ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

Date:  6 November 2000


Here's poor mad Tony Trewavas waxing apoplectic in a Scottish newspaper (The Herald) about Peter Melchett.

TT prides himself on how many pro-GM letters he can get printed in his local press. In fact, this particular Trewavas attack seems to be mostly recycled from a particularly aggressive US agribiz commentary that went out on one of the agweb lists a week or so back.

Doubtless you’ll all be pleased to hear about the big bucks we're all getting from the likes of Ben & Jerry’s!  According to TT:

-    Greenpeace and the other activists are rarely characterised as [industry funded] (although they receive big dollar and in-kind support from companies like Ben & Jerry’s and others who market their products as organic or natural).

Ah, the joy of being in the pay of the organic multinationals. The joy of being in anyone's pay for opposing GMOs come to that!

As well as being a GM zealot, TT has a bee or two in his bonnet about organic farming against which he keeps mounting attacks.  For his latest, put out on Prakash’s AgBioWorld pro-GM list:
Trewavas has repeatedly drawn on Dennis Avery’s more than dubious claims.

In an article published in Nature (Nature 402, 231 [1999] Much Food, Many Problems)  there are multiple citations from Avery’s chapter in the ‘Fearing Food’ [Fearing Food. Risk, Health and Environment, Butterworth-Heinemann, Oxford, 1999] edited by Morris and Bate of the extreme right-wing libertarian Institute of Economic Affairs which has co-ordinated many of the attacks on organic farming on this side of the Atlantic (TT also appeared in Roger Bate’s Counterblast TV programme attacking organic food).

However, anyone who actually follows up the references to ‘Fearing Food’ discovers that all Avery’s highly partisan claims about organic agriculture lack specific references.  In other words, this particular Trewavas’ trail of supporting evidence leads nowhere but to Avery’s assertions! [For more on IEA etc and organic attacks see: ]

As regards Peter Melchett not yet farming organically, based on what PM said at the Lyng public meeting (10th July 1999) when he was attacked over this by Des D’Souza of Aventis, about a third of the farm is farmed organically while the rest involves sugarbeet - a major crop in Norfolk - in its arable rotation and there isn't as yet an organic market via British Sugar - the sole purchaser of sugarbeet in the UK - although BS are lining up to begin organic sugar production soon.

According to Melchett, he is keen to convert the whole of the farm because, “I have seen all sorts of benefits in the part of the farm that we do farm organically, both from the point of view of employment and wildlife and the health of the cattle that we have, all sorts of other things.  Its fascinating to see it close up.”

[From the meeting Transcript:]

According to TT, “some well-placed pay-offs to Greenpeace” and a good PR campaign could have avoided agbiotech’s current problems.  Are you kidding, Tony? With advocates like TT agbiotech would always be in trouble.

*  *  *

The Herald (Glasgow), 3 November, 2000

Lord Melchett: the payoff and  the hypocrisy  - BYAnthony Trewavas, FRS,  Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, University of  Edinburgh.

Well, now we know. After a vigorous few  years attacking biotechnology, hiring anti-GMO/pro-organic “marketing campaigners”, and spreading fear about conventional foods to help create a market for “organic” products, Lord Melchett is leaving Greenpeace to go to work for organic industry retail leader Iceland Foods.

Consider the outcry and the claims of pay-offs from activists were an NGO leader who supports biotechnology (like Jimmy Carter or Norman Borlaug) to become a paid consultant to Novartis,? or, God forbid, Monsanto or Aventis . . . Yet not a peep from them or the media with the good Lord's new-found employment. Yet anyone who takes a dime for research or even philanthropy from the biotech industry is immediately cast as “tainted, bought, or biased” by activists and the media alike.

Any pro-biotech group is always noted in the media as “industry-funded” yet Greenpeace and the other activists are rarely characterised as such (although they receive big dollar and in-kind support from companies like Ben & Jerry’s and others who market their products as organic or natural).

However, the other aspects of Lord Melchett’s “retirement” reveal an even great hypocrisy and conflict of interest. According to the Mirror newspaper his family farm is “now ready to fully convert to organic production”.  Now ready? Lest we forget his admonitions to Monsanto's CEO Bob Shapiro last year that Greenpeace would not consider working with Monsanto to resolve their differences until Monsanto converted their efforts 100% to organic farming. Yet at that time, it seems that Melchett was not following his own advice on even one per cent of his land.

s reported in the Farmers Weekly (March 19,  1999) Melchett’s 800 acres in north-west Norfolk were not farmed organically at all. Indeed, Melchett acknowledged this fact, according to a letter from him in response to that article (April 2, 1999), noting that he was only then in the process of converting about 30% of his fields (none yet converted).

One can reasonably assume that since the conversion process takes three years all of Lord Melchett’s farm is still “non-organic” today. His reasoning: the price and market for organic were not sufficient to justify conversion, but as soon as those prices went up he'd make the change. So Melchett helped create that market and increased prices through his fear campaigns. Now complete, he can “retire” to his consultancy with the food retailers whose pockets he's helped to line and to increase his profits from his (soon to be) organic farm holdings. Nice work if you can get it. Use tax-deductible donations (and Government funds) to create a better market for your own financial interests by creating unfounded fears around your competitors’ products.

It is no wonder that the Government of Canada has removed Greenpeace’s “non-profit” tax status, noting their financial interests to their various shakedown campaigns. This week a leading member of the organic advocacy has called for increased studies into organic agriculture. Specifically, David Atkinson told the Sir Maitland Mackie memorial lecture now that there is big enough public support for organic agriculture, research is needed to reinforce the market and viability.

The lesson for biotechnology supporters:  next time hire the likes of Greenpeace first to get the public to support your product by scaring the pants off them about your competitors. Then you can start thinking about the actual research to prove your own product is safe and viable.  Money the biotechnology industry and governments spent over the past 20 or so years on testing and research might have been much better spent with some well -placed pay-offs to Greenpeace and a good public relations campaign.
[Entered November 05, 2000]


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