ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

23 July 2002


As a big pro-GE advertising campaign is launched in the run up to voting in New Zealand's general election, questions are starting to be asked asked about the well-heeled lobby group behind the campaign: the Life Sciences Network.

The Green Party is calling on the Life Sciences Network to come clean on whether multinational corporations are funding its activities (see item 1 below). And 'Seeds of Distrust' author, Nicky Hager, has already referred in a radio interview to a link between LSN and the Novartis PR company that played such a big role in the 'corn-gate' scandal.

That may not be the only PR connection. A month pre-publication of Nature's editorial 'retracting' Quist and Chapela's Mexican maize paper, the comments of the only peer reviewer who called for retraction were leaked, thus greatly increasing the critical pressure on Nature which finally went with this minority position.

They were leaked via the Life Sciences Network website, with the executive director of LSN, Francis Wevers, claiming to have received them from an anonymous source:

This was posted March 1. The anon messsage begins:
Dr. Wevers, This is circulating on the internet. The text is below. It looks like the Quist and Chapela claims regarding maize in Mexico is junk science and the editors of Nature know that. Send this on to those you trust, or call Nature for confirmation first--I can't tell you how I got this, but I CAN tell you that Nature can't deny the authenticity of the memo.

If the authorial style seems remarkably similar to the Monsanto's PR cyphers, Murphy and Smetacek, who played such a critical role in the anti-Chapela campaign, then interestingly Wevers can be found among the early signatories of Andura Smetacek's petition calling for the jailing of Jose Bove.

Another early signatory of Smetacek's petition was CS Prakash whose AgBioWorld organisation is a member of Wevers' LSN. Prakash's AgBioWorld has been shown to operate hand in glove with Monsanto's PR campaign. [,3604,723899,00.html]

Also a member is the state funded Crown Research Institute, Crop & Food Research, which played a significant part in attacks on Nicky Hager's book. A press release issued by Crop & Food Research during the election campaign, hyping the largely discredited 'golden rice', gives a flavour of their pro-GE proseletising:

"As little as 200 g of GM Golden Rice a day is now thought to be sufficient to save lives and prevent blindness in millions of children suffering from pro vitamin A deficiency.  But moratoriums and regulations will mean that many malnourished children continue to suffer because they can't get access to the new technology.

"Dr Potrykus said that weak politicians in well-fed European countries were giving in to the pressure of activists... The consequence is that many thousands are dying, or have severe health problems (e.g. irreversible blindness), who otherwise could live healthy and productive lives.

" 'We may need to decide what is more important to our society - a regulatory framework for minor and mostly hypothetical risks, or the life and health of underprivileged human beings,' he said."

It would be naive to assume that such rabid media releases are not carefully co-ordinatinated with the Life Sciences Network and those behind the campaign.

1. Who's Pulling Life Sciences' Strings?
2. LSN warned: listen to public - don't "modify" us


1. Who's Pulling Life Sciences' Strings?

Press Release from the Green Party, 23 July 2002

Green Party Co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons is calling on the Life Sciences Network to come clean on whether multinational corporations are funding its pro-GE advertising activities.

"Tomorrow (Wednesday) New Zealanders will be subjected to an intensive advertising campaign to influence the outcome of the election by portraying GE as safe and beneficial," said Jeanette Fitzsimons.

"Pro-GE interests will trot out their usual litany of bad science, half-truths and misleading information. What they won't be saying is how much this ad campaign costs and who is ultimately footing the bill.

"A talented young scientist may be the image on the front of their ads but New Zealanders might find the faces of the multinational money men behind the campaign far less attractive.

"We certainly know which companies will benefit from the commercial release of GE organisms into our environment. Foreign owned companies like Monsanto, Dupont and Novartis have racked-up billion-dollar profits from their GE plantations and experiments.

"Almost as worrying as the role of big business in determining the outcome of this election is the participation of Crown Research Institutes in Life Sciences' crusade," said Jeanette Fitzsimons. "HortResearch, AgResearch, Crop & Food Research and Forest Research are all listed as members.

"How can they justify their involvement in an ad campaign aimed at influencingvoters just days out from an election?"


2. LSN warned: listen to public - don't "modify" us

Press Release from GE Free NZ, 23 July 2002

Biotechnology industry lobby-group "Life Sciences Network" are being urged to respect community values relating to genetic modification, and work with public-interest groups like The Sustainability Council rather than oppose them.

Responding to the industry's new PR and advertising campaign, aimed at "modifying" the public's views on GM, GE-Free NZ (in food and environment) believe the best direction for New Zealand's biotechnology strategy will only be found if industry listen to community-groups rather than telling New Zealander's what to think.

GE-Free NZ (in food and environment) reject claims that New Zealanders are "anti-science" just because a majority support containing applications of this powerful technology.

However the debate created by the industry's new campaign - to be launched on Wednesday- may have a positive outcome by highlighting the many uses of GM that can be kept in the lab, and the serious risks of using food-crops to produce pharmaceuticals in the open-field.

The new PR campaign features a researcher whose work was damaged in a mystery-attack earlier this year. One of the projects used gene technology without any intention to release a live GE-organism - exactly the kind of use permitted under a GE-Free policy for food and the environment. However other projects are reported to have been using food plants to produce pharmaceuticals. This is a process that has alarmed scientists and regulatory authorities around the world because of the dangers from inadvertent spread of chemical-producing crops into the human food chain.

"Some of the experiments should raise alarm-bells. There is a serious problem in companies using food-crops to make anything from aids-related vaccines to spermicides." said Jon Carapiet- a spokesperson for GE-Free NZ (in food and environment). "Rather than uncontrolled release into the environment motivated by corporate profit, New Zealand's biotechnology strategy should focus on the ethical use of genetic modification in the lab. This will this will benefit NZ without threatening our exports, tourism-image, biosecurity and economic well-being" said Mr.Carapiet.

"The warning on Liability from the Crown Law Office, and the clear evidence that cross-contamination cannot be prevented as the Royal Commission originally hoped, supports the public assessment that GE should be kept in containment," said Mr.Carapiet.

"It is regrettable that expensive industry PR-spin is replacing dialogue with groups like the Sustainability Council, GE-Free NZ, Maori, and even the yet-to-be-appointed Bio-Ethics Council. Industry would be better to listen to people rather than try to modify them."

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