“If you have a feeling that genetically modified (GM) foods are being forced upon the population by a handful of business interests and vociferously defended by the scientists that work in the agriculture industry or at the research institutions it funds, you might be onto something.
The zeal with which GM proponents evangelize transgenic seeds (and now, transgenic food animals) is so extreme that they are even pouring vast sums of money to defeat popular efforts to simply label GE foods – like the nearly $50m spent to defeat the popular 2012 ballot measure to label GE foods in California, Proposition 37.
What’s more, it’s not just happening in the United States. I am the head of Food & Water Watch, and we have spent months looking at the extent to which the US State Department is working on behalf of the GM seed industry to make sure that biotech crops are served up abroad whether the world wants them or not.
Our report analyzes over 900 State Department diplomatic cables from 2005 to 2009 and reveals how far the US government will go to help serve the seed industry’s agenda abroad, knowing that resistance to GMOs worldwide is high.
Here are some of the tidbits gleaned from our comprehensive look at the cables:
• Between 2007 and 2009, annual cables were distributed to “encourage the use of agricultural biotechnology”, directing US embassies to “pursue an active biotech agenda”.
• There was a comprehensive communications campaign aimed to “promote understanding and acceptance of the technology” and “develop support for US government trade and development policy positions on biotech” in light of the worldwide backlash against GM crops.
• Where backlash was high, some embassies downplayed efforts. In Uruguay, the embassy has been “extremely cautious to keep [its] fingerprints off conferences” promoting biotechnology. In Peru and Romania, the US government helped create new pro-biotech nongovernmental organizations.
• The State Department urged embassies to generate positive media coverage about GE crops. Diplomatic posts also bypassed the media and took the message directly to the public; for example, the Hong Kong consulate sent DVDs of a pro-biotech presentation to every high school.
• The State Department worked to diminish trade barriers to the benefit of seed companies, and encouraged the embassies to “publicize the benefits of agbiotech as a development tool”.
Monsanto was a great beneficiary of the State Department’s taxpayer-funded diplomacy, helping pave the way for the cultivation of its seeds abroad: the company appeared in 6.1% of the biotech cables analyzed between 2005 and 2009 from 21 countries. The embassy in South Africa even informed Monsanto and Pioneer about two recently vacated positions in the agency that provided biotech oversight, suggesting that the companies advance “qualified applicants” to fill the position. Some embassies even attempted to facilitate favorable outcomes for intellectual property law and patent issues that would benefit the company….”