ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

6 February 2002


2. US Farm Organizations Taking Cash From Farmers' Corporate Attackers



February 5, 2002
Greenpeace press release

TORONTO - As reported in The Globe and Mail today, the federal government is in active partnership with biotech companies ? funding third-party groups to promote the safety of genetically engineered food.

Documents uncovered by Greenpeace and the Brad Duplisea of the Canadian Health  Coalition show more than $3.3 million in federal funding has gone into promoting  genetically engineered foods, with much going to supposedly neutral groups such as the Food Biotechnology Communications Network, the Consumers Association of Canada and the National Institute of Nutrition.

"No wonder Canadians don't know what we're eating," said Holly Penfound of  Greenpeace's genetic engineering campaign. "The Liberals are paying for a concerted pro-biotech campaign, masked in the language of neutrality.

These documents show the government is in collusion with the food biotech industry,"  she said. The $3.3 million figure does not include $5.7 million sent from Industry Canada to BIOTECanada, an industry lobby group.

Included in the figure was more than $2 million that went to creating a safety brochure, heavily in favour of genetically engineered food, that was distributed across Canada by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The CFIA has been criticized for the conflict created by its dual role as regulator and promoter of genetically engineered foods.

"No wonder the Liberals have opposed mandatory labelling of genetically engineered food," said Penfound. "They're busy paying for Monsanto's front groups to try and make the public accept the untested experiment that is genetic engineering - and failing to adequately study the environmental or human health impacts of genetic engineering."

Canada already takes a hands-off approach to regulating GE food, trusting the companies to research the safety of their own products. The proof of Ottawa funding a PR campaign in favour of GE food makes the matter worse, said Penfound: "It's like Mike Harris paying Stan Koebel's wife to say the water's safe in Walkerton."

Penfound said the collusion between the government and biotech companies puts the Liberals' voluntary labelling standard, under the direction of the Canadian General Standards Board, into doubt.

"How can we trust a government to protect health and the environment when it is clear  it's not in the pocket of the biotech industry - it's lining it," she said.



For Immediate Release

Contact: Larry Mitchell (202) 835-0330

Corn Growers Commend Congressional Integrity and Calls for Same from Farm Organizations

WASHINGTON --- Jan. 31, 2002--- The American Corn Growers (ACGA) has called for an expansion of the statesmanship recently exhibited by members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, in light of questionable support from a large energy corporation, to the farm sector.

"We commend those Senators and Representatives who have either returned political contributions to the Enron Corporation or made donations of those contributions to support-funds established to assist the employees hard hit by the financial demise of the company," said Larry Mitchell, CEO of ACGA.  "It is impressive to see such integrity in these times, and we commend their actions. These legislators can now more appropriately represent the voters who elected them to office. We now call upon organizations representing farmers to exhibit similar integrity by returning the financial donations from those corporations who are now prosecuting farm families."

Mitchell went on to explain that there are some farm organizations which have fallen into the quagmire of accepting large cash donations from the very corporations who are taking family farmers to court for exercising their centuries-old right to plant the seeds which they raised.  "In order to properly represent farmers they serve, these organizations must divest themselves from any financial gains from those who continue their relentless persecution of family farmers," declared Mitchell.

In the new age of genetic modification and seed patenting, some companies are currently pursuing an oppressive campaign to ensure that farmers do not plant seeds raised on their own farms without paying substantial sums of money to those companies claiming to own an exclusive patent on the seed's genetics.  "An even worse scenario being played out all across rural America is when the genetic material contained in the pollen of a neighbor's crop drifts onto the crop of a farmer who has not even planted a patented crop. When that farmer later plants the seed from the tainted crop, these companies have the audacity to prosecute the unsuspecting farmer.  They even send hired private detectives onto the farms at night, sometimes illegally, in order to obtain plant tissue as a means to make their case."

"We feel these companies' time and energy would be much better spent doing what they do best, providing crop protection products, hybrids and genetics that consumers want and farmers need," stated Mitchell.  "These companies are, instead, making a public relations mistake by challenging the right of farmers to plant, in the following year, seed produced from crops they raised on their own land."

"This is unjust and inexcusable, but what is even more unfair is to allow these predatory companies to make large donations to farm organizations in order to buy their silence," said Mitchell.  "It is time for farm organizations to show the same integrity as those in Congress and either return the money to those companies, or deposit it into a legal support fund for those farmers in trouble. Whether it's genetically modified seed, with its extra fees, technology agreements and utility patents or the corporate concentration agenda to influence U.S. farm and trade policy, farm and commodity groups should cease accepting money from those agribusiness companies.  How else can they properly serve the very farmers they represent?"

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