1 September 2002
MR CHENGAL REDDY, THE FAKE PERSUADER?
Yesterday we had a report from Biowatch on Joburg on how the biotech industry has not limited itself to forming part of government delegations, and participating and organising events in the business and science forums, but has used Africabio to influence the civil society debate and limit its impact, and has even organised a march of pro-GE farmers. Here's more astroturfing.
From: "Praja teerpu" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
On 21 August 2002, Mr Chengal Reddy issued a statement in which he said "I feel sorry for the ignorance and innocence displayed" by the organisers of Prajateerpu.
In the same statement he asserted that "the biggest problem confronting most rural people, including farmers, is the hue and cry of many NGOs who totally oppose [Vision 2020] development schemes. They have set themselves up in opposition to modernisation, mechanisation and the latest technologies, such as providing new irrigation facilities".
Most of the opinions given in Mr Reddy's statement are bizarre - and often offensive to the various Indian and foreign groups who have devoted their lives to citizen empowerment - but we should defend his right to express such views. The problem comes when Reddy describes himself as head of the "Andhra Pradesh Federation of Farmers' Associations, a non-profit, independent organisation, representing some two million members from 500 farmers organisations in the State of Andhra Pradesh".
What Mr Reddy does NOT state is that he is a semi-official mouthpiece for Monsanto, the world's largest promoter of un-sustainable and anti-poor agriculture. He has worked closely with them since the mid-1990s, and features prominently in Monsanto glossy brochure "A Celebration of Fifty Years in India" (Monsanto 2000). The current www.monsantoindia.com website features at least ten separate items in which Reddy backs Monsanto's policies in India (Monsanto India, 2002). He also works closely with C.S. Prakash, President on the corporate-funded pro-GM website www.AgBioWorld.org. He recently appeared alongside Prakash at a pro-GM Delhi conference organised by the Liberty Institute at their Julian Simon Centre (The "Liberty Institute" is an extreme right-wing anti-regulation pressure group linked to the UK's ultra-Thatcherite "Centre for Policy Studies" - http://www.cps.org.uk/start.htm).
In interviews Reddy has admitted that he knows little about farming and has never farmed in his life. Indeed, his family are major property tycoons and a prominent right-wing political force in Andhra - his father having coined the phrase "There is only one thing Dalits [untouchable caste members] are good for, and that's being kicked".
Although the organisers of Prajateerpu were careful to introduce Reddy, both at the hearings, and in subsequent reports as "a leader of a lobby group for large farmers", this Email is to re-assure non-Andhra readers who may have been confused by Reddy's extravagant claims. (His tactics are not unique to the pro-GM lobby. Professor Nanjundaswamy, then President of the KRRS farmers group, similarly claimed to represent farmers in Karnataka when he initiated the series of publicity stunts known as "cremate Monsanto" - which fooled many non-Indian observers).
For general information on the use of quasi-people from the Third World
for what is becoming known as "viral marketing", readers are recommended
a the following article from Manchester UK's Guardian newspaper "THE FAKE
PERSUADERS: Corporations are inventing people to rubbish their opponents
on the internet"
from earlier this year. Sadly Mr Reddy is all to real, but many of his apparent credentials need to exposed as fake.
Rather than being applied to those many Andhra academics and NGOs who organised Prajateerpu, "ignorance" and "innocence" might be better labels for anyone in the development world who sees Mr Reddy's views as representing anyone except the greedy millionaire-landlord class of Andhra Pradesh.
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