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Monsanto Rolls Out Their "Fake Parade" Once Again

1.The Fake Parade hits New York
by Jonathan Matthews

Posted 1/19/05

For more information about Monsanto's cyberwar against its critics:

Just over 2 years ago I wrote an article called The Fake Parade which was
all about how Monsanto and their associates were trying to hide the
company's "soapbox behind a black man's face".

The article noted, amongst other things, how in late 1999 the New York Times
reported that a street protest against genetic engineering outside an FDA
public hearing in Washington DC was disrupted by a group of
African-Americans carrying placards such as "Biotech saves children's lives"
and "Biotech equals jobs." The Times learned that Monsanto's PR company,
Burson-Marsteller, had paid a Baptist Church from a poor neighborhood to bus
in these "demonstrators" as part of a wider campaign "to get groups of
church members, union workers and the elderly to speak in favor of
genetically engineered foods."

Now Monsanto has gone one better and has signed up its very own black
advocacy group. If you don't believe me, visit the home page of the Congress
of Racial Equality (CORE) and beside images of freedom riders and civil
rights activists murdered by the KKK, you'll see the Monsanto logo under the
legend CORE's "corporate partner".

Tonight (17th) Monsanto's Chairman and CEO, Hugh Grant is chairing CORE's
celebratory reception in honour of the Martin Luther King National Holiday.

Tomorrow (18th) at CORE's "UN World Conference on Biotechnology" Monsanto's
Executive Vice President will make the closing address.

The contributors to the conference, apart from Monsanto, are a mix of
rabidly pro-GM scientists and rightwing lobbyists, like Paul Driessen CORE's
Senior Policy Advisor, who is part of the Wise Use-founding Center for the
Defense of Free Enterprise. The aim of Wise Use was to counter the
environmental movement with a broad-ranging coalition of interest groups,
including industry-funded front groups and 'grassroots groups', often
organised by PR consultants on behalf of corporations or trade associations.

Julian Morris who is among the contributors to CORE's "UN World Conference
on Biotechnology" also features in The Fake Parade. Originally billed as
being present was Chengal Reddy who also played a key role in The Fake
Parade (see below). His Indian Farmers Federation will be represented.

Someone else who is part of the "UN World Conference" is CORE's Niger Innis.
Innis is a protege of black broadcaster Armstrong Williams. Innis stands in
for Williams on the TV show America's Black Forum whenever Williams is
otherwise engaged.

Williams was recently revealed as having pocketed $240,000 in federal
taxpayer money for PR promotion of Bush's educational policy. The
journalists who started America's Black Forum , and who now disown it,
describe Williams as "the premiere Black political whore in America".

Tomorrow the stand-in and protege of America's "premiere Black political
whore" will be standing alongside the Executive Vice President of CORE's
"corporate partner" when he rounds up a day spent considering the remarkable
contribution that GM can make to helping the world's poor and the evil
people who selfishly try and obstruct its global adoption.
Environment, 3 December 2002
Under the banner of populist protest, multinational corporations manufacture
the poor
By Jonathan Matthews

"Carrying his placard the man in front of me was clearly one of the poorest
of the poor. His shoes were not only threadbare, they were tattered, merely
rags barely being held together."

So begins a graphic description of a demonstration that took place at the
Earth Summit in Johannesburg. The protesters were "mainly poor, virtually
all black, and mostly women... street traders and farmers" with an
unpalatable message. As an article in a South African periodical put it,
"Surely this must have been the environmentalists' worst nightmare. Real
poor people marching in the streets and demanding development while opposing
the eco-agenda of the Green Left."

And seldom can the views of the poor, in this case a few hundred
demonstrators, have been paid so much attention. Articles highlighting the
Johannesburg march popped up the world over, in Africa, North America,
India, Australia and Israel. In Britain even The Times ran a commentary,
under the heading, "I do not need white NGOs to speak for me".

With the summit's passing, the Johannesburg march, far from fading from
view, has taken on a still deeper significance. In the November issue of the
journal Nature Biotechnology, Val Giddings, the President of the Biotech
Industry Organization (BIO), argues that the event marked "something new,
something very big" that will make us "look back on Johannesburg as
something of a watershed event - a turning point." What made the march so
pivotal, he said, was that for the very first time, "real, live,
developing-world farmers" were "speaking for themselves" and challenging the
"empty arguments of the self-appointed individuals who have professed to
speak on their behalf."

To help give them a voice, Giddings singles out the statement of one of the
marchers, Chengal Reddy, leader of the Indian Farmers Federation.
"Traditional organic farming...," Reddy says, "led to mass starvation in
India for centuries... Indian farmers need access to new technologies and
especially to biotechnologies."

Giddings also notes that the farmers expressed their contempt for the "empty
arguments" of many of the Earth Summiteers by honoring them with a "Bullshit
Award" made from two varnished piles of cow dung. The award was given, in
particular, to the Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva, for her role in
"advancing policies that perpetuate poverty and hunger"

A powerful rebuke, no doubt. But if anyone deserves the cow dung, it is the
President of BIO, for almost every element of the spectacle he describes has
been carefully contrived and orchestrated. Take, for instance, Chengal
Reddy, the "farmer" that Giddings quotes. Reddy is not a poor farmer, nor
even the representative of poor farmers. Indeed, there is precious little to
suggest he is even well-disposed towards the poor. The "Indian Farmers
Federation" that he leads is a lobby of big commercial farmers in Andhra
Pradesh. On occasion Reddy has admitted to knowing very little about
farming, having never farmed in his life. He is, in reality, a politician
and businessman whose family are a prominent right-wing political force in
Andhra Pradesh - his father having coined the saying, "There is only one
thing Dalits (members of the untouchable caste) are good for, and that is
being kicked".

If it seems open to doubt that Reddy was in Johannesburg to help the poor
speak for themselves, the identity of the march's organizers is also not a
source of confidence. Although the Times' headline said "I do not need
white NGOs to speak for me", the media contact on the organizers' press
release was "Kendra Okonski", the daughter of a US lumber industrialist who
has worked for various right wing anti-regulatory NGOs - all funded and
directed, needless to say, by "whites". These include the Competitive
Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based "think tank" whose multi-million
dollar budget comes from major US corporations, among them BIO member Dow
Chemicals. Okonski also runs the website, where her
specialty is helping right wing lobbyists take to the streets in mimicry of
popular protesters.

Given this, it hardly needs saying that Giddings' "Bullshit Award" was far
from, as he suggests, the imaginative riposte of impoverished farmers to
India's most celebrated environmentalist. It was, in fact, the creation of
another right-wing pressure group-the Liberty Institute-based in New Delhi
and well known for its fervent support of deregulation, GM crops and Big

The Liberty Institute is part of the same network that organized the rally:
the deceptively-named "Sustainable Development Network." In London, the SDN
shares offices, along with many of its key personnel-including Okonski-with
the International Policy Network, a group whose Washington address just
happens to be that of the CEI. The SDN is run by Julian Morris, its
ubiquitous director, who also claims the title of Environment and Technology
Programme Director for the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think tank that
has advocated, amongst other interesting ideas, that African countries be
sold off to multinational corporations in the interests of "good

The involvement of the likes of Morris, Okonski and Reddy doesn't mean, of
course, that no "real poor people," were involved in the Johannesburg march.
There were indeed poor people there. James MacKinnon, who reported on the
summit for the North American magazine Adbusters, witnessed the march first
hand and told of seeing many impoverished street traders, who seemed
genuinely aggrieved with the authorities for denying them their usual
trading places in the streets around the summit. The flier distributed by
the march organizers to recruit these people played on this grievance, and
presented the march as a chance to demand, "Freedom to trade". The flier
made no mention of "biotechnology" or "development", nor any other issue on
the "eco-agenda of the Green Left".

For all that, there were some real farmers present as well. Mackinnon says
he spotted some wearing anti-environmentalist t-shirts, with slogans like
"Stop Global Whining." This aroused his curiousity, since small-scale
African farmers are not normally to be found among those jeering the "bogus
science" of climate change. Yet here they were, with slogans on placards
and T-shirts: "Save the Planet from Sustainable Development", "Say No To
Eco-Imperialism", "Greens: Stop Hurting the Poor" and "Biotechnology for
Africa". On approaching the protesters, however, Mackinnon discovered that
all of the props had been made available to the marchers by the organizers.
When he tried to converse with some of the farmers about their pro-GM
T-shirts, "They smiled shyly; none of them could speak or read English."

Another irresistible question is how impoverished farmers - according to
Giddings, there were farmers on the march from five different countries -
afforded the journey to Johannesburg from lands as far away as the
Philippines and India. Here, too, there is reason for suspicion. In late
1999 the New York Times reported that a street protest against genetic
engineering outside an FDA public hearing in Washington DC was disrupted by
a group of African-Americans carrying placards such as "Biotech saves
children's lives" and "Biotech equals jobs." The Times learned that
Monsanto's PR company, Burson-Marsteller, had paid a Baptist Church from a
poor neighborhood to bus in these "demonstrators" as part of a wider
campaign "to get groups of church members, union workers and the elderly to
speak in favor of genetically engineered foods."

The industry's fingerprints are all over Johannesburg as well. Chengal
Reddy, the "farmer" that the President of BIO singled out as an example of
farmers from the poorer world "speaking for themselves", has for at least a
decade featured prominently in Monsanto's promotional work in India. Other
groups represented on the march, including AfricaBio, have also been closely
aligned with Monsanto's lobbying for its products. Reddy is known to have
been brought to Johannesburg by AfricaBio.

And here lies the real key to the President of BIO's account of the march,
and specifically to the attack on Vandana Shiva. Monsanto and BIO want to
project an image of GM crop acceptance with a Southern face. That's why
Monsanto's Internet homepage used to be adorned with the faces of smiling
Asian children. So when an Indian critic of the biotech industry gets
featured, as Shiva was recently, on the cover of Time magazine as an
environmental hero, the brand is under attack, and has to be protected.

The counterattack takes place via a contrarian lens, one that projects the
attackers' vices onto their target. Thus the problem becomes not Monsanto
using questionable tactics to push its products onto a wary South, but
malevolent agents of the rich world obstructing Monsanto's acceptance in a
welcoming Third World. For this reason the press release for the "Bullshit
Award" accuses Shiva, amongst other things, of being "a mouthpiece of
western eco-imperialism". The media contact for this symbolic rejection of
neocolonialism? The American, Kendra Okonski. The mouthpiece denouncing an
Indian environmentalist as an agent of the West is a Western mouthpiece.

The careful framing of the messages and the actors in the rally in
Johannesburg provides but one particularly gaudy spectacle in a continuing
fake parade. In particular, the Internet provides a perfect medium for such
showcases, where the gap between the virtual and the real is easily erased.

Take the South-facing website, which promotes itself as
"the web's most complete source of news and information about global food
security concerns and sustainable agricultural practices".
claims to be "an independent, non-profit coalition of people throughout the
world". Despite its global reach, however,'s only named
staff member is its "African Director", Dr. Michael Mbwille, a Tanzanian
doctor who's forever penning articles defending Monsanto and attacking the
likes of Greenpeace.

The news and information at is largely pro-GM articles,
often vituperative in content and boasting headlines like "The Villainous
Vandana Shiva" or "Altered Crops Called Boon for Poor". When one penetrates
beyond the news pages, the content is very limited. A single message graces
the messageboard posted by an - the domain name of The
Bivings Group, an internet PR company that numbers Monsanto among its
clients. There's also an event posting from an Andura Smetacek, recently
identified in an article in The Guardian as an e-mail front used by Monsanto
to run a campaign of character assassination against its scientific and
environmental critics.

The site is registered to a Graydon Forrer, currently the managing director
of Life Sciences Strategies, a company that specializes in "communications
programmes" for the bio-science industries. A piece of information that is
not usually disclosed in Graydon Forrer's self-presentation is that he was
previously Monsanto's director of executive communications. Indeed, he seems
to have been working for the company in 1999 - the same year the site of
this "independent, non-profit coalition of people throughout the world" was
first registered. Foodsecurity's "African Director", Dr. Mbwille, is not,
incidentally, in Africa at the moment. He is enjoying a sabbatical observing
medical practice in St. Louis, Missouri-the home town, as it happens, of the
Monsanto Corporation. forms but one of a whole series of websites with
undisclosed links to biotech industry lobbyists or PR companies, as our
previous research has demonstrated. But despite the virtual circus
oscillating about him, if the President of BIO were really interested in
hearing poor "live, developing-world farmers... speaking for themselves", he
need look no further than Chengal Reddy's home state of Andhra Pradesh. Here
small-scale farmers and landless laborers were consulted as part of a
meticulously conducted "citizens' jury" on World Bank-backed proposals to
industrialize local agriculture and introduce GM crops. Having heard all
sides of the argument, including as it happens the views of Chengal Reddy,
the jury unanimously rejected these proposals, which are likely to force
more than 100,000 people off the land. Similar citizens' juries on GM crops
in Brazil and in the Indian state of Karnataka have come to similar
conclusions - something that the President of BIO is almost certainly aware

But rainchecks on the real views of the poor count for little in a world
where "something new, something very big" and "a turning point" in the
global march towards our corporate future, turns out to be Monsanto's
soapbox behind a black man's face.

For further information about citizens' juries on GM food and farming in the
Global South see:
the report on Food and Farming Futures for Andhra Pradesh,,
the press article, "The Locals Know What Aid They Need",,
and the website of the development charity, ActionAid,

For more information about Monsanto's cyberwar against its critics:

This GMO news service is underwritten by a generous grant from the Newman's
Own Foundation, edited by Thomas Wittman and is a production of the
Ecological Farming Association <>