13 August 2002
DEAR PROFESSOR PRAKASH...
Prof Prakash's AgBioView list has been on its best behaviour recently - everything's relative! - aware perhaps that there is media interest in the exact relationship between AgBioView and Monsanto's PR operations. Bulletins have become significantly shorter and are now based more around news articles than the kind of discussion material previously prominently displayed that asccused biotech critics variously of fascism, communism, murder, corruption, terrorism, genocide, being worse than Hitler, and on a par with the mass murderers who destroyed the World Trade Centre.
Away from home, though, Prof Prakash has been off the leash - keen to prove, perhaps, that you don't need a Monsanto PR cypher to tell a load of porkies about biotech industry critics and the potential of genetic engineering.
In the Philippines in June Prakash gave press interviews in which he claimed Greenpeace was spending $170M to oppose genetic engineering. Better still, he didn't deny journalists' suggestions that this money could be coming from the agrochemical industry! (see item 2 below)
But that wasn't the only outlandish claim that Prakash made to the press. He also claimed GM crops could increase local farmers' incomes and crop yields, reduce their pesticide use ("worldwide usage of pesticides have declined by 30 to 40 percent as a result of biotechnology"), and reduce "postharvest losses as most genetically-modified crops have longer shelf life."
All these claims are extraordinarily contentious [see, for instance: http://ngin.tripod.com/farming.htm] but the last one is particularly interesting. In a country like the Philippines post-harvest losses, as farmers seek to preserve crops in a warm climate with sometimes weak infrastructure, is a major issue.
So we asked UK land agent, Mark Griffiths, an expert on GM agricultural issues, if he knew of any GM crops with improved shelf-life that might be available to Filipino farmers. Mark had, as it turned out, already raised this point with Prof Prakash, and their correspondence is extremely revealing.
Mark asks for examples of all these GM products with longer shelf life. None are forthcoming.
For long-time observers of the antics of Prakash, not to mention those of his close associates, this may come as no great surprise. But let's remember how Prakash promotes himself to the world. It is as a GM ambassador on behalf of the U.S. State Department. It is as someone who serves on the USDA's Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee and also on the Advisory Committee for the Department of Biotechnology of the Government of India. Above all, it is as someone committed to the interests of the poor and malnourished in the developing world.
According to one of the articles below, Prof Prakash believes, "The holler against biotechnology... is based on unfounded myths".
What about the holler for biotechnology, Prof Prakash?
And what about the morality of luring farmers in the Third World into using a technology with promised benefits that are not just doubtful but simply don't exist?
1. Dear Professor Prakash
2. PRAKASH MOUTHING ANDURA'S SCRIPT?
1. Dear Professor Prakash
Dear Professor Prakash,
I hope you are keeping well. I was very interested in the last sentence of the paragraph below from a recent posting to AgBioview. It would be much appreciated if you could send me the references relating to improved shelf-life of GM crops.
Local Farmers Urged To Adopt Biotechnology
- Leilani M. Gallardo, Asia Intelligence Wire, June 26 2002
.... The American farmers benefit from it, (so) there is no reason why Filipino farmers shouldn't also benefit from it, he said. Mr. Prakash said, in the Philippine context, local farmers can benefit from using biotechnology in three areas - increasing the yield of their harvest, reducing the amount of pesticides used and lastly reducing postharvest losses as most genetically-modified crops have longer shelf life. Almost 50% of vegetable and fruit produce is lost because we don't have the infrastructure for processing, for transportation or cold storage. Almost 50% of the produce is lost from the moment they are harvested to the moment they are consumed. Biotechnology reduces that, he said.
There are literally dozens of papers on reducing the post harvest losses through delayed ripening of fruits, increased tolerance to stored grain pests and molds etc. Any book on plant biotechnology at a nearby university library would give you detailed information and references. Look into ISB News Report http://www.isb.vt.edu and you will find many articles written by me and others on this subject,
Dear Professor Prakash,
As a leading web resource on agbiotech I was rather hoping you could help me out directly rather than having to travel to my local university. Normally using email/web is the preferred method of literature searching these days (I searched by your name on the ISB news report data base. Unfortunately none of the titles that came up specifically related to this subject, so if your articles on this are there they are not particularly easy to identify).
As it seems you have written about this subject yourself I imagine you must have digital copies of such referenced articles. Is it possible you could email me one or two of these? I am especially interested in products that have gained approval and have demonstrated efficacy in the market place. A short list of some examples would be useful.
[After several weeks Prof Prakash has still not repsonded to Mark's request (6 July) for a list of examples. We wonder why.]
2. PRAKASH MOUTHING ANDURA'S SCRIPT? - ngin, 27 June 2002
"Monsanto has a series of shop windows with which to influence the GM debate. One of these is AgBioWorld. The chief mannequin seems to be Prakash..." from 'Seeds of Dissent' http://ngin.tripod.com/deceit3.html
When claims made on Prof CS Prakash's AgBioView list by 'Andura Smetacek' ended up in a Scottish newspaper, it resulted in a libel case.
One of the claims at the centre of the case, which Greenpeace won, was that Greenpeace was getting financial backing from companies. It was agreed in the High Court that this claim was without foundation.
Now that Andura is no longer available to front such attacks, it seems CS Prakash is having to do the dirty work:
"Prakash, who was in the country for a series of advocacy campaigns for biotechnology as the acclaimed molecular biologist, said Greenpeace gets its budget from private rich individuals and maybe some companies that think their business operations will be greatly affected by widespread use of genetically modified crops in the world."
Who are these companies?
"...Prakash would not say if pesticides companies are financing the operations of Greenpeace that think their business operations will be greatly affected by widespread use of genetically modified crops in the world."
Not quite as bold as Andura, but then Prakash doesn't have the benefit of anonymity, and you get the picture.
Prakash also suggests in the article below that opposition to genetic engineering is based on false claims.
Could there, one wonders, be any element of projection in this picture of people backed by agrochemical companies operating on a basis of falsity? After all, a series of articles in The Guardian and elsewhere have argued that CS Prakash's campaign in support of genetic engineering has direct links to corporate fronts, including undisclosed links to Monsanto's PR operations.
For more on this, see:
Corporate Phantoms - http://ngin.tripod.com/deceit7.html
Seeds of Dissent - http://ngin.tripod.com/deceit3.html
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Greenpeace spends $170M to oppose biotech
The Philippine STAR
By Rose De La Cruz
A US-based leading advocate for biotechnology, Dr. Channapatna S. Prakash Friday said Europe-based Greenpeace, a group that used to be respected for advocacy in saving whales and other endangered species but has become a foremost opposition to biotechnology worldwide, spends about $170 million for such an activity.
Prakash, who was in the country for a series of advocacy campaigns for biotechnology as the acclaimed molecular biologist, said Greenpeace gets its budget from private rich individuals and maybe some companies that think their business operations will be greatly affected by widespread use of genetically modified crops in the world.
Greenpeace has been behind the raid on bodegas of General Milling Corp. in Batangas and stopping the unloading of suspected GM crops of other food companies. It is also believed to be backing the uprooting by farmers of GM corn crops planted by Monsanto in recent months.
Prakash would not say if pesticides companies are financing the operations of Greenpeace. "Besides, they realize they have no way but to accept biotechnology as the technology of the future," Prakash told reporters.
He, however, noted that worldwide usage of pesticides have declined by 30 to 40 percent as a result of biotechnology. In the US for instance, 44 million liters of pesticides are now no longer being sprayed due to biotech crops.
He said biotechnology offers better quality and safe food (for animals and humans) as well as increased yields and higher incomes for farmers, which eventually would result in lower prices for consumers.
The holler against biotechnology, he said, is based on unfounded myths and fears as well as concerns on social justice such as it is benefiting only the companies generating such products and those who control the technology.
He said in 15 countries where biotech and genetically modified crops are used, a total of 105 million acres of land is now being devoted to them. A total of 5,000 GM food enter the US supermarkets with biotech ingredients.
He said some European countries that "hypocritically opposed biotechnology are actually using biotech in their cheese and wines." Also, Europe is the largest buyer of GM soybean from the United States.
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