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Canada's Propaganda
Campaign for Frankenfoods

Good PR is growing

by Lyle Stewart
from: THIS MAGAZINE (Toronto) May/June 2002

If you've watched television or read a newspaper in the past couple years,
you're likely familiar with the biotechnology industry's "Good Ideas Are
Growing" ads, broadcast repeatedly whenever the controversy over genetically
engineered foods flares up. Sponsored by the Council for Biotechnology
Information, the spots rely on soothing, dreamlike imagery: sun-drenched
green crops surrounding an old-fashioned barn on the prairie; a healthy,
tanned farm family rocking gently on a rope swing; a sturdy Third World
peasant at work in fields of bounty. It's a relatively straightforward,
almost facile attempt to project images of health, prosperity and good
corporate citizenship.

But few Canadian consumers are aware that this is only part of a
multi-pronged public relations campaign to sell genetically engineered foods
in Canada and abroad includes other bromides such as "A Growing Appetite
For Information," a pamphlet produced by the Guelph-based Food Biotechnology
Communications Network (FBCN) as an insert in Canadian Living Magazine,
and the pro-biotech brochure "Food Safety and You" which was mailed to every
household in Canada by the biotech industry's regulator, the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency, last year.

At the same time, Ottawa has stonewalled the growing demands to make
labelling of genetically engineered foods mandatory. The Liberal government
ignored the Royal Society of Canada report it requested on how to deal with
food biotechnology, and they killed senior Liberal MP Charles Caccia's
private member's bill on mandatory labelling.

These episodes may appear to be unconnected battles in the propaganda war
over biotechnology. But thanks to the dogged investigation of Canadian
Health Coalition researcher Bradford Duplisea, it's now becoming clear that
they have been coordinated as part of a multimillion-dollar strategy to
engineer consent in Canada and abroad. Working almost single-handedly from
his "war room," a file-filled bedroom in his Hull apartment, Duplisea has
unearthed a remarkable series of documents through Access To Information.
They expose a spider's web of influence; a web that brings together the
biotech and agri-food industries, large grocery distributors, a prominent
public relations firm, several federal government departments, and a handful
of third-party ngos funded in equal measure by taxpayers and industry to
push the pro-biotech message on Canadians. Since 1997, the feds have spent
at least $12 million strategy to promote food biotechnology, via grants from the
agriculture ministry, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Industry Canada and
Health Canada. The "Food Safety and You" pamphlet rang in at $2.5 million. The
FBCN has received over $750,000 in matching funds from the Canadian Food
Inspection Agency and the agriculture ministry. BIOTECanada, an industry
lobby group, got $25,000 from the agriculture ministry, and a whopping $5.7
million from Industry Canada. The feds have also provided significant
support to NGOs that support the government's pro-biotechnology stance, such
as the National Institute of Nutrition and the Consumers' Association of
Canada.

"There's no clear line between government and industry," says Duplisea. "As
far as biotechnology is concerned, the government should be implementing and
enforcing regulations, period. The industry should be left to promote
itself. You must keep promotion and regulation of industry under different
roofs or you get disasters like bad blood and mad cow disease. If the Krever
Commission taught us anything, it's that we have to regulate in the
interests of the public, not in the interests of the regulated."

But Ottawa now spends over $400 million each year in research, development
and public relations as part of a decade-long effort to turn Canada into a
biotechnology powerhouse. It is a partner with Monsanto Canada in the
development of genetically engineered wheat. Outside the university campuses
in Guelph and Saskatoon Canada

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Copyright © 2002 Red Maple Foundation ISSN 0381-3746
THIS MAGAZINE
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