Today's topics in AgBioView:
* Corn Growers Say Farmers Are Best Judges of Biotech Corn Effectiveness
* When Does It Pay To Plant Bt Corn?
* Global Adoption of Biotech Crops Is Increasing Rapidly
* EU, U.S. At Odds Over Biotech Food
* U.S., EU Disagree On How to Label Biotech Foods
* New Genome Boost to Plant Studies
* Commercial Nature of Corn Germplasm
* Biosafety Workshops
* Colombia Allows Creation of Transgenic Animals
* Why Activist Cash?
* Greenpeace USA
* Organic Consumers Association
Corn Growers Say Farmers Are Best Judges of Biotech Corn Effectiveness
- http://www.NCGA,com, December 13, 2001
ST. LOUIS -- The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) rejects the conclusion of an analysis released today by Benbrook Consulting Services claiming that corn developed with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) has hurt rather than helped U.S. farm income.
Economics rule in corn production and U.S. growers wouldn't use a technology that doesn't give a positive return on investment, noted Leon Corzine, Assumption, Ill., farmer and chairman of the NCGA Biotech Working Group.
"U.S. corn producers are very attuned to costs and revenues and the bottom line. About 18 percent of corn farmers in the U.S. chose to plant Bt corn this past year. It is ridiculous and downright insulting to assume that we would make that decision without having clearly weighed the costs and benefits," said Corzine.
NCGA has long stated that biotech hybrids are one tool that corn producers have at their disposal, Corzine continued. "Individual farmers decide whether it makes sense in their operations," he explained. "It is not appropriate nor effective in all corn production situations." NCGA's Know Before You Grow program available at NCGA's website, www.ncga.com , helps farmers decide whether to use biotech hybrids, he pointed out. And, NCGA supports the Insect Resistance Management (IRM) program to ensure that Bt hybrids will retain their effectiveness in protecting corn from insects.
Corzine said much more credible studies of Bt corn show that it is very effective in areas of high corn borer population. Studies have shown that Bt hybrids offer yield enhancement, a reduction in mycotoxin levels and a reduction in the use of pesticides.
One recent example of such research comes from a group of 22 scientists from USDA and Midwestern land grant universities who made the following response to similar criticisms of Bt corn: "The scientific community has examined the risks and benefits of Bt plants more than any other novel agricultural technology developed over the past two decades, as demonstrated by the vast body of literature, scientific discussions, and numerous public meetings facilitated by the EPA, the USDA, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on this subject. We find the evidence to date supports the appropriate use of Bt corn as one component in the economically and ecologically sound management of lepidopteran corn pests."
The report by Benbrook is part of a series published by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the Genetically Engineered Food Alert on issues related to biotechnology. Rick Tolman, NCGA executive vice president and CEO, noted, "The IATP report immediately lacks credibility because they use as their farmer organization spokesperson a representative of the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA). ACGA has much stronger ties to and support from the environmental extremists than they do from actual corn producers in the U.S. They are not credible representatives for U.S. corn growers."
Concluded Corzine, "The bottom line is that if Bt corn were not economic and effective for those farmers who choose to buy it, it would not and will not survive in the marketplace. Farmers know what works for them and what will return net income to their operations. So far, Bt corn has proven its value inappropriate situations. As long as that continues, farmers will continue to use this tool."
For more information about NCGA and biotechnology, visit www.ncag.com. The National Corn Growers Association mission is to create and increase opportunities for corn growers in a changing world and to enhance corn's profitability and usage. NCGA represents more than 32,000 members, 25 affiliated state corn grower organizations and hundreds of thousands of growers who contribute to state checkoff programs.
When Does It Pay To Plant Bt Corn? Farm-Level Economic Impacts of Bt Corn, 1996-2001
Global Adoption of Biotech Crops Is Increasing Rapidly
- CropBiotech Net, December 13, 2001,
In 2000, an estimated 3.5 million small and large farmers from industrial and developing countries derived multiple and significant benefits from 44.2 million hectares (109.2 million acres) of transgenic crops, often referred to as genetically modified or GM crops.
In 1999, the economic advantage for the 2 million farmers who planted 39.9 million hectares (98.6 million acres) of GM crops globally was estimated to be of the order of $700 million, with additional benefits to consumers worldwide likely to bring the total benefits for GM crops in 1999 to $ 1 billion or more.
The Annual Global Review of GM Crops for 2000 (ISAAA Briefs 23 -2001), conducted by Dr Clive James, Chairman of the ISAAA Board of Directors, features the most recent information on transgenic crops globally, including commentaries on the following topics and highlights:
Overview of the global adoption of transgenic crops in the period 1996 to 2000
* Approximately 125 million hectares of GM crops, equivalent to over 300 million acres, have been planted cumulatively by millions of farmers in 15 countries in the first five-year period 1996 - 2000.*
Detailed information is provided on the status and distribution of commercial transgenic crops in 2000, by region, country, crop, and traits - an estimated 3.5 million farmers worldwide derived multiple and significant benefits from the 44.2 million hectares of GM crops planted globally in 2000.
There are significant agronomic, health, and environmental benefits associated with GM crops, including the following:
* More sustainable and resource-efficient crop management practices that require less energy/fuel and conserve natural resources.; More effective control of insect pests and weeds.
* A reduction in the overall amount of pesticides used in crop production, which impacts positively on biodiversity, protects predators and non-target organisms, and contributes to a safer environment.
* Less dependency on conventional insecticides that can be a health hazard to producers and consumers
* the potential health benefits associated with fewer insecticide poisonings from Bt cotton in China is an important finding, with significant implications for other developing countries where small farmers in particular may be at similar risk where conventional insecticides are applied by hand sprayers.
* Compared with conventional maize, Bt maize has reduced levels of the fumonisin mycotoxin in maize grain and results in healthier food and feed products.
* Greater operational flexibility in timing of herbicide and insecticide applications.
* Conservation of soil moisture, structure, nutrients and control of soil erosion through no- or low-tillage practices as well as improved quality of ground and surface water with less pesticide residues.
* Improved pest control, lower cost of production and improved yields, all contribute to a greater economic advantage to farmers who utilize the technology to develop more sustainable farming systems.
Economic Advantages and benefits of GM Crops
In 1999 the economic advantage for the 2 million farmers who planted GM crops was estimated to be of the order of $700 million, with the additional benefits to consumers worldwide likely to bring the total benefits of GM crops in 1999 to $ 1 billion or more
Review of recent highlights in crop biotechnology including:
* Summary of the recent set of six papers published by the US National Academy of Sciences, that provides reassuring scientific evidence that Bt corn poses little if any risk to Monarch butterflies.
* An assessment of the broadening political, policy and institutional support for GM crops and the acknowledged important contribution of these crops to global food, feed and fiber security.
* Future prospects for transgenic crops in 2001 and beyond, including a commentary on the impact of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the US on world poverty
* In 2001 the number of farmers planting GM crops is expected to grow substantially to 5 million or more, and global area planted to transgenic crops is expected to continue to grow by 10% or more.
Following the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001, the World Bank predicts that poverty will increase with 10 million more people condemned to poverty in 2002.
The potential role of the World Trade Organization ((WTO) in facilitating the deployment of GM crops to attain food security in developing countries by:
* Liberalizing trade.
* Establishment of an exemplary advisory body to provide direction in the implementation of science-based decisions re the use and transfer of transgenic crops.
* Overseeing the implementation of a Trade Related aspects of Intellectual Property rights (TRIPS) agreement that is equitable for all parties.
In summary, there is an increasing body of evidence that GM crops in conjunction with conventional practices offer a safe and effective technology that can contribute to a better environment, and more sustainable and productive agriculture. Technology is only one of several essential elements that can contribute to an integrated food security strategy, where population control, and improved food distribution systems are also essential elements. It is important to recognize that sustained growth in agricultural production in the developing countries is not possible without a significant increase in crop productivity through higher yielding and preferably more nutritious crops, which are the major source of food in the Third World. It is now widely acknowledged in the scientific and development community that conventional technology alone cannot meet the future food needs of the developing countries and thus biotechnology, in conjunction with conventional technology, is judged to be a prerequisite element in
The above are excerpts from Global Review of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2000, by Clive James ISAAA Briefs No. 23-2001. For media enquiries please contact Tel +1-345-947-1839. The publication and further information can be obtained from ISAAAs Center in SouthEast Asia: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost of the publication, ISAAA Briefs No. 23, is $US 25.00 including postage. The publication is available free of charge to nationals of developing countries.
EU, U.S. At Odds Over Biotech Food
- Paul Geitner, AP, December 12, 2001 (Via Katie Thrasher )
Brussels, Belgium (AP) - Despite appeals from the United States for "urgent'' action Wednesday, a top European Union (news - web sites) official said it would probably be at least two years before the bloc lifts its moratorium on new biotech products.
U.S. Undersecretary of State Alan Larson said the EU's 3-year-old ban on approving new biotech products for sale in Europe hurt not only U.S. farmers, but also Europe's own biotechnology industry and developing countries facing problems of hunger and malnutrition. "I think it's fair to say after three years that patience is wearing out,'' Larson said in Brussels, where he was scheduled to meet with EU officials. "It's urgent for the EU to find a way to move forward on the approvals process.''
The European Commission (news - web sites), which enforces EU laws, views the ban as illegal and proposed lifting it last October, but failed to convince a number of EU governments. At least six of the 15 EU nations, mainly from northern Europe, have insisted on no changes at least until new labeling rules are adopted. EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem said that, "more countries have moved in the direction of being more restrictive,'' with some insisting the ban remain until questions of potential liability are resolved as well. "It gives us another delay of at least two years,'' she said. Wallstroem said the Commission was not planning to take EU governments to court itself, as it is entitled to do. "It's absolutely useless if member states don't want it,'' she said. "And I don't think it's the democratic way of handling it.''
Larson refused to say whether Washington was considering filing a complaint at the World Trade Organization (news - web sites) or in European courts to try to force action. Some 70 percent of the world's genetically modified crops are grown in the United States. But in Europe, public opinion polls show a majority of consumers remain wary of biotech foods, which many consider unhealthy and a potential danger to the environment. Wallstroem called on European industry and research institutions - which stand to benefit from a lifting of the ban as well - to join the debate to try to address public fears. "They have been very silent,'' she said. "It's time for them to take some responsibility.''
U.S., EU Disagree On How to Label Biotech Foods - Washington Wants to Take A 'GM-Free' Approach
- Brandon Mitchener, Wall Street Journal Europe. Dec 13, 2001
Brussels -- The U.S. has a suggestion for Europeans worried about genetically modified foods: Buy kosher.
That, at least, was the gist of a suggestion floated this week as U.S. diplomats struggled to discredit a European Union draft law that would subject all foods containing ingredients produced with the help of modern biotechnology to onerous testing and labeling. Requiring a "genetically modified" label on every product containing traces of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, would discriminate against U.S. exporters and invite fraud, the U.S. said this week in submissions to the World Trade Organization and the European Commission. Rather than label things as "GM," for genetically modified, even when no evidence of modification remains and no one says the food is unsafe, it would be more effective to label things that don't contain genetically modified ingredients as "non-GM," the U.S. says.
Rather than stigmatizing products for what they might contain, a "non-GM" label, like a kosher-food label, would emphasize what they didn't, and be cheaper and easier to enforce, U.S. officials say. Moreover, both the U.S. and Europe already permit such regimes in the case of kosher and organic foods.
"It's sort of the opposite of the approach the EU has suggested," said Alan Larson, U.S. undersecretary of state for economic, business and agricultural affairs, who met with European Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne on Wednesday. Mr. Larson said the U.S. proposal would meet the EU's objective of providing greater consumer choice better than the European Commission's own proposal, tabled in July, which he said "is not going to work."
The commission gave Mr. Larson's suggestion a cool reception. "We discussed the `GM-free' option a long time ago," said Beate Gminder, a spokeswoman for Mr. Byrne. "The commission felt this wasn't sufficient to inform consumers." "Our proposals are clearly on the table," she added, "and we're not going to change them."
Mr. Larson's comments came amid growing frustration in the U.S. regarding a de facto moratorium on the authorization of new biotech products for the 15-nation EU market. Several EU member states, under pressure to protect consumers following a series of food scares, have refused to approve any new products for use in the EU until a new system of labeling and traceability is in place -- something that would take at least two more years.
Given that EU scientific experts have declared the products being blocked safe for human consumption, U.S. and European biotech companies say the moratorium is illegal and want the commission to sue the EU governments for withholding their approval. "Patience is wearing thin" at the U.S. government as well, Mr. Larson told a news conference prior to his meeting with Mr. Byrne. "We feel a real urgency about this." He declined to say what action, if any, the U.S. could take, but said he was "not prepared to accept the premise that there'll be no progress on approvals for another two years."
New Genome Boost to Plant Studies
- Elizabeth Pennisi, Science, December 14, 2001 Vol 294, N0 5550 p. 2266 (Via Agnet)
Molecular biologists have, according to this story, bared the soul of one of nature's best genetic engineers. On pages 2317 and 2323, two teams describe the genome sequence of Agrobacterium tumefaciens, a soil microbe whose ability to transfer DNA into plant cells has transformed plant and crop science.
Some 25 years ago, researchers realized they could take advantage of the microbe's route of infection to ferry foreign genes into plants. Joe Ecker, a plant scientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California was cited as saying that Agrobacterium has been "the workhorse of the agrobiotech industry" ever since. The new sequence data have already revealed clues about Agrobacterium's astounding ability to parasitize plants and should help both academic and corporate researchers better harness its talents, says Ecker. The data also reveal unexpected hints about the microbe's origins, says Andrew Binns, a molecular geneticist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Binns, along with Mary-Dell Chilton, now with Syngenta in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and others, helped launch Agrobacterium as a full-fledged genetic engineer in the 1980s.
Two independent teams tackled the 5.67-million-base genome. Steven Slater, a bacterial geneticist at Cereon Genomics Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues worked with about a dozen undergraduates at the University of Richmond in Virginia. The other effort was led by microbiologist Eugene Nester at the University of Washington, Seattle. After reading about each other's projects on the Web, both teams agreed to publish their results back to back.
Commercial Nature of Corn Germplasm
- Science, December 14, 2001 Vol 294, No 5550, pp. 2291-2292. (via Agnet)
Letter: P. Stephen Baenziger, Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, University of Nebraska, writes that he applauds Daniel Charles' News Focus article on the debates over who controls the international crop germ plasms (the gene and seed banks from which new crop lines are developed) and the efforts to enhance free exchange of germ plasm ("Seeds of discontent," 26 Oct., p. 772). As a public plant breeder when the international Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force in 1993, which provided the right to nations to control the export of their genetic resources, Baenziger says he expected that he would be required to charge royalties on his cultivars (something that he had not done) to meet the potential requirements of returning money to countries where the parental germ plasms he used were discovered. Many U.S. crops (e.g., wheat, barley, oats, and soybeans) are introduced, and all of our parental germ plasms are derived from or are plant introductions. It is a relief to know this concern is
However, Baenziger says that care should be taken when using corn as the example for germ plasm exchange in agricultural crops. The issues Charles addresses are of concern to those dealing with public-sector genetic resources. The approach governing the exchange of genetic resources in corn is different because elite corn germ plasms are predominantly developed in the private sector (1) and corn is commonly sold as a hybrid. To give an example of the uniqueness of the commercial presence in corn, the total number of cereal crop breeders in the United States in 1994, the last scientific census for this field (2), was 893. Of these, 599 (67%) were in corn breeding (dent, popcorn, or sweet corn), 130 (15%) in wheat breeding, 55 (6%) in sorghum breeding, 42 (5%) in rice breeding, 32 (4%) in barley breeding, and lesser numbers in other cereal crops such as oats, rye, and wild rice. In wheat, 59% of the breeders were in the public sector and 41% were in the private sector. In corn, 93% of the breeders were in the
In addition, corn is often sold as a hybrid, and the hybrid and its parental inbred lines have great commercial value. Therefore, for fear of theft of the parental inbred lines, many lines are covered by the strictest forms of intellectual property rights (e.g., patents). In contrast, for other crops such as wheat that are sold predominantly as inbred lines, theft is much less of a concern and less restrictive forms of intellectual property rights are used (e.g., the Plant Variety Protection Act). Simply, inbred lines are much easier to identify in the marketplace, and the seed has lower commercial value because it is easier to produce and farmers can save their seed.
This difference in commercial approaches between hybrid and inbred crops affects the extent of germ plasm exchange. In corn, because the inbred lines are valuable and most were privately developed, there is little exchange of elite inbred lines, whereas in wheat and many other agricultural crops, there is considerable exchange of both genes and elite genotypes (inbred lines) with relatively simple agreements (3). Germ plasm exchange in many crops is greater between developed and developing countries than in corn because breeders in these crops are routinely putting elite lines into public collections and these elite lines are exchanged for traditional crop varieties to the benefit of all.
References and Notes
1.P. W. Heisey, C. S. Srinivasan, C. Thirtle, Public Sector Plant Breeding in a Privatizing World (ERS Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 772, Resource Economics Division, Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC, 2001). Available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/aib772/
2.K. J. Frey, National Plant Breeding Study-1. Human and Financial Fesources Devoted to Plant Breeding Research and Development in the United States in 1994, Special Report 98 (Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, Iowa State Univ., Ames, IA, 1996).
3.Wheat Worker Code of Ethics. Available at http://www.ksu.edu/kscpt/nccec/ww-ethics.htm
China Farmers Increase GM Cotton Crop, Cut Pesticide Use
- Chemical Business NewsBase: Food Chemical News via NewsEdge Corp, Dec 12, 2001
Since 1998, the use of pesticides by Chinese cotton growers has been cut by 80% because of the use of genetically modified Bt cotton. The acreage of Bt cotton has risen from under 10,000 hectares in 1998 to nearly 1 M hectares in 2001. Genetically modified cotton now accounts for 28% of the total Chinese crop compared with 2.2% in 1998.
The ICGEB Directorate has approved the new Calendar of meetings and courses for the year 2002. Among the 15 scheduled events, two biosafety workshops will be organized: From 13 to 17 May 2002 (postponed from November 2001) Biosafety 3 "Advanced Issues on Biosafety: Risk Monitoring and Public Perception of Biotechnology"
Location: Maracay, Venezuela Organizers: Efrain Salazar (CENIAP) and Rafael Rangel Aldao (Centro Tecnologico Polar) Brief description: General aspects of biosafety and risk assessment, risk monitoring of GMOs and public perception of biotechnology will be the issues addressed by international experts in this workshop.
Requests for information and applications to: Dr. Efrain G. Salazar Yamarte, Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (CENIAP), Zona Universitaria El Limón, Edif. 09, Maracay 2101, Venezuela. Tel.: +58-243-2471066; Fax: +58-243-2471066; E-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
From 3 to 7 June 2002 Workshop "Introduction to Biosafety and Risk Assessment for the Environmental Release of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Theoretical Approach and Scientific Background"
Location: International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) Headquarters, Trieste, Italy Organizer: ICGEB Biosafety Unit. Brief description: The Workshop is dedicated to those scientists actively involved in environmental releases of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The main purposes of the Workshop is (i) to supply basic information on risk assessment and risk management and (ii) to provide an overview on international biosafety regulations and the main safety issues debated at an international level.
Requests for information and applications to: Programme and Training Unit, ICGEB, Padriciano 99, I-34012 Trieste, Italy. Tel.: +39-040-3757333; Fax: +39-040-226555; E-mail: email@example.com
Posters and application forms about both courses will soon be available on the ICGEB Biosafety WebPages (http://www.icgeb.trieste.it/biosafety).
Colombia Allows Creation of Transgenic Animals
- Lisbeth Fog, http://www.scidev.net/
Colombia has become the second South American country - after Brazil - to introduce regulations permitting the application of genetic engineering techniques to animals. The government has already been asked to grant permission under the new rules for experiments that could lead to the creation of the first genetically modified - or 'transgenic' - pigs in Latin America.
The new regulations cover both the animals themselves, and the products, such as vaccines, to which they may be exposed. They are intended to allow the country to benefit from recent advances in genetic engineering. "We cannot ignore the potential advantages that biotechnology offers our country," says Colombian agriculture minister, Rodrigo Villalba.
Regulations covering GM products came in force in 1998, focussing primarily on the production and marketing of seeds. Over the past three years, the Instituto Colombiano de Agricultura (ICA) has received almost twenty proposals for such experiments. As a result, a number of research groups have obtained approval for developing genetically modified plants, such as rice, passion fruit, coffee, plantain, bananas and cotton. The only one that can be grown commercially, however, is a blue carnation that is being cultivated for export.
The new rules covering GM animals have been approved by the ICA, which deals with agriculture and livestock issues. They seek to protect both human and animal health, as well as the natural environment, and are also intended to make GM organisms easier and safer to handle.
The new regulations require anyone interested in developing GM products to obtain approval from the ICA. A biosafety committee with recognised scientific experts has already been set up to evaluate, and will make decisions on a case-by-case basis. The institute will also be responsible for monitoring experiments using GM products. Follow-up studies will last up to three years.
It has already received one application to produce genetically modified mammals, a proposed project known as Noah's Ark which will - if all goes according to plan - see the birth next year of transgenic pigs in Colombia, the first mammals produced in such a way in Latin America, according to the researchers. Gynaecologist Elkin Lucena and veterinarian Jorge Piedrahita are leading the project at a farm outside Bogotá. Their goal is to produce human proteins in bovine milk, as well as to develop pigs whose hearts and other organs may be used in humans - the process known as xenotransplantation.
Lucena is well known as the physician who obtained the first tube baby in Latin America in 1985. Piedrahita has worked with transgenic pigs in the University of Texas. Colombia has not seen public opposition to GM foods on the scale encountered in some other countries in Latin America. Studies carried out by university research groups, as well as both the private sector and non-governmental organisations, have not in general shown strong feelings either for or against such foods.
Why Activist Cash?
At ActivistCash.com, we follow the money -- for you.
This site, a part of the ConsumerFreedom.com Network, is committed to providing detailed and up-to-date information on where anti-consumer organizations and activists get their money. We have analyzed and compiled over 100,000 pages of IRS documents to create this database, and will be adding more information every month.
The organizations we track on this site are tax-exempt nonprofits. That means you have the right to know what they're up to -- and what tax-exempt foundations are footing the bill. As you read through the site, you may be surprised at some of the connections between these groups and individuals, forming a web of anti-consumer activism -- promoting false science, scare campaigns, inflated public health causes, and sometimes violent anti-consumer "actions." But you may be even more surprised by where some of them get their cash:
* People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is using a private foundation called the Foundation to Support Animal Protection to funnel as much as $432,000 to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), another animal rights group. PCRM in turn promotes itself incorrectly as a medical organization.
* Media mogul Ted Turner does more with his money than pay salaries for the Atlanta Braves. His own grant-making foundation lavishes over $40 million per year on activist groups including those who advocate confrontation with police.
* Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) claims to be "entirely supported by tax-deductible contributions from people like you." But the F.M. Kirby Foundation has poured $440,000 into ASH in recent years to promote extreme anti-smoking regulations.
* The Ben and Jerry's Foundation has given $10,000 to Mothers for Natural Law, a radical anti-food-technology group operated by disciples of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
* The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a Minnesota-based activist group, has accepted a $75,000 grant from the Foundation for Deep Ecology for -- and we quote -- "a campaign to end industrial agriculture."
How do they get away with it? And how do they dupe foundations into handing over the loot? Sometimes the foundations aren't to blame. Grant requests may be sufficiently vague to convince donors to pay for politicized polemics under the guise of "research." But many times, the foundations are not what you would expect them to be.
Though they carry names like "Ford Foundation," in reality most of them are no longer controlled by the businesses and families that created them. Well-paid professional philanthropists have since taken the reins. They have their own political agendas -- and often direct big bucks to their friends in the activist world.
And sometimes, foundation money flows through recipients and on to others. The Pew Charitable Trusts (money from Sun Oil Company) and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (Hewlett-Packard wealth) are just two of the financers of the Tides Foundation -- which in turn funds many causes -- and many of the organizations tracked on this site. There's another reason groups are able to take the money and run: Nobody's been watching them and providing this level of research. Until now.
"I had no idea that after I left in 1986 they would evolve into a band of scientific illiterates.... Clearly, my former Greenpeace colleagues are either not reading the morning paper or simply don't care about the truth." - Patrick Moore, Greenpeace co-founder, writing in Canada's National Post (October, 2001)
Background: Greenpeace is the largest environmental organization in the world, with an international membership of over 5 million and offices in over 20 countries. Forbes magazine once described it as "a skillfully managed business" with full command of "the tools of direct mail and image manipulation - and tactics that would bring instant condemnation if practiced by a for-profit corporation." But Greenpeace has escaped public censure by hiding behind the mask of its "non-profit" status and its U.S. tax exemption.
Greenpeace was originally the brainchild of the radical "Don't Make a Wave Committee," a group of American draft-dodgers who fled to Vancouver in 1969 and, supported by money from anti-war Quaker organizations, got into the business of forcibly blocking American nuclear tests. Over the years the group has loudly made its feelings known on a variety of issues (nuclear testing, whaling, and global warming, for instance), and its Amsterdam-based activist moguls pull the strings on what is estimated to be a $360 million global empire.
Here in the United States, however, Greenpeace is a relatively modest activist group, spending about $10 million per year. And the lion's share of that budget in recent years has gone to outrageous attempts to smear agricultural biotech products and place doubts about the safety of genetically improved foods in the minds of American consumers.
It was Greenpeace campaign director Charles Margulis who is credited with coining the term "FrankenFood." It was Greenpeace activists who conspired with other tax-exempt groups (like Friends of the Earth and the Organic Consumers Association) to "expose" the supposed dangers of StarLink corn. Among Greenpeace's recent innovations has been the creation of a "citizen's labeling brigade" - basically a group of hooligans who take the law into their own hands by forcibly adding home-made, propaganda-laden "warning labels" (some complete with skull-and-crossbones artwork) to consumer food products on grocery store shelves. And it was Greenpeace that intentionally inflated the urban legend that biotech corn would place the monarch butterfly population in harm's way. When your local news carries footage of protesters railing against genetically improved foods, look hard for the slogan-shouting troublemakers wearing monarch butterfly costumes. That's Greenpeace's handiwork.
Greenpeace USA has also been raising a stink about the growth of the biotech fisheries industry. A handful of innovative businesses have learned how to genetically improve certain salmon species to make them grow faster, and Greenpeace will have none of it. The group is doing all it can to frighten consumers of this new product, and working behind the scenes to have it banned before it can even reach to marketplace.
With each cry of "wolf," Greenpeace seems to up the ante while ignoring the real-world consequences of its rhetoric. The group has warned that genetic crop engineering would cause new and horrible food allergies (it hasn't), and that biotech corn would endanger monarch butterflies (whose numbers have increased substantially since the introduction of biotech corn). And completely forgotten by the "Frankenfood" protesters is the tremendous potential for biotech foods to solve many of the Third World's famine-related problems. Tanzania's Dr. Michael Mbwille (of the non-profit Food Security Network) said it best. "Greenpeace," he wrote, "prints and circulates these lies faster than the Code Red virus infected the world's computers. If we were to apply Greenpeace's scientifically illiterate standards [for soybeans] universally, there would be nothing left on our tables."
Organic Consumers Association
"Most consumers aren't smart enough to know what they want. " - Ronnie Cummins, at a June 2001 protest in front of a Washington, D.C. Starbucks, when asked if consumers should be left alone to vote with their pocketbooks on the question of whether or not Starbucks was behaving responsibly
Background: The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is another charter member of the organic-food-industry-funded smear campaign against genetically improved foods. OCA was founded by anti-technology zealot Jeremy Rifkin and originally bore the name "Pure Food Campaign." Since changing its name in 1998, the group has been headed by experienced activist Ronnie Cummins, who has since brought his group and its neo-Luddite message into the Internet age. OCA frequently takes part in Fenton Communications' larger projects. In addition to foundation support, this group has received five-figure donations from the International Center for Technology Assessment and Aveda "natural" hair-care mogul Horst Rechell Bacher.
OCA works alongside the Chefs Collaborative, Center for Food Safety, and Friends of the Earth on the "Keep Nature Natural" campaign, which is designed to disparage genetically improved foods. This campaign gets its operating funds from several organic marketers, including Whole Foods and Eden. OCA is also a charter member of the Fenton Communications-run "GE Food Alert" coalition, which was responsible for the 2000 StarLink corn scare.
OCA's most notable press came in the Spring of 2001 when it announced it was going after the Starbucks coffee chain with an organized protest campaign. Activists (many of them borrowed from sympathetic organizations) have picketed coffee shops in 40 states, demanding that Starbucks (1) stop selling dairy products from cows raised with bovine growth hormone; (2) pledge to never use genetically improved coffee beans; and (3) feature coffee sold by so-called "fair-trade" growers. In addition, OCA has joined with Public Citizen and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in opposing potentially lifesaving food-irradiation technology.