Big PR

August 2013


It would be funny if it wasn't serious.

Big Biotech, Big Agrichemical and Big Food (more than 50 companies in all) have joined together to create the biggest ever PR drive to shove GM down our unwilling throats.

The result?A freshly hand-picked PR firm (not yet identified), a new front group (Alliance to Feed the Future), and a new website ( inviting you to “join the conversation and ask your questions about GMOs”.

As the Organic Consumers' Association points out, the Alliance to Feed the Future (AFF) has “all the hallmarks of a typical 'astroturf' group. A deceptive-sounding name designed to create a positive public impression. A sophisticated public relations plan designed to control and shape the public discourse. Obfuscation around its main sources of funding. And a tendency to attack industry critics, create the perception of doubt regarding previously accepted science, and exploit consumers legitimate economic fears.”

The launch of was apparently so newsworthy it was reported in New York Times. Top marks to the unknown PR company: “Who gets a mention in the Times these days just for launching a website?” (Organic Consumers' Association comment).'s goal is "to make information about biotechnology in food and agriculture easier to understand”. On this site you can “Learn more about GMO health and safety”, and “get links to safety data”.

Let's get real:
  • Who's asking for information on “GMO health and safety”? Or access to the 'safety data'? We already know that thorough testing hasn't been done: the data to answer our questions just aren't there.
Actually things have gone full circle to the UK Government position in the 1990s which was that all you need to do to gain acceptance for GM is to educate people. But what's changed since then is that distrust of all things emanating from Big Biotech/Agrichemical/Food is at an all time high. Just consider that the website which seems to be inviting you, the consumer, to get information by making it “easier to access and understand” is actually, according to the AFF coordinator, aiming to educate 'opinion leaders' including those in the university sector, professional societies, journalists and government officials. It seems the impression that Big Biotech/Agrichemical/Food haven't got quite the stranglehold on academia, the media and regulators that we thought they had.

Is the established food supply industry panicking? It may have good cause: consumers are increasingly rejecting the industrial food and farming system that relies on toxic pesticides, animal drugs, antibiotics, growth hormones, climate disrupting nitrate fertilizer and DNA disruption, along with inhumane, polluting, and disease-ridden factory farms.

Here's a thought:
Why would the most intelligent and educated sector of people in the world (university academics, the societies they have formed, and the government they advise) need easy to understand information on GMOs from industry? That Big Biotech/Agrichemical/Food think the average consumer is a bit thick is insulting, but their view of non-commercial (real) scientists is breathtakingly arrogant.

Here's a suggestion:
Don't bother asking anything, all you'll get is slick PR and cherry-picked platitudes. Britain alone has several excellent, well-established websites which the New York Times has apparently never noticed. These are authored by some quite intelligent and educated people (many of whom are scientists) who have been following the GM issue and the science for decades. They include:
  • Andrew Pollack, Seeking Support, Biotech Food Companies Pledge Transparency, New York Times, 29.07.13
  • Katherine Paul and Zack Kaldveer, Wining our Hears and Minds@ Monsanto and Bit Food Pull out the Big Guns, Organic Consumers Association, 1.08.13
  • We answer your questions about GMOs,

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