arsenals.
For all their current and potential impact, however, the wild assertions of Greenpeace are fundamentally fraudulent. Their aim is not to advance the public's knowledge of genetically modified crops, but to shock consumers and frighten regulators by peddling data that isn't exactly late-breaking news to experts in the field.
More than a year ago, researchers published data showing that Roundup Ready soybeans, a seed developed to resist a certain herbicide, contain's a gene fragment that nobody had identified previously. The fragment itself is tiny, about 534 letters long in a sequence of 1.5 billion. Its existence also comes as no surprise. Geneticists have watched this phenomenon occur naturally, when plants crossbreed all by themselves. They've seen it in other genetically modified crops, too.
In fact, there's really nothing new about the DNA fragment. It has been in the soybeans since the early 1990s, when the seed was first developed. It remained there as the soybeans passed every safety test international regulators could throw at it. Experts agree that these tests remain valid, including the geneticist who made the discovery. "I have no scientific data that we have to be afraid of," said Marc de Loose, a Belgian plant researcher. He explicitly rejected Greenpeace's contention that these soybeans are not safe. Farmers around the world agree. More than 70% of American soybean acreage is RoundUp Ready. In Argentina that number tops 90%!
There's more to this story however. Greenpeace had help moving this dated news into a "market-altering" phenomena- the New York Times. Whatever happened to the media's responsibility to check your source? If they would have taken just a few moments to research the source or possibly talk to Mr. De Loose they would have discovered the truth quickly and saved themselves the embarrassment of being an accomplice to a crime of misinformation! A story that had a real effect on real lives.
In this episode, the players were Greenpeace and the New York Times who will they be tomorrow? This is serious business. If you don't believe me ask the Executive Director of Greenpeace. In their latest annual report, Greenpeace reported taking in over $131.28 million last year a 14% jump in income. Of that amount, $6.52 million was spent specifically to oppose agricultural biotechnology around the globe. Opposition to biotechnology has become their cash cow!
What these soybeans now face is not a safety issue, but a perception problem, and Greenpeace with the media's help - is doing everything it can to confuse and distort the issue. If they succeed, they will not only serve their own perverse ends but also leave behind plenty of victims, from the world's hungry people to the American farmers who can feed them.
Dean Kleckner is Chairman of Truth About Trade and Technology, a national, Iowa-based grassroots advocacy group organized to promote advancements in agricultural biotechnology and expansion of free trade.
French Research Minister Condemns Anti-GMO Action
- Excerpt from report by Radio France Internationale on 23 August
[Presenter] Another issue after the summer break is that of genetically modified organisms. Yesterday, as they had promised, activists from Jose Bove's Farmers' Confederation [radical farmers' union] moved from words to deeds. They uprooted transgenic maize plants about 20 km from Nimes in southern France. This was a seed trial site... The Farmers' Confederation had warned the government that if it failed to destroy these fields, the activists would do it in their place. They have thus kept their promise and have announced a timetable of destruction until mid-September. Research Minister Roger-Gerard Schwartzenberg does not accept these operations. He spoke to Johanne Suton [phonetic].
[Schwartzenberg] I think we must avoid two different kinds of excesses: on the one hand adventurism, which would authorize GMOs without knowing their full possible impact on health and the environment, but also obscurantism, which would refuse to find out what their effects really are.
I think the rejection of knowledge is not a progressive attitude. Many trials concerning GMOs are organized precisely in order to find out about possible health and environmental risks. So we must be able to establish the true facts, scientific truth. There is a kind of obligation to do research. So it's rather absurd to see this kind of experimental crop destroyed because this in fact deprives us of the means of knowing in a rational manner what are the advantages but also the possible risks of GMOs...
GM Rally Spurred By Death Of Sister
Bic Runga and Dave Dobbyn. The NZ Herald; August 18, 2001
A group of New Zealand celebrities, organised by former international pop star Alannah Currie, is trying to mobilise protest against the royal commission report on genetic modification.
Ms Currie, a member of the 1980s British band the Thompson Twins, said she became interested in issues surrounding food technology, and later in submissions presented to the commission, after her sister died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in Auckland last year. She said she felt powerless following the release of the report, which paved the way for the controlled release of genetically modified organisms. "We felt as though we were being steamrolled into having something that we didn't want to have in New Zealand. "We don't mind GE being in labs but we think it should be kept out of the foodchain, because otherwise we have no choice."
Over the past few days, she has assembled an ever-increasing collection of New Zealand entertainers, including Bic Runga, Rena Owen, Rachel Hunter, Dave Dobbyn, Stella, Mikey Havoc and Newsboy, cast members of Shortland Street, and a group of doctors and scientists. This weekend, they will pose for photographs wearing T-shirts designed for the event by Karen Walker, Marilyn Sainty, Zambesi and World to raise support for an anti-GM march in Auckland on September 1. On Monday, the group is to unveil a billboard outside her Ponsonby home.
Ms Currie said she had been a member of Greenpeace for 20 years, but had not been politically active since she arrived in New Zealand, opting instead for a "fairly reclusive" life. But the protest, one of many under way around the country, was an effort by concerned citizens like herself wanting to be heard on the issue, she said. "It's about having a say. We feel that the Government's not listening to us."
From: "Henry I. Miller"
Before one takes an analysis of any scientific subject by Barry Commoner too seriously, it might be useful to recall that Commoner was widely ridiculed throughout American science in the 1960s for his continued insistence that protein, not DNA, was the material that mediated the transference of genetic characteristics. This tenacious wrong-headedness, bordering on the delusional, led writer and scientist Isaac Asimov to make this observation in 1961: "If Commoner disapproves of the incoming tide and wishes to amuse himself by standing on the shore and commanding it to stop, he may "He may also quote as many authorities as he likes to impress the waves. But he will get his feet wet just the same"
Commoner's NOVEMBER 1966 article (four years after Watson, Crick and Wilkins received the Nobel Prize) "The Elusive Code of Life: Is DNA Really the Master Key to Heredity" ranks historically with attacks on Galileo's view of the movement of the planets, and with Lysenko's version of evolutionary biology.
Would we care what Lysenko might have to say about gene-spliced plants?
- Henry Miller , The Hoover Institution
Poor Nations Can't Afford Biotech Food Fear
August 20, 2001, Grand Forks Herald
NORWICH, ENGLAND-David Walker, an agricultural economist who lives on his family's farm outside Norwich, England and recently served as senior economist in London for the Home-Grown Cereals Authority and previously was executive director of the Alberta Grain Commission, writes in this opinion piece that the delay in the commercialization of genetically modified crops in affluent Western Europe may be acceptable in the context of the peace of mind it brings to consumers even though it lacks any kind of scientific basis. This implicit waste, however, is not an indulgence appropriate for those faced with poverty.
The condition of absolute poverty historically has been defined as income insufficient to purchase food, clothing and shelter of adequate quantity and quality - the bare bones ingredients of minimal comfort. While the standards of adequacy of quantity and quantity rise with the affluence of an economy and other more or less necessary elements have been added, in much of the world beyond North America and Western Europe, the three basic needs still set the threshold.
Indeed, anyone living 100 years ago in what now is the developed world almost certainly would have doubted anybody could spend as much as we do today without being wasteful. That's an indulgence few of us could deny. The reality is that the marketplace has been very effective in providing things that we think we need. And we are by and large accepting of our neighbor's right to spend as they see fit, provided it does not impinge unduly on our existence.
In today's complex society, of course, the actions of individuals can effect the well-being of many, so society has accordingly given the responsibility of protecting the many to the state.
Two issues relevant to biotechnology in general, and genetically modified crops in particular, are food safety and the environment. If there are risks of adverse consequences, state-imposed controls may be justified, subject to cost considerations.
Government action In the case of genetically modified crops, governments have chosen to limit or defer their use, not because of any specific risk, but because they are new and unknown in the context of their impact. Britain and most of Europe are now firmly in the grip of this 21st-century Luddism. A couple of years ago, opinion polls indicated that most people in Britain were concerned about potential risks of modified food. While governments are elected to represent the interest of their electorate rather than directly reflect their opinion, it takes a courageous leader to ignore public opinion, even if he has science on his side.
Under such circumstances, a science-based policy supported by a three-year research program to demonstrate the science is as much as could have been expected. And in the court of public opinion the three years as a cooling-off period may be as important as the science itself. But where poverty exists, the expense of deferring the use of a technology that will bring real and immediate benefits is no tradeoff for peace of mind from an unidentified risk.
Indeed, even where risks have been proven, the choice to use a technology still may be a reasonable one. While DDT has been banned in the developed world for almost 30 years for proven environmental reasons, no caring person would deny its use where human life is threatened by a malarial swamp. No evidence of threats The situation with genetically modified crops is, of course, far less extreme. There is no evidence of a threat to the environment from these crops, and any saving of life is likely to be indirect through the improvement of the quantity, quality and cost of food. But as less-affluent economies naturally place a higher value on these benefits, they can be expected to be more accepting of the technology. For the Third World, the most compelling characteristic of this biotechnology is its shrink-wrapped nature.
As with a cell phone, once the box is opened and, if relatively simple instructions are read and followed, almost anybody can use what is complex technology and benefits almost immediately.
The rapid adoption of genetically modified crops in North America over the last five years was possible only because adoption did not require investment by or training of the farmer user. This ease of use is critical in the developing world. Typically, subsistence farmers do not have the financial resources to invest or the time to devote to elaborate training. Surely conventional technology implicit in such popular development staples such as irrigation, mechanization and market infrastructure have a role to play. But they do not provide the kind of almost-instant impetus to well-being genetically modified crops can offer.
Attempting to impose developed world values on the developing world is not only misplaced but immoral. While we may be able to afford the peace of mind of avoiding any risk, we must recognize this luxury has little value where pestilence with resulting malnutrition and starvation is an immediate reality.
Increasingly, the success of those opposed to genetically modified crops in creating doubt appears misguided. Their success in Western Europe simply may be viewed as wasted opportunity. But if they succeed in deferring the adoption of the technology in the developing world, it would be a tragedy.
Germany Sees GM-Research Exodus
Handelsblatt (from www.checkbiotech.org)
Legal uncertainties surrounding genetically modified crops in Germany are increasingly leading the country's biotechnology and seed companies to shift their research in this area to North America, Handelsblatt has learned.
"We won't be carrying out any more field trials in Germany for this year," said seed company Norddeutsche Pflanzenzucht (NPZ). This sentiment is echoed by other leading seed producers such as KWS, the world's leading producer of seeds for sugar beet crops.
And the story's the same when it comes to small biotechnology firms such as MPB Cologne, which is working on the extraction of proteins from potatoes for use in production of pharmaceuticals. "In Canada we'll find that the legal framework conditions are simply more secure," said MPB managing director Klaus Düring.
Some biotech and seed firms are still in talks with German universities on research cooperations. But most of these are limited to the laboratory-based early stages of research. The number of field plantation trials has fallen from a good 400 in 1998 to what will be a very small number this year. Germany is quickly losing its position as a leading researcher into genetically modified crops, according to Jens Katzek, managing director at biotech industry association Deutsche Industrievereinigung Biotechnologie (DIB).
In DIB's view, the main reason for the research exodus is to be found in the legal uncertainties surrounding field plantation trials. The bone of contention is whether it's acceptable for minimal traces of genetically modified crops to be transferred onto neighboring crops grown from conventional seeds. Germany's Agricultural Minister Renate Künast of the environmentalist Greens is insisting that transfer levels should not exceed zero. This line is also taken by a number of federal states governed by the Social Democrats (SPD), the senior party in Germany's ruling coalition.
But the center-right opposition parties are arguing that upper limits should be imposed, since there's no way of stopping some seed transfer via pollination. They point out that before approval is granted for field trials, they have to be examined for likely effects by scientific research agency Robert Koch Institute. The government in the north-east German state of Brandenburg has just ordered the destruction of conventional crops because genetically modified particles were found among the seeds from which they were grown. This follows a similar incident in the north German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
The company involved, NPZ, said separate analyses had shown no sign of contamination at all. It said instead of compensating the farmers, it's considering taking legal action against Brandenburg state. But it also said to be made liable for damages in cases such as this one would present such a threat to its existence that it will no longer be making trans-genetic seeds available for research in Germany. The German government is making DM36.4 million available from its annual research budget for research into phytogenetic safety. But according to Handelsblatt information, applications for plantation trials involving sugar beet and rape have dried up completely.
Agricultural Minister Künast faces a dilemma over genetically modified crops. On the one hand, the laissez-faire attitude shown by governments in some parts of the world mean that it's no longer possible to guarantee that all crops are free from genetic modification. On the other hand, she wants to secure the maximum freedom of choice for consumers. For this reason, she intervened at the last minute to block the commercial planting in Germany of "Artuis" , the first genetically modified maize variety.
A Notion That Doesn't Fly
Rebecca Cade, (Letter to the Editor) The News and Observer 23-Aug-2001
I was dismayed by the unbalanced reporting in your Aug. 18 Home section article "Flutter, bye!" You quoted three prominent area scientists, Dr. Fred Nijhout of Duke University, Dr. John Dole of N.C. State University and Ken Moore, assistant director of the N.C Botanical Garden. All gave perfectly valid reasons for the reduction in this year's butterfly numbers, including loss of habitat, roadside spraying, changes in migration pattern, hard winters, etc. None mentioned genetically engineered Bt corn as a possible explanation for the population decrease. In fact Dr. Nijhout stated that "there is no reason for Monarch butterflies to be attracted to a cornfield."
Yet you apparently decided it was better "journalism" to begin the story with what you termed "the most controversial explanation," that Bt corn might be the culprit, even though none of the quoted sources suggested that explanation. Maybe the reason they didn't suggest that possibility is that it's not true. The highly publicized Cornell study cited in the article was conducted not in a cornfield, but in a laboratory, where the monarch caterpillars had no choice but to eat the pollen. Several field studies conducted since then have shown negligible risk to butterfly populations because corn pollen is heavy and doesn't travel far, and there is not much milkweed immediately adjacent to cornfields, since farmers use herbicides to prevent weed growth.
In fact Greenpeace had to drop its lawsuit against the companies who sell Bt corn because there was such overwhelming evidence that butterfly populations were not being affected. But if you still want to attribute butterfly declines to Bt corn, maybe you should attribute last year's near-record monarch populations to Bt corn as well.
Rebecca Cade, Cary
(Editor's note: The article cited considerable evidence contradicting the well-publicized idea that pollen from genetically modified corn has harmed the butterflies.)
From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Monbiot Coercion
Colleagues, What Monbiot cleverly overlooks in his monograph is something so simple that most food and biotech companies have overlooked it. Here in North America, labeling has been rigorously required (except for various deadly "health supplements") for any food that might adversely affect the health or well-being of a consumer.
Since North America has perennially required labeling on foods offering information relevant to health issues, any GMO labeling on foods automatically puts GM ingredients in the "health concern" category. By this means, the food-scare cranks would put healthy food in the "health concern" category. Overnight, this would hijack decades of effective regulation and credibility and make required lableing a device (at public expense) for advertising the latest scare the organic contingent wants to dream up.
Being a bibliophile, I like lots of labels on my food. Labels are more fun than logos. I might even buy food based on its having a more detailed label than the competing brand. Bottom line, though, I have no legal right to demand labels that have nothing to do with my health, and nobody else does, either.
For the sake of argument, let's say we should add "production" information to other important products. If I need a blood transfusion, should I not have a right to know if otherwise healthy blood came from a black, or a Jew, or a Moslem? Or maybe I would only want a blood transfusion from a vegetarian. Or from an animal activist. Or from someone who marched in Genoa to help block exports from developing nations. Or from someone who marched in Genoa to help block the latest technology from reaching developing nations. Or from a nudist. Or from someone who was raised "all organically" by wolves that only ate "free-range" sheep.
Fact is, a duty to label only arises if there is a legitimate health concern, basic ingredients are of course there, but the rest is marketing. So bring on the non-Moslem wolf-raised free-range Anglican lamb-chops fed only on crops fertilized by the pure droppings of Aryans! Sorry, I'd walk right past stuff like that and hold my breath, too.
Riots Inc. The Business Of Protesting Globalization
- Kendra Okonski August 14, 2001 (forwarded by Andrew Apel http://www.opinionjournal.com/columnists/tvaradarajan/?id=95000964
Sweeping up the broken glass in Genoa, Italy, merchants must have asked themselves: Who paid for this riot? After all, an army of activists doesn’t just descend on a city without some leadership--and some money to pay organizers, rent meeting places, print posters and so on. So let’s follow the money.
Antiglobalization protests have become a big business that involves millions of dollars, transnational organizations and a global agenda. Even Greenpeace--a global enterprise with offices in London, Buenos Aires, Washington and Tokyo--has a chief financial officer.
Indeed, the antiglobalization movement seems like corporate dystopia, a mirror image of the business world complete with trade associations, venture capitalists, management recruiting and marketing campaigns. Instead of selling T-shirts or toothpaste, the agitators are selling limits on cross-border trade.
Start with holding companies. The Genoa Social Forum, a constellation of nonprofits that organized a “countersummit” to give the protesters a patina of intellectual respectability, served as a central coordinating hub. The Italian government provided $1.3 million to pay for conference facilities and translation services, Genoa Social Forum organizer Carlo Schenone told the press.
Playing the role of “business roundtable” of the antiglobalization movement is the International Forum on Globalization. One of the forum’s associates in Genoa was Susan George, who is also vice president of the Paris-based Association for the Taxation of Financial Transactions for the Help of Citizens, known as Attac. Other forum members in Genoa included Kevin Danaher of San Francisco’s Global Exchange, Walden Bello of the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South and Vandana Shiva of the Delhi-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology. Another forum member, Jose Bove of the French farmers union Confederacion Paysanne--famous for driving his tractor through a McDonald’s in France--also turned up in Genoa. These people meet regularly under the forum’s auspices.
The forum is funded largely by the Foundation for Deep Ecology, a San Francisco-based philanthropic foundation that was endowed with the fortune of Esprit Clothing Co. magnate Douglas Tompkins. With assets of more than $150 million in 2000, the foundation serves as a kind of venture-capital fund for the movement by providing seed money to groups around the world.
Through the forum, the foundation has helped energize groups like Attac, which was a major player in Genoa. Attac itself is a kind of holding company of international nonprofits and trade unions who believe that economic globalization “only expresses the interests of multinational corporations and financial markets.” While Attac largely focuses on lobbying for a tax on international capital transactions, it spends much of its time building coalitions with nonprofits focused on other issues--such as AIDS, the environment, human rights and organic farming--to combat globalization on all fronts. These opportunistic organizations help the movement look like a genuine grass-roots uprising and swell its numbers. This strategy is not unlike the alliances that firms sometimes form to crack new markets.
Like all big businesses in Europe, the antiglobalization movement works closely with labor unions. In Genoa, the bulk of the marchers came from two Italian trade unions, the Confederazione General Italiano del Lavoro and the Confederazione Italiana Sindicati Lavoratori. These unions were brought together with the help of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, a Brussels-based network of international unions.
And the unions also supply a lot of the money. The Federatie Nederlandse Vakbeweging, a group of Dutch trade unions, and other European labor groups have created “international solidarity funds” partly to fund antiglobalization groups. This ensures a bumper crop of protesters and a steady stream of press releases.
These solidarity funds are, in turn, funded by European governments. According to a report by Labor and Society International, a British group that works with trade unions and nonprofit groups, the Dutch unions’ Department for International Cooperation received $6.75 million in 1997 from the Dutch government. That same year, the German government provided about $50 million to the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a foundation that carries out an antiglobalization agenda with trade unions and political parties.
In Sweden and Norway, the governments contribute 80% of the money that makes up the union solidarity funds, which also ends up promoting the antiglobalization movement. Canadian social-justice funds, set up by Canada’s major trade unions, are similar. The Canadian International Development Agency, a government entity, matches union contributions by a ratio of three-to-one. In short, much of the money that fuels the antiglobalization protests against intergovernmental meetings is provided by many of those same governments.
At its heart, the antiglobalization business is a foundation-, union- and government-funded coalition of convenience. That’s why when reporters wade into the crowds at antiglobalization demonstrations they quickly learn that there is no overarching philosophy, no shared ideology. If reporters probed more deeply they might learn that a shared interest holds the protest industry together--a fear of a borderless, dynamic world. In that world, a shopper in Malmo or Manchester would be as free to buy sugar from Martinique as from the European Union.
The left is ideologically opposed to free trade. Its philosophy requires a vast number of regulations on everything from factory emissions to working hours. If these regulations are not simultaneously imposed across the globe, then some nations’ businesses will benefit from a lighter regulatory touch.
Businessmen are quick to object when their overseas rivals have a competitive advantage and can either relocate to enjoy lower costs or lobby government officials to reduce the cost of these supposedly “costless” edicts. Either way, political resistance to regulation grows. So would-be regulators need some way to keep out goods from nations unburdened by questionable regulations. And that leads them into the arms of trade unions, which are looking for protectionist barriers to save uncompetitive jobs in dying industries. Perhaps the EU’s truth-in-advertising laws should require the antiglobalization movement to change its name to the “protectionist caucus.”
If you are a European taxpayer or union member, chances are you are also a passive investor in the ventures that wrecked Goteborg, Genoa, Seattle, and the rest. The protesters hope that you enjoyed the show, but now want you to go back to work and pay your taxes. There are more international meetings coming up this autumn and the activists could use another round of financing.
Ms. Okonski is a research fellow at the International Policy Network in London.
The Business of Identity Preservation
Colleagues, Freiberg Publishing Company, which is most noted for Seed & Crops Digest and AgBiotech Reporter, is hosting a conference entitled “The Business of Identity Preservation” in concert with the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA). The event is set for November 12-13, 2001.
We are now issuing a call for speakers to appear at this conference. Speakers will attend the conference for free (a US$850 savings).
The identity preservation of seed and crops in the supply chain “from farm to fork” covers a vast territory. So what topics are we looking for? Simply this: “What we have learned that the industry needs to know.” Each speaker selected will have in mind a far more descriptive title for his or her presentation, of course, but that’s what we’re looking for - people who have learned new lessons about IP that should be passed on to the agriculture and food industries. We consider our conferences to be continuing education, not cheerleading sessions.
For more information, visit http://www.agbusiness.com/ip_conference01.htm
You may also contact Andrew Apel, editor of AgBiotech Reporter, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or our Conference Manager, Chantelle Sanders, at email@example.com
Seminar: Technology, Poverty and the Future of the Developing World
From: Lucja Wisniewska [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
'Technology, Poverty and the Future of the Developing World'
An ITDG seminar, 2pm - 5pm, Thursday 20th September 2001, Room 201, Civil
Engineering Building, Imperial College, Imperial College Road, South
Kensington, London SW7 2BU, UK.
Earlier this year, the UNDP Human Development Report, 'Making new technologies work for human development', reintroduced the importance of technology in poverty reduction. However, it also courted controversy by arguing that:
* Biotechnology will be an important and necessary contributor to world food security - in spite of Northern-centric environmental concerns.
* Information technology can help to close the gap between rich and poor and revitalise southern economies through the creation of 'hubs of technological innovation' such as Bangalore.
* Energy technologies can help to provide a pathway out of poverty by enhancing education and production for the poor in developing countries.
But is the above familiar terrain for most development agencies? Whether your answer is 'yes' or 'no', the global interest in 'new' technologies cannot be ignored so any future discourse on international development will need to engage with this debate before the challenge of poverty reduction can be met.
And the key question remains. In a world were 800 million people working in agriculture cannot afford biotechnology and two billion people across the globe lack any access to modern and useable energy, will technology entrench millions in even greater poverty - or can it be used to eradicate poverty and suffering?
To confirm your attendance and indicate your preference for the breakout sessions, please call ITDG's Public Affairs Unit 01788 661227 (direct). Alternatively, please email email@example.com.
Lucja Wisniewska, The Schumacher Centre for Technology & Development
Bourton Hall, Warwickshire UK http://www.itdg,org
From: "Ross S. Irvine"
A leading environmentalist has outlined 15 suggestions for a successful
activist campaign. Her thoughts have can be applied to the world of
business PR and communications. (See Below)
Regards , Ross S. Irvine, President / Corporate Activist, ePublic Relations Ltd.; (519) 767-0444
"Public relations is war. It's about winners and losers. Winners gain
public, media, and regulatory acceptance and support for their products,
services, and organizations. Losers see their products, services, and
organizations sacrificed on the alter of public opinion, pilloried by the
media, and trampled by excessive regulation."
An Activist Makes 15 Suggestions For Successful Campaigns
Or, what PR folks can learn from Detroit
When I was a child growing up in southern Ontario, cars were made Detroit, not Japan. When Japanese cars started to appear on the road, their quality was questioned; the public looked at them as oddities; and, Detroit viewed them with derision. North American car makers believed they had nothing to learn or fear from the Japanese. They were wrong!
Today, a similarly myopic and blinkered attitude exists among corporate PR folks. For nearly 40 years, corporate PR types have been out-manoeuvred and defeated by activist groups. And for every year that passes, businesses and industries continue to become victims of increasingly costly and needless controls, regulations, and laws promoted by non-governmental organisations and other activist groups.
Despite continuing defeats, corporate PR folks don’t look at NGOs and ask: “What can we learn from them?” By failing to ask the question, corporate PR folks commit the same arrogant error as the North American car industry of my youth.
For those who ask the question, the internet is a guiding and illuminating star. Activists are proud of their successes; they want to share them with others; and, to do this, they post their knowledge and experience on the net as lessons for all. At the 19th Annual Pesticide Conference held in Boulder, Colorado, May 18-20, 2001, Mary O'Brien of the Science and Environmental Health Network made a presentation titled "Preparing For A Campaign." Following the conference, her presentation which outlined 15 points for a successful activist campaign was made available over the internet.
Below, Ms O’Brien’s 15 points and some supporting statements are quoted in bold, followed by a “What we can learn” section which briefly describes some lessons for corporate PR folks.
-1. Our campaigns need to be large in scope
They can be intensely local, as in one school district, one noxious weed in one national forest. But each campaign should be large in vision: that is we need to try to contribute to solving large, systemic national and global campaigns … the outcomes we're seeking should fit in with what needs to be done globally. For instance, a campaign about pesticides in schools needs to contribute to solving the larger problems of how our public educational institutions are organized; how children see their bodies in relations to toxics … how corporations influence what happens in our schools; our right to know …
*What we can learn: NGOs and activists are successful because they take a specific situation and use it to draw in other issues and supporters. Corporate PR folks need a similarly wide vision. They need to see how a PR situation which is identified with a specific location, product, brand, and even industry has broader and global implications. These concerns must be included in the PR campaign. It’s the old think-globally-act-locally attitude.
2. Whenever possible, our campaigns should focus on changing the rules.
-For instance, we can try to get pesticides like the sulfonylureas, or atrazine banned or highly restricted but these are almost fruitless campaigns within the current cost-benefit rules which EPA developed and operates under … This is an immoral and scientifically bankrupt rule - and it needs to be changed … A coalition campaign with Massachusetts, for instance, is working to install the precautionary principle as state policy for children's health, eventually, for the health of all ages and species.
*What we can learn: Beware of the activists. If they don’t like the rules, they’ll change them. This means that often the public, media, bureaucrats, and elected officials will not understand or appreciate the implications of the activists’ new rules. For example, not happy with tested and proven scientific methods for assessing the risk of a compound, product or process, activists have moved to seek support for the precautionary principle. While the idea sounds good and responsible, it can stop new products and services in their tracks because the precautionary principle can be interpreted to mean that something must be proven to be risk-free before it can be pursued. Nothing is risk-free! Yet, this is what the precautionary principle can require. For corporate PR folks, this means they may need to fight for proven, established, and appreciated rules of the game. And, they must point out the absurdity and uncertainty of new rules that activists may promote. (Other questionable and vague concepts endorsed b
3. Our campaigns should have positive, feasible goals that connect up with the way almost all people believe.
-We will always in outspent in our campaigns, and we will always be misrepresented. Therefore, to win we need to be connecting up with something that runs strong and deep within most citizens …
*What we can learn: To be successful, a PR campaign must go beyond the features, benefits, or “sizzle” (to use an old advertising jargon) of a PR situation. PR needs to connect with people’s vision, wisdom, spirit, feeling of connectedness, shared responsibility, feelings of something greater than themselves, or whatever you want to call it (religion?). Environmentalists have been successful, not because they save a tree or an animal, but because they infuse their campaigns with a sense of spirituality and responsibility to a larger force. Environmentalists have successfully exploited Native cultures to this end.
4. Our campaigns should simultaneously address environmental care, social care, and democracy.
-When we plan our campaigns we need to consider people, workers, children, trees, birds, fish, and participant democracy in both our processes and campaign goals. If we take care of people and not our other relationships, we are simply digging ourselves into more alienation from the world in which are imbedded … if we want to direct the campaign without input from lots of people, we contribute to crippling democracy.
*What we can learn: NGOs have found success in addressing the environment, society and democracy as central elements in their campaigns. How many corporate PR proposals for product X or brand Y have a section titled The democratic implications of this campaign? Absurd? Not really! The free-enterprise, capitalist system is an essential element of the democratic society which gives us a high standard of living, longevity, and freedom which are unheard of in human history. When democracy as we live it is attacked and free-enterprise is vilified, those gains are threatened. That’s certainly worth of ongoing PR recognition and attention. (Remember, Seattle and Genoa.)Interestingly, which NGOs claim to promote democracy are extremely undemocratic. They are responsible to no one, except themselves.
5. We need to intend to win.
- We will design our campaigns very differently if we are absolutely determined to win than if we half expect to lose. We are obligated to win because our campaigns are for health and democracy and nature, not for ourselves alone. So we need to do everything possible to win …
*What we can learn: The ultimate goal of activists is to win, not to comprise. Their goal is not win-win; it’s win-loose. Sure they’ll accept a short-term concession but they’ll be back to press for their goals. And, to win. Too often, corporate PR folks are anxious to make a quick comprise in response to immediate public perception, the next news cycle, or the current fiscal quarter. Corporate PR folks need to adopt a winner’s – not a compromiser’s – attitude and they need to appreciate that winning can take a long time.
6. We need to involve unlikely people.
- We need to involve youth; business people; city councillors; church leaders; old people; artists; writers; media; local prisoners; whomever. We absolutely HAVE (emphasis in original) to leave our comfortable, warm circle of environmental activists, and contact others who may care about the issue, but who haven't thought about it; or haven't been approached for how they could help. We also have to go talk to people who will never support us but who, after talking with us, will not be likely to demonize us …
*What we can learn: PR folks need to reach beyond their identified stakeholders and work with those who “may care about” an issue. The suits have to work with the cowboy boots and lunch boxes, even though the connections and shared interests have not been fully identified.
7. We need to have a bizillion ways people can pitch in to help.
- The best campaigns are those that can be pitched into by people we hardly know.
*What we can learn: Activists have been successful by working with virtual strangers. They welcome unfamiliar faces into the fold and trust them to do their best to support the cause. Corporate PR should loosen their controlling reigns and accept the services and support of anyone willing to help. Meaningful activities need to be offered to these drop-in supporters.
8. Thank everyone all the time.
- It takes so little time to thank people; and it keeps morale on high.
*What we can learn: When an employee, neighbour, student, or senior citizen takes the time to write a supportive letter-to-the-editor or speaks favourably at a public meeting, the company president, the head of the trade association, the local chamber of commerce, other employees, the school principal, AND others should send a note of appreciation for the person’s efforts. Keeping morale high and reinforcing the importance of the cause are vital.
9. Provide the public with simple answers to every argument the opposition has or might make.
- If you can anticipate the arguments that will be used against you, ahead of time, give the public the answers before they even hear the arguments.
*What we can learn: This is essentially being proactive, one of the foundations of good PR. It’s also what a lawyer does when a witness has a questionable background.
10. Spread out the power-
Have a steering committee; have lots of spokespersons; encourage people to figure out ways to help. Avoid even using your group's name as leader, if the campaign will be more powerful that way … Why do you need credit, if the point is to win?
*What we can learn: First, note the words “the point is to win.” Suggestion 10 is the antithesis of what PR folks proclaim. Corporate communicators prefer to concentrate power in a select few; they espouse the importance of a limited number of spokespersons (often, one); they repeat the commandment “the message must be controlled;” and, they like to be identified with a campaign in some way so they can impress the boss, woo a new client, or have a good tale to tell at a cocktail party. Activists have learned that many spokespersons provide numerous perspectives to garner media, public and governmental attention. A single voice, often the preference of PR folks, is but one perspective and one media interview. Activists play a numbers game and they win.
11. Be funny.
-Your humour should avoid being nasty. Make sure some of the humour is on yourselves; have the humour be a signal to people out there that is a grand undertaking.
*What we can learn: Be funny. Enjoy what you’re doing
12. Be accessible so that all kinds of people can see themselves joining your campaign.
- …never isolate yourselves by your clothes, or knowledge, or righteousness. You want to be seen for what you are: a person who cares about the future, children, etc. Act on the assumption that everyone cares, and more of them will believe that they, too, can help.
*What we can learn: Corporate PR folks are fond of hauling out third-party experts, particularly if those experts wear white lab coats or hang stethoscopes around their necks. But does the average woman working on a production line really relate to those images? Or, when it comes to broad general chats about day-to-day life and the-way-the-world-should-be is she more likely to talk with and respect the opinion of other workers on the line, her neighbours, and the members of the parent-teacher association at her son’s school? Corporate PR folks need to get out of the boardrooms and halls of academia when talking about the broad social issues which have an impact on business today.
13. Have great art.
- Never underestimate the power of superb art; superb posters.
*What we can learn: Activists have learned that art not only attracts media attention but also inspires and motivates supporters to action. Activist art becomes symbols around which people rally and fight for a cause. For corporate people, art is confined to more mundane uses such as identifying a product or building a brand, not “fighting the good fight.”
*14. Do your whole campaign without ego.
-The point is not your organization or you. The point is winning for the Earth and its living beings … To the extent that it helps to be essentially invisible, do it. … If the campaign depends on you being recognized, you're doing it for the wrong reasons, and it isn't being run right.
*What we can learn: Again, note the words “the point is winning.” Leave egos and creative and advertising awards at the door. Professional and trade associations that undertake campaigns on behalf of their members need to be particularly aware of this suggestion. Frequently, they conduct campaigns that put too much emphasis on the association itself and its members. During the annual meeting of paying members, such campaigns are used by the association to justify its existence, while not really addressing the issues.
15. Have fun.
-Life is too short to be all wound up in anger and tightness and finger-pointing. If you lose a round, but have had fun, then you'll be around for the rest of the campaign. If your plan sounds like drudgery, redo it until it has some grand fun in it. Your campaign will then not only add years to your life, it will be attractive.
*What we can learn: Have fun! Fun is a motivator and an energizer.
Some of the Ms O’Brien’s suggestions are familiar to PR folks; some are new; and, some are variations on old themes. The point is this range of suggestions is used successfully by activists who have challenged and defeated their corporate opponents. Let’s learn from them. Let’s not be the Detroits of today’s strategic planning teams. Let's be winners!!!
- Chris Cowan, NVC Consulting and National Values Cente, Santa Barbara CA 93140; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.spiraldynamics.org (Forwarded by Herb Hoche )
In her 1997 book, "Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge," Vandana Shiva quotes the following unattributed Palestinian poem. It could apply as well to any number of peoples of the earth, or just to persons who feel oppression and injustice in their own lives.
Burn our land
burn our dreams
pour acid onto our songs
cover with sawdust
the blood of our massacred people
muffle with your technology
the screams of all that is free,
wild and indigenous
our grass and soil
raze to the ground
every farm and every village
our ancestors had built
every tree, every home
every book, every law
and all the equity and harmony.
Flatten with your bombs
every valley; erase with your edits
our literature; our metaphor.
Denude the forests
and the earth
till no insect,
can find a place to hide.
Do that and more.
I do not fear your tyranny
I do not despair ever
for I guard one seed
a little live seed
that I shall safeguard
and plant again.
On a broader scale, the poem addresses the rise of monocultures, social and biological. New global colonialists file patents on life and claim exclusive ownership after reducing variety to a manageable and marketable scale that guarantees dependent customers, then keeps them in line with armies that defend corporate interests more than national sovereignty, ideologies, or peoples' right to be who they are. Wisdom and traditions of balance built across ages become commodities that anyone who is quick and powerful enough can claim and then resell, or make to disappear to reduce competition.
With nature in submission and under domination rather than in harmonious reciprocity, we are all at risk. With knowledge turned into True Speak and dissenters squashed by gangs of the commercially or theologically self-righteous, we are all muzzled. With ancient ways of being and understanding life and the languages that preserve those knowings lost, we are all muted. With variety in decline, we are all weakened.
Vandana Shiva notes that: "An intolerance of diversity is the biggest threat to peace in our times; conversely, the cultivation of diversity is the most significant contribution to peace -- peace with nature and between diverse peoples. The cultivation of diversity has to be a conscious and creative act, intellectually and in practice. IT DEMANDS MORE THAN MERE TOLERANCE OF DIVERSITY, BECAUSE TOLERANCE ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH TO CONTAIN THE WARS UNLEASHED BY THE INTOLERANCE OF DIFFERENCE." (p.119, emphasis added)
It may be that President Bush's recent stem cell speech was irrelevant, whatever 'profound' position he actually took. Some genetically modified chickens might be coming home to roost already. It seems that the University of Wisconsin's Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation holds patent rights on certain aspects of embryonic stem cells and the technology for harvesting them. For some details, see http://www.news.wisc.edu/packages/stemcells/ Another case of health care in the hands of the free marketplace and the interests of its owners. If he could understand, I wonder what Ronald Reagan would say about the laissez-faire economy now?
In this brave new world of exploitive corporate globalism, the course of change is being set by a few institutions under the thumb of even fewer dominant powers to benefit a few companies and their few owners. The new proprietary nature of life's most basic elements has actually become an accepted state of affairs - water, topsoil, genes, sounds, customs, and ideas are private property subject to commercial development, homogenization, or exploitation, depending on where you sit. The corporate predators are eating well at this privatized banquet. Sell-out politicians are gnawing on the bones under the table. The damages will be impossible to undo.
What was once the genetic and intellectual commons of earth's village are being subdivided in the courts and handed out like old Spanish land grants to a new nobility. Treaties and trade agreements seal these deals. Ordinary people are only allowed to share-crop where monoculture has plowed diversity under, ultimately owing their souls to the company store in long-term debt. The dependency of well-programmed consumers replaces the interdependency of a community of independent people. A new declaration of interdependence is in order, a fresh contract with the earth and her species.
Instead, farmers now sign contracts when they buy seeds promising a one-time planting; they're subject to penalties if something dares come up a second year in the row. Isn't there something Biblical about saving seed corn, or does Cargill's profitability now overrule the Old Testament and other sacred writings?
Biodiversity and the future of species rest in the hands of intellectual property lawyers instead of humane beings. The monoculture yields quantity, though this latest agricultural revolution hasn't appreciably reduced hunger. It also makes us vulnerable if we forget the value of diversity and the fragile nature of dependence on our own cleverness.
As we hear daily, the "wars unleashed by the intolerance of difference" are hard fought and bitter. Compassion, dialogue, collaboration, and cooperation are better routes to the future. Those tactics are just a little too hard for human nature still trapped in the subsistence levels to handle.
So don't let those melon seeds you tossed into the composter sprout and begin to grow - you'll be hearing from Monsanto's corporate counsel, sure enough.