Watch out, PR fronts ... Take care, "think tanks" ... Mind your P's and Q's, gravy train scientists ...

GM WATCH's "Pants on Fire!" Awards are on their way to YOU!


2002 was a banner year for biotech hype with one breathtaking smoke-and-mirrors PR stunt after another.

GM WATCH's report, 'THE SMELL OF BURNING TROUSERS', provides a guide to the smelters of 2002's choicest lies, disinformation, PR chicanery and unfounded abuse.

And, of course, the winners of the hottest competition in town are being acknowledged with the coveted PANTS ON FIRE AWARD - blazing undergarments made from the finest GM cotton - a modified New Year's gift of incendiary underwear!


With so many deserving candidates, the choice has been difficult but we're featuring some of the most experienced and least principled practitioners in the business.


In reverse order, 2002's most illuminating pelvic heat suppliers are...

In 6th place:

Gary Bivings of the Bivings Group (aka Bivings Woodell, Inc.), viral marketers extraordinaire!

Monsanto's PR firm, the Bivings Group operated the "Mary Murphy" e-mail front to post poison pen attacks on scientists and other biotech industry critics on the net. Bivings also registered and designed the late-lamented website of  the Center for Food and Agricultural Research (CFFAR)     a fake agricultural institute that never existed beyond a site chock full of articles labelling Monsanto’s critics "terrorists".

As the evidence mounted via a multiplicity of media sources of the dirty tricks campaigns carried out by his firm, Gary Bivings and his flaming flaks rewrote articles, pulled material from the web and off their server, and issued flat denials. But all to no avail. Big Gary'd been caught with his pants not just down but smouldering!

Find out more:

The Fake Persuaders
Corporate Phantoms
Bivings' admission of involvement

In 5th place:

Andrew Natsios of USAID, turning tragedy into opportunity

The Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has shamelessly used the famine in southern Africa to punt biotech, ludicrously claiming no other food is available. Where that strategy has met with local resistance, Natsios has blamed Europe and environmentalists for the resulting food aid crisis. When Zambia said 'No" to the U.S.'s GM food aid, then "...the most fervent pro-GM attack on the Zambian President did not come from the biotech industry but from the head of the aid agency that sent the food." According to corporate lobbyist Roger Bate, "Andrew Natsios was easily the most effective proponent of the technology".

The pro-GM antics from the Director of USAID were no accident. Promoting GM is an official part of the role assigned to his agency which has been instructed to "integrate GM into local food systems".

It is, of course, impossible to separate the behaviour of Natsios from that of the U.S. administration who stand accused, even by the Commissioners of the European Union, of peddling lies about the food aid crisis in Zambia and of using the U.S. foreign aid
programme to "dispose of its genetically modified crop surpluses."

USAID publicly states that its activities serve to create major markets for America's agricultural exports, while is website boasts, "The principal beneficiary of America's foreign assistance programs has always been the United States."

Find out more:

Force-feeding the hungry

In 4th place:

The NEW Monsanto Corporation, up to its dirty old tricks again!

Over the last 2 years we have heard ad nauseam about the NEW Monsanto Corporation and its Pledge to integrity, transparency and respect. We were told the Pledge meant that, "We will act with integrity, courage, respect, candor, honesty, humility, and consistency," and that, "The Respect element of the new Pledge goes to the heart of virtually everything that everyone at Monsanto does on a daily basis".

In late 2002 an article in The Guardian revealed that "Andura Smetacek" - the principal "anonymous" e-mail attacker behind the campaign of character asssination against Berkeley scientist Ignacio Chapela over his Mexican maize research - had operated off an Internet Protocol address belonging to the Monsanto Corporation. "Smetacek" had posted around 50 such attacks on scientific and other critics of Monsanto - all of them during the period of the Pledge!

If covert poison pen attacks hardly smack of integrity, courage, respect, candor, or honesty, they can at least be put down to "consistency"! For "Andura Smetacek" was no lone assassin but part of a coporate communications strategy operating from Saint Louis to
Johannesburg, from Manila to New Delhi. In short, throughout the period of the Pledge the company's corporate communicators have been engaged in a relentless dirty tricks campaign, often in association with The Bivings Group (see above).

How the internet played a key part in the company's dirty tricks campaign was outlined in a talk to PR professionals by the company's
former Chief Internet Strategist, Jay Byrne. Byrne concluded his talk on Monsanto's strategy with the following quote: "Think of the internet as a weapon on the table. Either you pick it up or your competitor does, but somebody is going to get killed".

So now we learn the meaning of "respect"!

Find out more:

The Covert Biotech War
Amaizing disgrace
Our commitment: Respect


In 3rd place:

Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute, old napalm knickers!

Another year in the hot seat for the man with the asbestos-lined drawers included a speech to the British Crop Protection Council in London where he claimed that organic agriculture, if widely adopted, would lead to "an environmental catastrophe". Avery, whose work at the Hudson Institute is supported by Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis, ConAgra, DowElanco and others who profit from the sale of products prohibited in organic production, also previously claimed organic farming would lead to mass starvation, and that it is more likely to poison you.

Avery's anti-organic claims, which have given rise to such newspaper headlines as "Organic food -- It's eight times more likely to kill you", are so ludicrous that even Greg Conko of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has criticised Avery's grasp of statistics. Conko told Avery's son Alex that the extreme selectivity of their figures, "doesn't seem to be convincing anybody who doesn't already have a predilection to believe you in the first place".

While in London, Avery also claimed anti-biotech activists "sided with terrorists" and formed "human shields for Arafat, leader in chief of the suicide bombers." And in a newspaper article Avery claimed that the rest of the world would soon be so grateful to the U.S. for its GMOs that the terrorists would turn their attention exclusively to GMO-resistant Europe.

Dennis certainly knows how to smoke out a good story!

Find out more:

Bogus Research from Avery
Avery's comic highlights / Avery over London

In 2nd place:

L. Val Giddings of BIO, cheerleader to the fake parade

Giddings started the year for the Biotech Industry Organisation by claiming there was absolutely nothing to substantiate concerns over pharma crops. BIO ended the year under fire from the Grocery Manufacturers of America over the Prodigene pharma-contamination incidents and the total lack of credible safeguards.

More smoke signals were spotted in April when an Associated Press article on "corporate meddling" pointed the finger at BIO for
instigating the campaign of pressure on the journal Nature over the Mexican maize study and the attacks on its authors.

But the Giddings smoke 'n' mirrors finale came in Novermber when he used an issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology to write about an event at September's Earth Summit that would make us "look back on Johannesburg as something of a watershed event - a turning point." This momentous event in human history was a pro-GM protest march which, Giddings told the journal's readers, was the very first time that "real, live, developing-world farmers" had been seen "speaking for themselves". Giddings singled out the statement of "farmer" Chengal Reddy who said India's farmers needed biotech to avoid further starvation. Giddings also claimed the farmers dedicated a "Bullshit Award" to those who were deepening their poverty by denying them biotech. According to Giddings this was all "something new, something very big."

And so it was - a very big pack of lies!

Find out more:

The Fake Parade

In 1st place:

Prof Channapatna Prakash,  the great deceiver - you'll believe a mannequin can lie

Prof CS Prakash, Director of the Center for Plant Biotechnology Research at the Tuskegee Institute in Texas and a roving GM ambassador for the US State Dept, is a man who knows how to tempt poor farmers. Last summer Prof Prakash told the Tanzanian press that GM "doubles production", whle in the Philippines he told a press conference, "most genetically-modified crops have longer shelf life". For resource poor farmers struggling with poor infrastructure these are enticing claims.

The fake claims come packaged with manufactured smears. Prakash told the assembled journalists in Manila that Greenpeace could be getting money for opposing GM crops from "some companies that think their business operations will be greatly affected by widespread use of genetically modified crops." Who could these secret backers be? According to the Philippine Star, "Prakash would not say if pesticide companies are financing the operations of Greenpeace."

Such lies and smears are far from the full extent of the Prakash fraud, however. Take Prof Prakash’s "AgBioWorld Foundation". Prakash presents this as a mainstream science campaign, in support of "agbiotech", that has "emerged from academic roots and values" and which eschews corporate support. The centre piece of AgBioWorld's campaign is Prakash’s petition supporting the "judicious" use of genetically engineered crops in the developing world. This declaration has always been presented by Prakash as a Third World scientist's rallying point for fellow academics. But according to the annual report of the Competitive Enterpise Institute (2000), the petition formed a key part of the CEI's much wider campaign against "death by regulation"!

Recently, Prakash has been more open about the fact that Greg Conko of the CEI was a "co-founder" of his campaign. The midwifery of an organisation described by PR Watch as "a well funded corporate front", and which opposes restrictions on smoking just as vociferously as it does those on GM foods, sits a little oddly with Prakash's claims of AgBioWorld's "academic roots and values"!

Prakash also runs the AgBioView e-mailing list which has accused critics of genetic engineering, variously, of fascism, communism, imperialism, nihilism, murder, corruption, terrorism, and even genocide; not to mention being worse than Hitler and on a par with the mass murderers who destroyed the World Trade Centre.

In 2002 AgBioView worked flat out to label the biotech industry's critics as "killers of the hungry" over their criticism of USAID and its tied
GM aid for Africa. Unmentioned by Prakash was the fact that he is an advisor to USAID or that his university enjoys multi-million dollar
contracts with the agency. In autumn 2002 Prakash and Conko issued an AgBioWorld press release falsely implying the activities of anti-GM activists on the food aid issue had been responsible for the deaths of 10,000 people in the Indian state of Orissa. In reality, all the deaths were due to a super-cyclone.

The fakery and sleight of hand doesn't even stop there. In April 2002 the journal Nature, in an unprecedented move, disowned the research of UC Berkeley scientists, Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, which had demonstrated the contamination of traditional maize landraces in a remote part of Mexico. Prakash has been quite happy to admit that AgBioWorld "played a fairly important role in putting public pressure on Nature" and has even claimed, in a fund-raising e-mail, that AgBioWorld's campaign led directly to the disavowal of the research.

Certainly the AgBioView list took the lead in promoting and coordinating the attacks on the Berkeley researchers. The inflammatory series of e-mail attacks that kicked off AgBioView's campaign came from a "Mary Murphy" and an "Andura Smetacek". These e-mails claimed Chapela was politically motivated and that his research could only be understood in the light of his collusion with "fear-mongering activists" with whom, it was insinuated, he had designed the research.  And Smetacek even asked how much money Chapela was getting in "expenses" from the anti-biotech "industry".

Both "Murphy" and "Chapela" were fronts. "Mary Murphy" was run by Monsanto's PR company, Bivings, while the postings of "Andura Smetacek" have been traced back directly to Monsanto in St Louis. In all Prakash posted around 70 of their poison pen attacks on his list. And their attacks on Chapela were all placed at the top of his AgBioView bulletins.

Yet according to CS Prakash, he and AgBioWorld have absolutely no connections with any PR companies or biotech corporations. In reality, however, his connections with both are more direct than even the Murphy/Smetacek mails might suggest. An error message received while we were searching the messages in Prakash’s original AgBioView archive - now closed - showed that this AgBioView database was hosted on Bivings' main apollo server. A technical audit of AgBioWorld's website showed it had all the hallmarks of having been designed by Bivings. Monsanto's front persona for circulating attacks on the internet, "Andura Smetacek", even created an online petition clling for the jailing of Jose Bove that stated it had been created by Smetacek *on behalf of Prakash's AgBioWorld* - Prakash was amongst that petition's early signatories.

A Monsanto PR "phantom" can speak on behalf of AgBioWorld because Prakash's AgBioWorld is, in reality, just one of a series of virtual shopwindows created by Monsanto and Bivings in order to influence the GM debate. Smetacek and Prakash even speak from the same script. When claims made about Greenpeace by Smetacek on Prakash's AgBioView list 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. Yet this is exactly the claim that Prakash made in the Philippines - the added twist being that Prakash who fronts for an agrochemical giant "would not say if pesticide companies are financing the operations of Greenpeace."

CS Prakash speaks Monsanto's script just as readily as Monsanto's own fake persona. He is the mannequin in Monsanto's virtual shopwindow and one who seems prepared to go anywhere and say or do almost anything to promote the interests of the US biotech industry. Witness his fake claims and smears in Manila which occurred in the build up to the approval of Monsanto's Bt corn in the Philippines.

The deceit that Prakash has been involved in has been on such a monumental scale that his smoking undergarments have burnt their way into the record books.

Professor Channpatna Prakash is the...
Find out more:

Seeds of dissent
Corporate Phantoms
Part of the Network: How CS Prakash and AgBioWorld are part of a network of pro-corporate extremists
GM food and Orissa - the real story
Prof Prakash - sent to lie abroad?
Dear Professor Prakash...
Prakash mouthing Andura's script?
Prakash lies proliferate