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Date:

October 7, 2001

Subject:

Trewavas Comments on Greenpeace Libel Damage Award; Africa

 

Today's Topics in AgBioView.

* Prof. Tony Trewavas Comments on the Recent Libel Suit Against Him by Greenpeace
* Greenpeace Wins Libel Damages Over GM Food Warnings
* Libel Damages For Greenpeace
* Biotechnology in Africa Conference, Johannesburg - Report
* Loonies
* 'Green' School Starts Functioning in India
* National Reply to Dr Robert Anderson


From: Tony Trewavas
Subject: Re: Libel Damage Award

Dear Prakash

Since Andrew Apel has asked for a statement on this particular case I guess I should make one since I am clearly at the centre of it.

The letter involved was not written by me and was posted on the Agbioview network several days before I saw it. It was written by an Agbioview reader in London and I think reflected accurately what many felt about Melchett and the doings of Greenpeace. Since I agreed with the sentiments in the letter I distributed to eight or nine people I knew who were not part of the network with the recommendation to distribute it widely. One of those was Bruce McPherson of TMA who had sent a letter to the Herald before for me. He interpreted that to mean he should send it to the Herald for publication which was not my intention nor my wish since I had not written it. I had sent it to another newspaper editor as well and when he asked if he could publish it I said "No, because it was not my letter". I later found out who the author was.

Greenpeace decided to object on the basis that they didn't receive money from industrial concerns and Melchett on the suggestion that his appiontment at Iceland enabled him to receive cash for his previous activities. My anger was the failure of Melchett not to convert his farm to organic despite having been head of an organisation which for many years told us to go organic and indeed trampled GM crops in the name of going organic. As David Richardson put it in his letter to Farmers Weekly when he revealed that Melchetts farm was not organic melchett's credibility was/is suspect. So far as I am concerned that is still the case.

I only heard that the Herald had published the letter days after it was published. I don't buy newspapers as a routine and usually only write letters when others send me information that needs rebuttal. The letter itself seemed to me to be no more than the normal knockabout of politics and indeed that is the way I still feel about it. So I did nothing about it. However the Herald contacted me in due course when the libel case was set in motion. I made it clear to them that I had not sent the letter; fortunately I keep all my emails so I could establish that point but said I would help them in any way I could. Greenpeace got to hear that I had not written the letter and indeed suggested that it was similar to something that had appeared on the Agbioview network. However I am not an investigative reporter and delving into the workings and finance of Greenpeace is a full time job to establish whether they do or do not receive money from industrial sources. They do sell something called Greenpeace Business at £

It is notable that Greenpeace did not try to sue me but only the organisation from which they could obtain money, the newspaper involved. As far as I was concerned this was just a form of intimidation by a large group whose intellectual base Lomborg has recently exposed as a sham. I had had vituperative correspondence before with Melchett over Patrick Moore's article in the Oregon Wheat magazine and my own reaction was that this was personal in part. Furthermore the income of this environmental group is orders of magnitude higher than The Herald newspaper. The number of people who read the letter in the Herald was probably smaller than those that read it on Agbioview. But it is I suppose the inevitable product of a self righteous group that anything in any way that demeans the moral status of their leaders or suggests that their hands are not entirely pristine and pure is to be squashed. Where have we come across such behaviour before?

I suppose the only thing I should ask Agbioview people is should I now get The Herald to state that I was not the author of the letter? Or is it not worth bothering about. Please send comments to my email address

Kind regards

Tony
--
Anthony Trewavas FRS
Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, Mayfield Road
University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH9 3JH, Scotland
Phone 44 (0)1316505328; Fax 44 (0)1316505392; email Trewavas@ed.ac.uk
web site http://www.ed.ac.uk/~ebot40/main.html

====

From: Andrew Apel
Subject: Libel

This is a rather unfortunate bit of news. I wonder if Dr. Trewavas might be willing to clarify this case for AgBioView. In spite of the misleading headline, it's a settlement, not an adjudication on the merits, and settlements can be reached for any number of odd reasons. I am concerned that without a clarification, Greenpeace and others will chortle repetitively, and perhaps unjustifiably, over this event.

=======

Greenpeace Wins Libel Damages Over GM Food Warnings

Ananova, 14:55 Friday 5th October 2001
http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_416230.html

Greenpeace UK and its former executive director Lord Melchett have accepted undisclosed libel damages after issuing warnings about GM foods.

The environmental body sued The Herald newspaper in Scotland over allegations they deliberately spread unfounded fears about GM foods to further their financial interests. Their counsel, Caroline Addy, told a judge in the High Court in London the case involved unfounded allegations in a letter published in the daily newspaper.

The letter had been written by Anthony Trewavas, Professor in Plant Biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh. In October 2000 the organisation announced Lord Melchett would be leaving his post at the end of the year to spend more time on his family farm and would also be a part-time adviser on environmental issues to the Iceland supermarket chain.

Counsel said the letter from Prof Trewavas, published last November, referred to that announcement and set out "trenchant criticism" of the claimants in a number of respects. Ms Addy said: "The letter suggested that the claimants had engaged in shakedown‚ campaigns - that is, Greenpeace campaigns deliberately spreading unfounded fears about GM foods, so as to further their own financial interests, by producing personal profits for the first claimant and substantial payments from companies for the second claimant"

As well as a public apology, the defendant had agreed to pay the claimants‚ legal costs and an "appropriate" sum in damages which Lord Melchett had decided to donate to several charities.

+++++++++++++

Libel Damages For Greenpeace

- Cathy Gordon, PA News. 05 Oct 2001

Greenpeace UK and its former executive director Lord Melchett today accepted undisclosed libel damages over allegations that they deliberately spread unfounded fears about GM foods to further their own financial interests.

Their counsel, Caroline Addy, told a judge in the High Court in London that the case involved "unfounded" allegations in a letter published in the Scottish daily newspaper, The Herald, from Anthony Trewavas, Professor in Plant Biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh.

Ms Addy told Mr Justice Eady that the first claimant was Lord Melchett, who was executive director of Greenpeace UK for 12 years until December 2000, and the second was the UK arm of Greenpeace, "the world famous international organisation which campaigns widely to protect the environment". In October 2000 they announced that Lord Melchett would be leaving his post at the end of the year and that he would be spending more time on his family farm, which was fully converted to organic farming, and would also be a part-time adviser on environmental issues to Iceland, "the food retailer which had played an important part in the campaign to get GM ingredients out of food in the UK".

Counsel said the letter from Prof Trewavas, published last November, referred to that announcement and set out "trenchant criticism" of the claimants in a number of respects. "The claimants recognise that Greenpeace, its policies and campaigns will be the subject of public scrutiny and comment, including critical comment.

"Neither claimant objects to this. However, the letter published in The Herald went beyond the bounds of comment and made unfounded allegations against the claimants."

Ms Addy said: "The letter suggested that the claimants had engaged in 'shakedown' campaigns - that is, Greenpeace campaigns deliberately spreading unfounded fears about GM foods, so as to further their own financial interests, by producing personal profits for the first claimant and substantial payments from companies for the second claimant." She said the defendant, The Herald, did not intend to make any such allegation against the claimants or to impugn their motives in respect of the Greenpeace campaigns.

As well as a public apology, the defendant had agreed to pay the claimants' legal costs and an "appropriate" sum in damages which Lord Melchett had decided to donate to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Scotland), the Soil Association, Gene Watch, the Natural Law Party Wessex and the Norfolk Genetic Information Network.

Mr Patrick Swaffer, solicitor for The Herald, told the judge that the paper's letters page was an important arena for robust debate on issues of the day. When a letter was received from Prof Trewavas, the defendant decided to publish it without carrying out checks of its own.

"The defendant accepts that the letter should not have been published. The defendant did not intend to attack the motives of the claimants in any way or to make any of the allegations that have been outlined to the court about the claimants. "The defendant did not appreciate that the letter contained factual inaccuracies," he said.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Biotechnology in Africa Conference, Johannesburg, 26-27 September 2001

- Meeting Synopsis; 28 September 2001 AfricaBio (from Jocelyn Webster )

The follow points arose from the Biotechnology in Africa Conference, held in Johannesburg and attended by 192 delegates and about 15 media representatives. Over 100 delegates represented 12 African countries.

- African delegates are cautiously optimistic that biotechnology can play a positive role in development on the continent.
- Africa wishes to implement the technology according to their priorities and in a way that will address the needs they identify.
- Safe and responsible implementation requires effective national policy and biosafety frameworks. (Decisions on whether or not to implement the technology will be made at national level.)
- Extensive public awareness is required to address the concerns stakeholders have about the new technology, to highlight biosafety measures and the benefits of biotechnology products.
-Information on biotechnology and biosafety should be clear, accurate, holistic and balanced.
- In addition to building new capacity ways must be sought to make optimal use of existing capacity on the continent.
- Strong African participation is needed from all stakeholders at all international and regional meetings to ensure that the African voice is heard and considered.
- Funding will be needed to implement biotechnology and biosafety and this should include increased financial commitment from governments in the region.
- Partnerships, collaboration, networking and transparency will maximize the use of resources.
Harmonization of technical activities and laws will benefit trade on the continent.

The conference was followed by a workshop for African delegates. This provided a platform for discussion and enabled the formulation of an action plan to follow up on ideas generated at the conference. Included in this is an action plan for developing a strong African voice for the World Summit to be held in Johannesburg next year.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Subject: I like Loonies
From: a0felan3@hotmail.com

I like loonies, quite often though not always, there is a sense of logic in their madness. Problem is that all revolutions eat their children. Hippies quickly became a commercial item, now food fads, New Age etc., who began with a good idea, self suffices, grow your own food and you know what your getting, have been gobbled up, gone are the loonies now it's profit, and profit threatened by cheap GM products. Once we had loonies trying to save the world from itself, found out that they wanted a green and peaceful world, but it often seems now that it's a respectable business, with rules and regulations and administrators, more busy now with saving itself and growing bigger than saving the world. Loonies are never politically correct, they often say seemingly stupid things like:-' if the world is to be clothed and fed,then we must increase agricultural production drastically, and the only way to do that is to use GM techniques'. Or :-'the present organic food production methods threaten soil quality for hundr

I like my own organic garden products, I'm sure they taste better than anything else, (even when they don't), but at least that which is grown in my garden is more or less under my control. When I go down to the shop to buy my food, I want strict real rules about it's safety, not some humbug about, it's natural organic therefore safe. The politically correct version, is to say organic is safe, organic must be protected, environmental groups are always correct, I don't trust anyone 100%, but I do know that most other commerce has strict controls and a good deal of public skepticism, that will for the most control them, but the same is needed for organic products, perhaps in wanting this I'm a loonie.

- Terry Sundby Hopkin

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

'Green' School Starts Functioning

- Soma Basu, The Hindu (India), Saturday, October 06, 2001
http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2001/10/06/stories/0206000t.htm

New Delhi, Oct. 5. It is not "saffronisation'' but "greening'' of education that environmentalists have been clamouring for some time now. But with neither the States nor the Centre paying heed to such "low priority matters'', a group of like-minded people have taken up the responsibility of imparting "earth education''.

"Earth education is a new concept, which creates a culture of non-violence and teaches people how to resolve human-nature or man-animal conflicts," the director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, Dr. Vandana Shiva, who conceived the new courses in education for earth democracy, told The Hindu here.

Ten miles from Dehra Dun, in a small obscure village a forest school, called the 'Bija Vidyapeeth', has been set up. "The institution is an attempt to restore the art of sustainable living through an experiment in international living, where people of all cultures live, cook, eat and learn together the inestimable value of diversity and organic living,'' Dr. Shiva said. The country's first forest school had a low key opening on October 1.

The school will offer three-week courses to a maximum of 25 students from all over the world. The inaugural course, which started "with less fanfare and more dedication", has "lessons in sustainable living, learning from the South''. It will be followed by 'Gandhi and globalisation' in December, in 'holistic science' in January and 'sustainable cities' in March. The "green idea'' did not catch the fancy of bureaucrats or appeal to many people; it only interested those who were into preservation and protection of the environment. As a result, the Bija Vidyapeeth will be sustained on the course fee of $1,000 obtained from each student, who believes in "anti-globalisation as an anti-violence movement''.

In the first week, an international faculty will give lectures on topics related to the course theme. In the second week, the students will go on field trips to villages along the Ganges or in Rajasthan, which is fast gaining a reputation for its sustainable water conservation techniques, or to Sewagram to have a better understanding of Mahatma Gandhi's theory of self- sufficiency. Students will spend the last week on the college campus, where the Navdanya farm has conserved over 300 varieties of rice and of pulses, millet and vegetables. "We will encourage students to cook and eat organic food and examine the value of indigenous knowledge, Third World freedom and dignity through biodiversity conservation as an alternate sustainable system of existence,'' Dr. Shiva said.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

National Reply

3 October 2001

Dr Robert Anderson
roberta@clear.net.nz

Dear Dr Anderson

Thank you for your several e-mails regarding genetic engineering.
National does not believe the practice of genetic engineering itself is questionable as long as robust safety procedures are in place just as there are with any other form of scientific research. If these robust safety procedures are in place then GE food is not inherently more or less dangerous than any other food.

New Zealand has huge natural advantages in land based sciences. Disciplines like genetic engineering and biotechnology could have significant benefits for New Zealand agriculture as well as for the economy as a whole.

As a country so dependent on agriculture, the use of appropriate GE technology is vital for the future of our land based industries and the living standards of all New Zealanders. A negative decision would have ensured a third world destiny for New Zealand farmers. Banning or severely limiting genetic engineering would seriously limit New Zealand's future options and chances for prosperity.

Once again, thank you for writing.

Yours sincerely

Rt Hon Jenny Shipley