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Monsanto and Biotech Industry Move to the Next Level of Greenwashing

Ten years ago, Monsanto tried to convince the world - Europe, in particular -that genetically engineered (GE) crops were needed to 'feed' the hungry. At that time, the message was largely greeted with derision as a cynical ploy to sell a product that no one, including people in developing countries, wanted.

Now, the biotech industry is regrouping and re-branding itself, but the PR message looks very familiar. Food and climate change - two urgent global crises - are the context for a second major public relations push for genetic engineering. This time, however, there is an added twist: biofuels and the promise that biotechnology can fuel the world as well as feed it.

This month, the Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Conference (ABIC: September 12-15) "Bridging Biology and Business" kicks off in Saskatoon with a "Flower Power Biodiesel Workshop" aimed at the public. During this conference, we will likely see more media stories about how GE crops are needed to solve the major crises of our time. Conference sponsors include Bayer CropScience, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Genome British Columbia, Novozymes and Ag-West Bio Inc.

Believe the hype?

The biotech industry is attempting to participate in sounding the alarm over the global food crisis. One of ABIC's keynote speakers, Julian Cribb, a journalist from Australia, will present a talk entitled "The Coming Famine: risks and solutions for global food security." (This is also the name of his new book.) Cribb will stress that the urgent "global food security problem" is one of resource scarcity: we are running out of water, farmland and oil and that these and other factors, like the collapse of fisheries and changes in local climates, will all constrain our ability to meet future food needs. He is right, of course, and this is where the biotechnology industry wants to insert itself. No one disagrees that there is a world food crisis so the industry can argue this point without debate and try to take the moral high ground. Controversy arises, however, due to the corporate agenda to sell patented GE technologies as the solution, at a profit.