This essay by politics professor Jackie Stevens examines the behind-the-scenes influence of the biotech industry on "Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution," a multimedia art show in New York City with a Madison Avenue publicity budget. "Why fund installations and images that might frighten us -- a painting of a designer farm, transgenic frogs, even pieces criticizing the industry itself?
Supporters of genetically modified foods frequently claim that their position is based on "sound science," in contrast to the "junk science" practiced by anti-GM activists. Their definition of "sound science" is rooted in a set of norms for appropriate scientific behavior. A true scientist, the GM defenders say, would only argue his case with great care on the basis of sound, peer-reviewed data open to critical scrutiny. In reality, however, these standards of scientific probity are only demanded from perceived critics, while anything goes with scientists who support GM foods.
This article examines attempts in England to establish a "press council" that would control what reporters are allowed to write about issues involving science and product safety, particularly in regard to genetically modified foods. Mae-Wan Ho and Jonathan Mathews report on the seamless way in which the corporations, the state and the scientific establishment are co-ordinating their efforts to suppress scientific dissent and force feed the world with GM crops.
This article includes correspondence between editor Michael Manville and the PR firm of BSMG Worldwide, which tried to get Manville to publish "one or more bylined articles written by experts in the field" of biotechnology. After initial denials, the BSMG representative eventually admitted that its client was actually the industry-funded Council for Biotechnology Information.
When Bill Clinton was president, it was an open secret that his government favoured agricultural biotechnology and actively promoted it. But the strength of the genetically modified food lobby in George Bush's new cabinet, and its links with the GM global leader, Monsanto, are greater than anything that came before. The secretaries of defence, health and agriculture, the attorney general and the chairman of the House agriculture committee all have links with the firm or the wider industry.
"This month, April 2000, biotech biggies Aventis CropScience, BASF, Dow Chemical, Dupont, Monsanto, Novartis, and Zeneca Ag Products, in conjunction with their trade association, launched at $50-million, multi-year, North American PR campaign to improve public understanding and acceptance of biotechnology, particularly genetically modified foods," notes PR pro and right-wing ideologue Ross Irvine (not to be confused with right-wing ideologue Reed Irvine).