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Biotech Ambassadors in Africa

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Back in May 2013, a controversial PR operative headed for Africa. He even tweeted a picture of the hotel where he was staying in Dar es Salaam.

Credited with running some of Monsanto's most dubious PR operations, Jay Byrne was in Tanzania to attend a regional planning meeting of the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB). The OFAB is a collaboration between two of the key lobby groups promoting GM in Africa - the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF).

And the AATF featured in another of Byrne's tweets from Africa:

Visiting with @aatfafrica working on #GMOs benefits for #africa good resource for @mark_lynas

That a Monsanto spindoctor is collaborating with AATF tells us nothing we don't already know - that Africa is a high value target for the biotech industry, particularly given all the difficulties it's having elsewhere. A big part of the interest, of course, relates to Africa's PR value as a tool for undermining growing global opposition.

But why the reference to Lynas? That became clear in late July 2013, when Mark Lynas began a tour promoting GM in Africa, in which he has been the guest of the very lobbyists Byrne was meeting.       

As ever, Lynas is being promoted with bogus credentials. In Dar es Salaam and elsewhere, OFAB proclaim him a 'former founder member of the global anti-GM movement', even though the claim that Lynas had any founding role in the movement has been repeatedly debunked, and condemned as 'not true' by a whole raft of well known environmentalists.

The Tanzania Alliance for Biodiversity has also challenged Lynas over his claim not to be a GM ambassador for the corporate biotech lobby, asking: 'So Mark: Who is paying for your trip to Dar es Salaam? Could it possibly be AATF or OFAB whose logos appear on the flyer?'

OFAB, it will be remembered, is a partnership between AATF and ISAAA. Although AATF only list bodies like USAID and the Gates Foundation among its donors, there have also been persistent reports of direct biotech industry involvement and backing.   
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