Fake news machine

December 2017

'Fake news' - false, often sensational information disseminated under the guise of news reporting. - Collins 'Word of the Year' 2017

COMMENT


Cornell University's 'Alliance for Science' has announced a further contribution to its work from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Originally endowed with $5.6 million in 2014, this new grant brings the total Gates' contribution to $12 million.


The mission is to promote GM in agriculture by "depolarising" the global debate and training the uninformed in "evidence based decision making". One of the Alliance's major initiatives has been to teach "strategic communications" to local advocates so they can spread the word, and train others in developing countries where GMOs are contentious.

Gates' premise seems to be one we've heard repeatedly since the dawn of GM: all you need to do is educate people and they will fall in love with GMOs.

And, what better way to educate people than to use one of the most highly regarded agricultural universities in the world to generate envoys which come complete with the prestige that a qualification from such a high calibre institution bestows?

'Depolarising' the debate has proved easy. The Alliance has gained a reputation for running one-sided 'debates' characterised by a complete absence of GM critics on the platform. This unique style of 'debate' apparently was dreamed up by GM-giant Monsanto and "go-to travelling academic of the GMO industry", Kevin Folta.

Despite its conviction of the potential of GM "for solving major agricultural challenges", no Cornell scientists will accept an invitation to speak in favour of the benefits and safety of GMOs. "This avoidance of public debate is part of a pattern and the reasons are simple in any fair fight, the arguments for the safety and benefits of GMOs fail" (Latham).

It seems that in the hands of the Alliance for Science, the 'depolarising' bit is happening in a forced, Monsanto sort of way, but is based on fake debates to generate fake news. In fact, GM Watch describes the Alliance as "a propaganda machine for the GMO and agrochemical industry".

So, how about that evidence-based decision making which the august Cornell University body is trying to teach?

There's certainly a need for evidence based decision making, first and foremost in the regulatory risk assessment of GM crops. Look no further than the scientifically unsupportable assumptions which routinely 'inform' the approval of all 'Bt' insecticidal crops [1]. Industry-led fake news that GM Bt toxins are 'natural', environmentally-friendly, and incapable of harming humans or livestock is based on fake science which has been normalised by the regulators. You can be certain the Cornell Alliance for Science won't be trying to change this particular 'evidence base' for decisions on GM.

Twelve million dollars is a lot to spend on what seems to be a fake GM news machine. Especially when it could buy so much actual Research and Development on sustainable agricultural techniques which could actually reduce hunger and poverty [2], and actually make the GM fake news unnecessary.


Background:

[1] FIVE TIMES REMOVED FROM NATURAL - December 2017
[2] SCOTCHING THE GM MYTH - December 2017


SOURCES:

  • Word of the year is unbelievable, Metro 2.11.17 
  • Gates Foundation Grants Additional $6.4 million to Cornell's Controversial Alliance for Science, www.independentsciencenews.org, 1.11.17 
  • New York Farmers Ask Cornell University to Evict 'Alliance for Science' over GMO bias, Sustainable Pulse, 24.09.16 
  • Jonathan Latham, Cornell Faculty Refuse to Defend GMO Crops, www.independentsciencenews.org

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