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6-Regulation: U.S. GE promotor key component of the WTO initiative

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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Tuskegee Scientist's Expertise a Key Component of World Trade
        Organization Initiative
SOURCE: Tuskegee University, USA, News Release
DATE:   May 15, 2003

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Tuskegee Scientist's Expertise a Key Component of World Trade
Organization Initiative

TUSKEGEE UNIVERSITY, AL - (May 15, 2003) - Genetically modified foods
have the potential of revolutionizing agrarian societies throughout the
world by "addressing hunger, environmental degradation, and poverty by
improving agricultural productivity," according to renowned Tuskegee
scientist Dr. C.S. Prakash.

Prakash, Professor of Plant Genetics and Director of Tuskegee
University's Center for Plant Biotechnology Research, oversees the
research on food crops of importance to developing countries and the
training of scientists and students in plant biotechnology.

He was recently named the "Face of Innovation " by the Washington, D.C. -
based Biotechnology Council which hailed him as one of the "pioneers and
visionaries behind the progress and promise of plant biotechnology."

Prakash was one of the principal orators May 13 when U.S. Trade
Representative Robert B. Zoellick and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M.
Veneman announced the intention of the United States, Argentina, Canada,
and Egypt to file a World Trade Organization case against the European
Union over its "illegal five-year moratorium on approving agricultural
biotech products."

He also collaborated with Gregory Conko, Director of Food Safety Policy
at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., in an op-ed
article that appeared in the European Wall Street Journal the same day.

"Because 70 percent of the people living in developing countries are
dependent on agriculture, any technology that helps transform
agriculture, helps bring an element of profitability, helps cut down the
costs in farming and helps to improve the nutritive value of foods is
going to benefit the great humanity," Prakash said in his testimony at
the media announcement.

"All over the world, the genetic technologies, and many agricultural
technologies, have literally transformed and enhanced the quality of life
for most people on this planet," Prakash continued. "Yet, the new
technologies need to be continuously developed, and it is important that
we have another 2 billion people in this world who do not have the luxury
of taking their daily food for-granted, but would one day come under the
level of food security that we enjoy here today."

According to Prakash, more than 145 million acres of biotech crops were
grown in the world in 2002. Worldwide, about 45% of soy, 11% of corn, 20%
of cotton and 11% of rapeseed are biotech crops. In the United States,
75% of soy, 34% of corn and 71% of cotton are biotech crops.

The EU implemented a ban on genetically modified foods in October of
1998. Two years later, Prakash organized a pro-agricultural biotech
declaration on his popular Web portal,, which was
signed by more than 3,200 scientists worldwide, including 20 Nobel Laureates.

"Genetically modified crops neither are new nor dangerous. But they are a
more precise method of altering and improving our crops," Prakash said.
"We have been genetically modifying crop plants by conventional means for
nearly thousands of years, but by more scientific means for the past 100

Ambassador Zoellick concurred with Prakash's assertions.

"The EU's moratorium violates WTO rules...Biotech food helps nourish the
world's hungry population, offers tremendous opportunities for better
health and nutrition and protects the environment by reducing soil
erosion and pesticide use," said Zoellick.

The World Trade Organization case against the European Union is the
initial stage of the WTO-dispute resolution process. For more information
and to view a Web cast of the proceedings, visit

For more information about the Center for Plant Biotechnology, which aims
to increase the number of minorities with careers in plant biotechnology
and other science fields, contact Dr. C.S. Prakash at (334) 727-8023.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Corporate phantoms
        The web of deceit over GM food has now drawn in the PM's
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by George Monbiot,3604,723899,00.html
DATE:   May 29, 2002

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Corporate phantoms
The web of deceit over GM food has now drawn in the PM's speechwriters

Tony Blair's speech to the Royal Society last Thursday was a wonderful
jumble of misconceptions and logical elisions. He managed to confuse
science with its technological products. GM crops are no more "science"
than cars, computers or washing machines, and those opposing them are no
more "anti-science" than people who don't like the Millennium Dome are

He suggested that in the poor world people welcome genetic engineering.
It was unfortunate that the example he chose was the biotech industry in
Bangalore in south-west India. Bangalore happens to be the centre of the
world's most effective protests against GM crops, the capital of a state
in which anti-GM campaigners outnumber those in the UK by 1,000 to one.
Like most biotech enthusiasts, he ignored the key concern of the
activists: the corporate takeover of the food chain, and its devastating
consequences for food security.

But it would be wrong to blame Blair alone for these misconstructions.
The prime minister was simply repeating a suite of arguments formulated
elsewhere. Over the past month, activists have slowly been discovering
where that "elsewhere" may be.

Two weeks ago, this column showed how the Bivings Group, a PR company
contracted to Monsanto, had invented fake citizens to post messages on
internet listservers. These phantoms had launched a campaign to force
Nature magazine to retract a paper it had published, alleging that native
corn in Mexico had been contaminated with GM pollen. But this, it now
seems, is just one of hundreds of critical interventions with which PR
companies hired by big business have secretly guided the biotech debate
over the past few years.

While I was writing the last piece, Bivings sent me an email fiercely
denying that it had anything to do with the fake correspondents "Mary
Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek", who started the smear campaign against the
Nature paper. Last week I checked the email's technical properties. They
contained the identity tag "". The message came from the
same computer terminal that "Mary Murphy" has used. New research
coordinated by the campaigner Jonathan Matthews appears to have unmasked
the fake persuaders: "Mary Murphy" is being posted by a Bivings web
designer, writing from both the office and his home computer in
Hyattsville, Maryland; while "Andura Smetacek" appears to be the
company's chief internet marketer.

Not long ago, the website organised a competition for
hackers: if they could successfully break into a particular server, they
got to keep it. Several experienced hackers tested their skills. One of
them was one using a computer identified as

Though someone in the Bivings office appears to possess hacking skills,
there is no evidence that Bivings has ever made use of them. But other
biotech lobbyists do appear to have launched hacker attacks. Just before
the paper in Nature was publicly challenged, the server hosting the
accounts used by its authors was disabled by a particularly effective
attack which crippled their capacity to fight back. The culprit has yet
to be identified.

Bivings is the secret author of several of the websites and bogus
citizens' movements which have been coordinating campaigns against
environmentalists. One is a fake scientific institute called the "Centre
for Food and Agricultural Research". Bivings has also set up the
"Alliance for Environmental Technology", a chlorine industry lobby group.
Most importantly, Bivings appears to be connected with AgBioWorld, the
genuine website run by CS Prakash, a plant geneticist at Tuskegee
University, Alabama.

AgBioWorld is perhaps the most influential biotech site on the web. Every
day it carries new postings about how GM crops will feed the world, new
denunciations of the science which casts doubt on them and new attacks on
environmentalists. It was here that the fake persuaders invented by
Bivings launched their assault on the Nature paper. AgBioWorld then drew
up a petition to have the paper retracted.

Prakash claims to have no links with Bivings but, as the previous article
showed, an error message on his site suggests that it is or was using the
main server of the Bivings Group. Jonathan Matthews, who found the
message, commissioned a full technical audit of AgBioWorld. His web
expert has now found 11 distinctive technical fingerprints shared by
AgBioWorld and Bivings' Alliance for Environmental Technology site. The
sites appear, he concludes, to have been created by the same programmer.

Though he lives and works in the United States, CS Prakash claims to
represent the people of the third world. He set up AgBioWorld with Greg
Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the far-right libertarian
lobby group funded by such companies as Philip Morris, Pfizer and Dow
Chemical. Conko has collaborated with Matthew Metz, one of the authors of
the scientific letters to Nature seeking to demolish the maize paper, to
produce a highly partisan guide to biotechnology on the AgBioWorld site.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute boasts that it "played a key role in
the creation" of a petition of scientists supporting biotech (ostensibly
to feed the third world) launched by Prakash. Unaware that it had been
devised by a corporate lobby group, 3,000 scientists, three Nobel
laureates among them, signed up.

Bivings is just one of several public relations agencies secretly
building a parallel world on the web. Another US company, Berman & Co,
runs a fake public interest site called, which seeks to
persuade the foundations giving money to campaigners to desist. Berman
also runs the "Centre for Consumer Freedom", which looks like a citizens'
group but lobbies against smoking bans, alcohol restrictions and health
warnings on behalf of tobacco, drinks and fast food companies. The
marketing firm Nichols Dezenhall set up a site called StopEcoViolence,
another "citizens' initiative", demonising activists. In March, Nichols
Dezenhall linked up with Prakash's collaborator, the Competitive
Enterprise Institute, to 
sponsor a conference for journalists and corporate executives on "eco-

What is fascinating about these websites, fake groups and phantom
citizens is that they have either smelted or honed all the key weapons
currently used by the world's biotech enthusiasts: the conflation of
activists with terrorists, the attempts to undermine hostile research,
the ever more nuanced claims that those who resist GM crops are anti-
science and opposed to the interests of the poor. The hatred directed at
activists over the past few years is, in other words, nothing of the
kind. In truth, we have 
been confronted by the crafted response of an industry without emotional

Tony Blair was correct when he observed on Thursday that "there is only a
small band of people... who genuinely want to stifle informed debate".
But he was wrong to identify this small group as those opposed to GM
crops. Though he didn't know it, the people seeking to stifle the debate
are the ones who wrote his speech; not in the days before he delivered
it, but in the years in which the arguments he used were incubated.

                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  The fake persuaders
        Corporations are inventing people to rubbish their opponents on the
SOURCE: The Guardian, UK, by George Monbiot,5673,715158,00.html
DATE:   May 14, 2002

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The fake persuaders
Corporations are inventing people to rubbish their opponents on the internet

Persuasion works best when it's invisible. The most effective marketing
worms its way into our consciousness, leaving intact the perception that
we have reached our opinions and made our choices independently. As old
as humankind itself, over the past few years this approach has been
refined, with the help of the internet, into a technique called "viral
marketing". Last month, the viruses appear to have murdered their host.
One of the world's foremost scientific journals was persuaded to do
something it had never done before, and retract a paper it had published.

While, in the past, companies have created fake citizens' groups to
campaign in favour of trashing forests or polluting rivers, now they
create fake citizens. Messages purporting to come from disinterested
punters are planted on listservers at critical moments, disseminating
misleading information in the hope of recruiting real people to the
cause. Detective work by the campaigner Jonathan Matthews and the
freelance journalist Andy Rowell shows how a PR firm contracted to the
biotech company Monsanto appears to have played a crucial but invisible
role in shaping scientific discourse.

Monsanto knows better than any other corporation the costs of visibility.
Its clumsy attempts, in 1997, to persuade people that they wanted to eat
GM food all but destroyed the market for its crops. Determined never to
make that mistake again, it has engaged the services of a firm which
knows how to persuade without being seen to persuade. The Bivings Group
specialises in internet lobbying.

An article on its website, entitled Viral Marketing: How to Infect the
World, warns that "there are some campaigns where it would be undesirable
or even disastrous to let the audience know that your organisation is
directly involved... it simply is not an intelligent PR move. In cases
such as this, it is important to first 'listen' to what is being said
online... Once you are plugged into this world, it is possible to make
postings to these outlets that present your position as an uninvolved
third party... Perhaps the greatest advantage of viral marketing is that
your message is placed into a context where it is more likely to be
considered seriously." A senior executive from Monsanto is quoted on the
Bivings site thanking the PR firm for its "outstanding work".

On November 29 last year, two researchers at the University of
California, Berkeley published a paper in Nature magazine, which claimed
that native maize in Mexico had been contaminated, across vast distances,
by GM pollen. The paper was a disaster for the biotech companies seeking
to persuade Mexico, Brazil and the European Union to lift their embargos
on GM crops.

Even before publication, the researchers knew their work was hazardous.
One of them, Ignacio Chapela, was approached by the director of a Mexican
corporation, who first offered him a glittering research post if he
withheld his paper, then told him that he knew where to find his
children. In the US, Chapela's opponents have chosen a different form of

On the day the paper was published, messages started to appear on a
biotechnology listserver used by more than 3,000 scientists, called
AgBioWorld. The first came from a correspondent named "Mary Murphy".
Chapela is on the board of directors of the Pesticide Action Network, and
therefore, she claimed, "not exactly what you'd call an unbiased writer".
Her posting was followed by a message from an "Andura Smetacek",
claiming, falsely, that Chapela's paper had not been peer-reviewed, that
he was "first and foremost an activist" and that the research had been
published in collusion with environmentalists. The next day, another
email from "Smetacek" asked "how much money does Chapela take in speaking
fees, travel reimbursements and other donations... for his help in
misleading fear-based marketing campaigns?"

The messages from Murphy and Smetacek stimulated hundreds of others, some
of which repeated or embellished the accusations they had made. Senior
biotechnologists called for Chapela to be sacked from Berkeley.
AgBioWorld launched a petition pointing to the paper's "fundamental flaws".

There do appear to be methodological problems with the research Chapela
and his colleague David Quist had published, but this is hardly
unprecedented in a scientific journal. All science is, and should be,
subject to challenge and disproof. But in this case the pressure on
Nature was so severe that its editor did something unparalleled in its
133-year history: last month he published, alongside two papers
challenging Quist and Chapela's, a retraction in which he wrote that
their research should never have been published.

So the campaign against the researchers was extraordinarily successful;
but who precisely started it? Who are "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek"?

Both claim to be ordinary citizens, without any corporate links. The
Bivings Group says it has "no knowledge of them". "Mary Murphy" uses a
hotmail account for posting messages to AgBioWorld. But a message
satirising the opponents of biotech, sent by a "Mary Murphy" to another
server two years ago contains the identification is the property of Bivings Woodell, which is part of the
Bivings Group.

When I wrote to her to ask whether she was employed by Bivings and
whether Mary Murphy was her real name, she replied that she had "no ties
to industry". But she refused to answer my questions on the grounds that
"I can see by your articles that you made your mind up long ago about
biotech". The interesting thing about this response is that my message to
her did not mention biotechnology. I told her only that I was researching
an article about internet lobbying.

Smetacek has, on different occasions, given her address as "London" and
"New York". But the electoral rolls, telephone directories and credit
card records in both London and the entire US reveal no "Andura
Smetacek". Her name appears only on AgBioWorld and a few other
listservers, on which she has posted scores ofmessages falsely accusing
groups such as Greenpeace of terrorism. My letters to her have elicited
no response. But a clue to her possible identity is suggested by her
constant promotion of "the Centre ForFood and Agricultural Research". The
centre appears not to exist, except as a website, which repeatedly
accuses greens of plotting violence. is registered to someone
called Manuel Theodorov. Manuel Theodorov [aka Emmanuel Theodorou] is the
"director of associations" at Bivings Woodell.

Even the website on which the campaign against the paper in Nature was
launched has attracted suspicion. Its moderator, the biotech enthusiast
Professor CS Prakash, claims to have no connection to the Bivings Group.
But when Jonathan Matthews was searching the site's archives he received
the following error message: "can't connect to MySQL server on". is the main server of the Bivings

"Sometimes," Bivings boasts, "we win awards. Sometimes only the client
knows the precise role we played." Sometimes, in other words, real people
have no idea that they are being managed by fake ones.