Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

PRRI: are these public researchers?

HOW PUBLIC ARE THE PUBLIC RESEARCH LOBBYISTS OF PRRI?
Corporate Europe Observatory

Briefing for COP/MOP, Bonn, 2008

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) biosafety negotiations have been the target ofbiotech industry lobbyists and pro-biotech governments from the outset. But some have taken a more subtle approach to their lobbying, hiding their agenda beneath a veneer of public interest. Scrape beneath the surface however and their links to the biotech industry become clear.

One such organisation is the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) which appeared on the scene after the first biosafety negotiations under the CBD. Apparently independent from industry,this group claims to represent the “public research sector” – but how public is public research when GM is involved? Corporate Europe Observatory exposes PRRI as a corporate driven pro-biotech lobby group on biosafety issues
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HOW PUBLIC ARE THE PUBLIC RESEARCH LOBBYISTS OF PRRI?
Corporate Europe Observatory
Briefing for COP/MOP, Bonn, 2008
The UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) biosafety negotiations have been the target of
biotech industry lobbyists and pro-biotech governments from the outset. But some have taken a more
subtle approach to their lobbying, hiding their agenda beneath a veneer of public interest. Scrape
beneath the surface however and their links to the biotech industry become clear.
One such organisation is the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) which appeared on the
scene after the first biosafety negotiations under the CBD. Apparently independent from industry,
this group claims to represent the “public research sector” – but how public is public research when
GM is involved?


PRRI pro-GM lobby group

The CBD is home to the Cartagena Protocol on
Biosafety, an international agreement designed to
protect biodiversity from risks posed by the
international trade in GMOs and testing and
growing them in the open. The Biosafety Protocol
follows the precautionary principle, claims equal
standing with the WTO, and establishes prior
informed consent of importing countries, i.e. the
right to say no to GMO imports.
This article exposes how PRRI and its members
have close ties to industry and promote a similar
agenda to industry, including promoting
Terminator technology and GE trees. PRRI claims
to represent ‘public researchers’ in modern
biotechnology, but the question is how much it
represents the public interest. Previously funded
by industry and industry-linked “NGOs”, it is now
the European Commission that is backing PRRI
lobbying efforts financially.
Established in 2004, PRRI’s stated aim is to
involve “the public research sector in regulations
relevant to the development and application of
biotechnology”. As such, PRRI claims to represent
“tens of thousands researchers in several
thousand research institutes in developing and
developed countries” – although its membership
appears to include just around 225 scientists.
PRRI’s aim in getting involved in the Convention
on Biological Diversity meetings is to: “inform the
negotiators about the objectives and progress of
public research in modern biotechnology, to bring
science to the negotiations, and to inform the
negotiators about concerns public researchers
may have.”
In 2006, at the third Meeting of the Parties to the
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (MOP 3), in
Curitiba (Brazil), PRRI brought more than 40
representatives, mostly picked from the
developing world promoting similar goals to those
of the industry. When parties meet for MOP4 and
COP9 in Bonn this month (12-30 May) PRRI
lobbing efforts will target any action taken by the
CBD against genetic technologies such as
“Terminator” seeds and genetically modified
trees. They will also be hoping to influence
negotiations on issues such as liability,
agricultural biodiversity and the consideration of
socio-economic concerns in biosafety policy.
Leading members of the PRRI team in Curitiba
included former Monsanto man, Gerard Barry,
and Piet van der Meer, who worked for
governments but has been strongly criticised for
his industry bias. Willy de Greef, a PRRI steering
committee member, was recently elected as the
new Secretary General of EuropaBio, the
European biotech industry association.1
PRRI make much of its status as a “public sector”
and “not-for-profit” stakeholder, but in reality,
most public-sector research into agricultural
1 www.europabio.org/articles/PR-SecGenDEGREEFFINAL150408.
pdf
1
biotechnology is heavily aligned with industry,
and there is a long history of collaboration with
agribusiness multinationals and significant
dependence on commercial funding.
PRRI’s aims are also to promote public research
into genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and,
in particular, to counter the “misconception” that
GM crops are “the exclusive domain of a handful
of big, western multinationals.” Yet, in the past
PRRI opposed to any changes in the rules which
would give the public greater rights. Indeed, it
opposed a proposed amendment to the Aarhus
Convention (the United Nations Treaty covering
Access to Information, Public Participation in
Decision-making and Access to Justice in
Environmental Matters ) which would extend the
rights of the public to participate in decisionmaking
on GMOs. These “public researchers”
while seeking a far bigger voice for themselves, do
not want the public to have a voice.2
Who funds PRRI?
According to its website, PRRI has received funding
from the US, Canadian, Spanish and Swiss
governments, industry (including CropLife International,
Monsanto and the US Grain Council)
and “non-governmental organisations” (NGOs).
These “NGOs” include the Rockefeller Foundation,
the International Service for the Acquisition
of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA), the Black
Sea Biotechnology Association (BSBA), the
Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre (DDPSC),
and the Syngenta Foundation. Many of these socalled
NGOs are closely linked to industry and in
some cases are organisations industry has set up.
The board of the Syngenta Foundation, for
example, includes Syngenta directors. The ISAAA
(International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-
Biotech Applications) was established to promote
biotech crops in developing countries and is itself
funded by a large number of corporations. The
Danforth Center, where PRRI held its formal
launch, was established by Monsanto “and academic
partners” with a $70-million pledge from the
company. Monsanto also donated the 40-acre
tract of land, valued at $11.4 million, on which the
Center is built.
2 GM Watch, 13 March 2006,
www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6336
The single biggest funder of PRRI is however the
European Commission. Under the Sixth
Framework Programme, Food quality and Safety,
the European Commission has provided
US$800,000 for a three-year PRRI project on
“Global involvement of public research scientists
in regulations of Biosafety and Agricultural
Biotechnology” known as Science4BioReg.
The PRRI Science4BioReg project aims to address
the “growing gap between public sector life
sciences in agricultural biotechnology on the one
hand and regulatory policies and public perceptions
on the other”. Also, it aims to involve public
researchers in discussions on international
agreements and regulations related to GMOs.
The Science4BioReg project includes setting up a
web-based database. Science4BioReg hopes that
the information they collate in their web-based
database could feed into the European
Commission’s SINAPSE e-Network (Scientific
INformAtion for Policy Support in Europe).
The project also seeks to influence international
and regional agreements, particularly the Cartagena
Protocol on Biosafety, EC Directives and
regulations and the Åarhus Convention. PRRI
plans to organise meetings with the EU
institutions and establish cooperation with the
Commission’s Bureau of European Policy
Advisers (BEPA), in particular with those dealing
with life sciences, biotechnology, and research
and development3. In other words, EU funding is
being given out to lobby for what are essentially
private, not public interests.
During MOP4 in Bonn, PRRI teams up with
“Biosafenet” for a side event on risk assessment
research. Biosafenet is also an EU-funded project,
aimed to promote European participation in
biosafety research initiatives conducted at an
international level. They exchange experts and
information and coordinate communications and
thus can be expected to share positions.4 For
example, PRRI’s Piet van der Meer also has a seat
on the Biosafenet advisory board.
PRRI’s activities are clearly allied with the private
sector, and many meetings are jointly organised.
3 http://pubresreg.org
4 www.anbio.org.br/upmr/Science4BioReg_DoW_2
0-10-06.pdf
2
The regional meetings for example held ahead of
the upcoming CBD meeting in Bonn were
organised in collaboration with AfricaBio, a South
Africa based biotech stakeholders organisation in
Africa, and with the European Federation of
Biotechnology (EFB) in Europe – a body which
brings together companies, biotech associations,
universities and research institutions.
PRRI members’ links with industry
A number of PRRI members have close links to
industry. As stated above, Dr. Gerard Barry, who
is now an employee of the International Rice Research
Institute, was formerly a research director
at Monsanto. PRRI chairman, Prof. Phil Dale,
works at the John Innes Centre, a research centre
which receives tens of millions of pounds in
funding from big biotech corporations. And PRRI
member Roger Beachy, is founding president of
the Danforth Center, set up and funded by
Monsanto, along with other biotech companies, as
well as former co-chair of the scientific advisory
board of the Akkadix Corporation, a global
agricultural biotechnology company.
Willy de Greef, until recently a PRRI member,
was former global head of regulatory affairs for
Syngenta until 2002, then becoming director of
his own private consultancy. De Greef left PRRI in
April 2008 to become the new Secretary General
of EuropaBio, the European biotech industry
lobby group, where he sees his challenge as “to
overcome society’s fear of change and convince
decision makers to welcome innovative
improvements”.
Syngenta, De Greef’s former employer, has been a
key player in the Global Industry Coalition which
has represented the biotechnology industry
during the Biosafety Protocol negotiations.
De Greef was involved in an early initiative to give
a voice to “public researchers” when the Global
Industry Coalition brought together a panel of
researchers in 1997 during the course of the
Biosafety Protocol negotiations. Although
unsuccessful, this appears to have provided a
model for PRRI – with the crucial difference that
the researchers are now presented as wholly
independent of industry.
Piet van der Meer, another key player in PRRI,
is married to a lobbyist for the Global Industry
Coalition (a lobby group of biotech and seed
corporations with a special focus on the Biosafety
Protocol), Laura Reifschneider. Piet van der Meer
was involved in negotiating the Biosafety Protocol,
ostensibly as a non-partisan expert, but
others found him far from impartial. Dr Tewolde
Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Chair of the Africa
Group at the Protocol negotiations, described him
as the most unfair of the chairs in the
negotiations. “Many of our delegates were,
understandably, not very fluent in English. He
used to make them sound as ridiculous as he
could by finding fault with how they said what
they said, instead of focusing on the content,” he
recalled. “Sometimes he championed ideas,
disregarding the fact that he was chairing.” 5
Piet van der Meer went on to be Programme
Manager at the United Nations Environmental
Program-GEF Projects on Implementation of
National Biosafety Frameworks where he was also
criticised for his industry bias. He eventually quit.
Dr Steven Strauss, co-chair of the PRRI working
group on genetically engineered (GE) trees, is
director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research
Cooperative (TBGRC – previously known
as TGERC) at Oregon State University and is a
well-known advocate of the commercial benefits
of genetically engineered trees.
Members of TGERC, who contribute to research
through financial and in-kind contributions, have
included Arborgen, the world’s biggest forest
biotechnology company – currently running field
trials with GM poplar, eucalyptus, pine, sweetgum
and cottonwood trees6; the paper and packaging
group Mondi and paper company Potlatch.
Recent work on GE trees has been funded by the
US Departments of Agriculture, Energy and
Agricultural Research Service (ARS), together
with Arborgen.
“That someone who has been funded by the likes
of Weyerhaeuser, Monsanto and International
Paper passes himself off as a publicly funded
researcher is an affront to real publicly funded
research.” Anne Petermann, Co-Director of
Global Justice Ecology Project.
5 GM Watch, 13 March 2006,
www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6336
6 www.wrm.org.uy/bulletin/82/trees.html
3
Other examples of PRRI members and industry
links
PRRI member Kelebohile Lekoape, was formerly
South African Assistant Director of Genetics at the
National Department of Agriculture and was
instrumental in drafting the South African GMO Act.
Lekoape was manager for Monsanto South Africa
regulatory affairs in 2001 and has represented the
biotechnology lobby group AfricaBio.7
Charles Mugoya was on the PRRI delegation in
Curitiba for MOP3 in 2006 and represented the
USAID-funded Association to Strengthen Agricultural
Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA),
which facilitates collaborative research. According to
the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), the
Association’s principal aim is to foster regional
acceptance of GM through weak biosafety regulations.
Dr. Florence Wambugu represents “A Harvest
Biotech Foundation International”, Kenya on PRRI
and is a well-known GM advocate who trained with
Monsanto. “A Harvest” is backed by
CropLife International. Dr Wambugu is also a DuPont
Biotech Advisory Panelist, was twice winner of
Monsanto’s Outstanding Performance Award and
became the first Director of the AfriCentre of the
International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech
Applications (ISAAA), based in Kenya.8
Prof. Jaroslav Drobnik, a PRRI member from the
Czech Republic is also well-known as an advocate of
genetic engineering in the Czech Republic, giving
lectures, writing articles and doing lobby work. He has
acted as a consultant to Monsanto. He is also involved
in the pro GE organisation, Biotrin – which
disseminates information about biotechnology.
PRRI member, Dr. Ervin Balazs, from the
Department of Applied Genomics Agricultural
Research Institute in Hungary, is one of the country’s
most outspoken GMO supporters. He joined the
Agricultural Research Institute following its
controversial deal with Monsanto to genetically modify
Hungarian bred corn varieties. The Institute had been
considered a flagship of traditional plant breeding in
Hungary, and the deal led to fears that Monsanto
would have access to Hungarian corn germplasm. Dr.
Balázs is also a key figure in the Zoltan Barabas
Biotechnology Association – an organisation
representing geneticists and industry in Hungary .
Prof. Elena Badea from the University of
Agricultural Sciences in Timisoara, Romania, is an
7 www.edmonds-institute.org/html/directory-61.html
8 www.mindfully.org/GE/2004/Florence-Wambugu-
Wambuzle12jan04.htm
advocate of GM in Romania and a member of PRRI.
While head of the Romanian Biosafety Commission,
she spoke out in favour of GM potatoes following a
Ministry of Environment decision to reject field trials.
She has been involved in a number of research
contracts between Monsanto and the University in
Timisoara.
PRRI member Prof. Atanas Atanassov from
Bulgaria is involved with the Institute for Genetic
Engineering, which undertakes projects for companies
including Monsanto and Pioneer. He is also Executive
Secretary of the Council for the Safe Use of Genetically
Engineered Higher Plants, where he plays a key role in
granting permits to companies, like Monsanto, to
release GMOs. According to ANPED, Prof. Atanassov
was also involved in preparing Bulgaria’s new draft
legislation on GMOs.9 The draft law has been criticised
for not following the precautionary principle, as
advocated in the Biosafety Protocol.
Various PRRI members, including Prof. Atanassov,
Yaroslav Blume, Elena Badea and Marc van Montagu10
are signatories to the “Yalta Declaration” – an
agreement made in 2006 supporting the use of GMOs,
investment in agricultural biotechnology and better
intellectual property protection. The declaration was
also signed by Monsanto, the European Federation of
Biotechnology and the ISAAA.
PRRI lobbying on liability, GURTS and
GM trees
Liability and redress
From the outset of the Biosafety Protocol and
much to the dislike of the biotech industry, a
working group was installed to establish rules on
liability and redress compensating for damage
done by GMO trade. At MOP4, the issue cannot
be postponed any more and parties are expected
to take action. NGOs demand that the “genetic
polluter pays”, and that in case of GM
contamination, both farmers, traders and
consumers would be compensated. This would
naturally pose a huge economic risk to the biotech
industry.11
9 “Bulgaria:The Corporate European Playground for
Genetically Engineered Food and Agriculture”, ANPED
and EcoSouthWest, 2000
10www.bsbanet.org/doc/kucha/yalta_declaration_2006.ph
p?ln=en
11www.greenpeace.org/international/press/releases/biotec
h-industry-impunity-fuel
4
PRRI claims that the biotech industry is a lowrisk
industry and argues against mandatory
insurance or funds based on the principle of the
polluter pays. It told a UN meeting in Colombia
this year that: “modern biotechnology is not an
activity with inherent risks, such as transport of
hazardous chemicals,” claiming that: “after over
ten years of growing GMOs commercially on
over hundred million hectares, and after tens of
thousands of field trials, there are no verifiable
reports of damage to biodiversity or human
health.”12
PRRI also argues that it is “essential” that modern
biotechnology is used to deal with challenges such
as population growth, environmental
degradation, climate change, and loss of natural
and arable land.
In fact, PRRI argues that: “A disproportionate
liability mechanism can seriously hamper
technology transfer and important public
research without adding anything to safety. This
would do much injustice to future generations,
especially in the poor developing countries that
are being marginalized in a highly globalised
world.” While some marginalized and
impoverished communities might be surprised to
find they had champions like PRRI, such
positions among biotech corporations are not
new.
GE trees and GURTS
Both GE trees and Terminator seeds (also called
Genetic Use Restriction Technologies, GURTS)
are key issues at COP9/MOP4. At its 2006
Conference of the Parties (COP-8), the CBD made
a decision recommending parties to take a
precautionary approach with regard to GE trees.
Also, COP 8 upheld the COP-5 moratorium on the
release and use of Terminator technology from
2000 – a genetic modification that disrupts
germination of farm-saved seeds and prevents
seed saving making farmers dependent on seed
corporations.
PRRI is an eloquent advocate of the benefits of
public research into genetically engineered trees
12 http://pubresreg.org/index.php?
option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=28&Itemid
=39
noting that it can “often addresses crop species
whose value, scale, or production cycle does not
meet the financial objectives of corporations.” It
adds that: “research that does not guarantee
near term financial benefits; can span long time
scales that go beyond normal financial and
product cycles…”13
It also argues that public research engenders
more “transparency”, “so that biosafety and
value elements can be fully scrutinized and thus
trusted”.
Public funding for high risk, high cost research is
also of course extremely beneficial for the biotech
companies, who gain essential research and
credibility, paid for with public money. This
diversion of public funds into research that serves
private interests is an increasingly common
problem.
PRRI is opposed to a ban on GURTs (Terminator
Technology) instead saying that it should be
considered on a case by case basis. Indeed it
argues that it may bring potential benefits such
as: “improving food and feed production, health
care for all people and environmental
protection”. At the COP-8 meeting in Curitiba, the
PRRI-statements on GE trees and GURTs were
always in line with and supportive of the
respective statements of the USA and the agrobiotech
industry.
PRRI’s backing for GURTS, echoes the argument
put forward by the industry that terminator
technology is not aiming to stop farmers from reusing
seeds, but is a way of promoting coexistence
and avoid cross-pollination with non-
GM crops.According to PRRI, GURTS are
important to allow the co-existence of plants
engineered for “specific uses, such as for food,
industrial rapeseed, biofuels and even plantmade
vaccines”. PRRI argues that field trials of
terminator seeds should not be ruled out under
the Convention on Biodiversity decision (V/5
section III) which they say should be seen as
requiring regulation under national laws.
13PRRI’s publicity for its side event at SBSTTA, Rome,
February 2008
5
CBD Decision V/5 section III:
“Recommends that, in the current absence of reliable
data on genetic use restriction technologies, without
which there is an inadequate basis on which to assess
their potential risks, and in accordance with the
precautionary approach, products incorporating
such technologies should not be approved by Parties
for field testing until appropriate scientific data can
justify such testing, and for commercial use until
appropriate, authorized and strictly controlled
scientific assessments with regard to, inter alia, their
ecological and socio-economic impacts and any
adverse effects for biological diversity, food security
and human health have been carried out in a
transparent manner and the conditions for their safe
and beneficial use validated. In order to enhance the
capacity of all countries to address these issues,
Parties should widely disseminate information on
scientific assessments, including through the clearinghouse
mechanism, and share their expertise in this
regard”14
Following the European Parliament’s April 2008
vote supporting a precautionary approach to the
use of GURTS and a moratorium on genetically
engineered trees at the CBD, PRRI chairman
Marc van Montagu wrote to the EP expressing his
concern. He told MEPs that by referring to the
precautionary approach, they had given: “the
wrong impression [that] there are inherent
threats of serious or irreversible damage
connected to the use of these technologies. Such a
view has no scientific basis.”
“GURTs can complement isolation, male
sterility, crop rotation, etc., to allow co-existence
of diverse crops and traits.”, Van Montagu states.
The final EP resolution however remained
unchanged.15
Excerpt EP resolution:
− “whereas the last CBD COP reaffirms the
application of the precautionary approach to the use
of Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURTs) and
recommends that field trials and commercial use
should not be approved”
− “ensure that COP 9 adopts a final decision to ban all
terminator technologies (GURTS), and agree a
moratorium on the environmental release, including
field trials, and commercial use of genetically
modified trees”
14www.banterminator.org/Glossary/Moratorium
15www.europarl.europa.eu
Proving the benefits of GM?
PRRI has put a lot of effort into making the case
for GM crops, also at other international fora.
PRRI was well represented in the “International
Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science
and Technology for Development” (IAASTD), an
intergovernmental process to evaluate
agricultural knowledge, science, and technology.
In March 2008, PRRI wrote an open letter to the
organisations and governments involved in the
production of the International Assessment of
Agricultural Science and Technology for
Development (IAASTD) expressing its concern
about the final draft chapter on genetic
engineering. In it they advocate: “Any solution
that can be put into the crop seed; higher
productivity, enhanced nutrition, disease and
insect resistance, resistances to inexpensive
herbicides, drought tolerance, increased
fertilizer use efficiency, etc., lessens costs of
inputs as well as decreases environmental
impact and provides the consumer with a better
product at lower cost.” Engineering the seed is
the way to deal with agricultural issues, rather
than addressing the whole system. PRRI
proposed that the whole chapter be re-written.
With some background knowledge of the IAASTD
process, this letter is much more than a simple
complaint of frustrated GE crop lobbyists. It is the
recognition that PRRI was not able to present GE
crops in a positive light during the IAASTD
process. PRRI was certainly one of the bestrepresented
organisations in the assessment.
Three of its former or current members were
named as authors for the various IAASTD
documents: Joel Cohen, Theresa Sengooba and
Idah Sithole-Niang.
In addition to this strong representation of GE
crop promotors, the biotech industry was given
ample opportunity to influence the report by
submitting their information and documents.
However, after scrutinizing the additional
evidence presented by both PRRI and the biotech
industry on GE crop benefits and their future
potential, the other IAASTD scientists and experts
were apparently not convinced that this evidence
met the quality standards to be included, as it was
more about interpretation of the available data,
rather than overlooked information.
6
Conclusion
PRRI and its members have many links with
industry and a strong agenda to promote genetic
engineering as safe and acceptable, including
promoting Terminator technology and GE trees.
PRRI claims to represent ‘public researchers’ in
modern biotechnology, but the question is how
much it represents the public interest. MOP
delegations should be aware of this when being
lobbied by PRRI representatives. The European
Commission should be asked why it grants public
funds to an organisation with close ties to
commercial interests in biotechnology, to lobby
biosafety negotiations.
7

Resources: 
HOW PUBLIC ARE THE PUBLIC RESEARCH LOBBYISTS OF PRRI? Corporate Europe Observatory Briefing for COP/MOP, Bonn, 2008 The UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) biosafety negotiations have been the target of biotech industry lobbyists and pro-biotech governments from the outset. But some have taken a more subtle approach to their lobbying, hiding their agenda beneath a veneer of public interest. Scrape beneath the surface however and their links to the biotech industry become clear. One such organisation is the Public Research and Regulation Initiative (PRRI) which appeared on the scene after the first biosafety negotiations under the CBD. Apparently independent from industry, this group claims to represent the “public research sector” – but how public is public research when GM is involved? PRRI pro-GM lobby group The CBD is home to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, an international agreement designed to protect biodiversity from risks posed by the international trade in GMOs and testing and growing them in the open. The Biosafety Protocol follows the precautionary principle, claims equal standing with the WTO, and establishes prior informed consent of importing countries, i.e. the right to say no to GMO imports. This article exposes how PRRI and its members have close ties to industry and promote a similar agenda to industry, including promoting Terminator technology and GE trees. PRRI claims to represent ‘public researchers’ in modern biotechnology, but the question is how much it represents the public interest. Previously funded by industry and industry-linked “NGOs”, it is now the European Commission that is backing PRRI lobbying efforts financially. Established in 2004, PRRI’s stated aim is to involve “the public research sector in regulations relevant to the development and application of biotechnology”. As such, PRRI claims to represent “tens of thousands researchers in several thousand research institutes in developing and developed countries” – although its membership appears to include just around 225 scientists. PRRI’s aim in getting involved in the Convention on Biological Diversity meetings is to: “inform the negotiators about the objectives and progress of public research in modern biotechnology, to bring science to the negotiations, and to inform the negotiators about concerns public researchers may have.” In 2006, at the third Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (MOP 3), in Curitiba (Brazil), PRRI brought more than 40 representatives, mostly picked from the developing world promoting similar goals to those of the industry. When parties meet for MOP4 and COP9 in Bonn this month (12-30 May) PRRI lobbing efforts will target any action taken by the CBD against genetic technologies such as “Terminator” seeds and genetically modified trees. They will also be hoping to influence negotiations on issues such as liability, agricultural biodiversity and the consideration of socio-economic concerns in biosafety policy. Leading members of the PRRI team in Curitiba included former Monsanto man, Gerard Barry, and Piet van der Meer, who worked for governments but has been strongly criticised for his industry bias. Willy de Greef, a PRRI steering committee member, was recently elected as the new Secretary General of EuropaBio, the European biotech industry association.1 PRRI make much of its status as a “public sector” and “not-for-profit” stakeholder, but in reality, most public-sector research into agricultural 1 www.europabio.org/articles/PR-SecGenDEGREEFFINAL150408. pdf 1 biotechnology is heavily aligned with industry, and there is a long history of collaboration with agribusiness multinationals and significant dependence on commercial funding. PRRI’s aims are also to promote public research into genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and, in particular, to counter the “misconception” that GM crops are “the exclusive domain of a handful of big, western multinationals.” Yet, in the past PRRI opposed to any changes in the rules which would give the public greater rights. Indeed, it opposed a proposed amendment to the Aarhus Convention (the United Nations Treaty covering Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters ) which would extend the rights of the public to participate in decisionmaking on GMOs. These “public researchers” while seeking a far bigger voice for themselves, do not want the public to have a voice.2 Who funds PRRI? According to its website, PRRI has received funding from the US, Canadian, Spanish and Swiss governments, industry (including CropLife International, Monsanto and the US Grain Council) and “non-governmental organisations” (NGOs). These “NGOs” include the Rockefeller Foundation, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA), the Black Sea Biotechnology Association (BSBA), the Donald Danforth Plant Science Centre (DDPSC), and the Syngenta Foundation. Many of these socalled NGOs are closely linked to industry and in some cases are organisations industry has set up. The board of the Syngenta Foundation, for example, includes Syngenta directors. The ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri- Biotech Applications) was established to promote biotech crops in developing countries and is itself funded by a large number of corporations. The Danforth Center, where PRRI held its formal launch, was established by Monsanto “and academic partners” with a $70-million pledge from the company. Monsanto also donated the 40-acre tract of land, valued at $11.4 million, on which the Center is built. 2 GM Watch, 13 March 2006,www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6336 The single biggest funder of PRRI is however the European Commission. Under the Sixth Framework Programme, Food quality and Safety, the European Commission has provided US$800,000 for a three-year PRRI project on “Global involvement of public research scientists in regulations of Biosafety and Agricultural Biotechnology” known as Science4BioReg. The PRRI Science4BioReg project aims to address the “growing gap between public sector life sciences in agricultural biotechnology on the one hand and regulatory policies and public perceptions on the other”. Also, it aims to involve public researchers in discussions on international agreements and regulations related to GMOs. The Science4BioReg project includes setting up a web-based database. Science4BioReg hopes that the information they collate in their web-based database could feed into the European Commission’s SINAPSE e-Network (Scientific INformAtion for Policy Support in Europe). The project also seeks to influence international and regional agreements, particularly the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, EC Directives and regulations and the Åarhus Convention. PRRI plans to organise meetings with the EU institutions and establish cooperation with the Commission’s Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA), in particular with those dealing with life sciences, biotechnology, and research and development3. In other words, EU funding is being given out to lobby for what are essentially private, not public interests. During MOP4 in Bonn, PRRI teams up with “Biosafenet” for a side event on risk assessment research. Biosafenet is also an EU-funded project, aimed to promote European participation in biosafety research initiatives conducted at an international level. They exchange experts and information and coordinate communications and thus can be expected to share positions.4 For example, PRRI’s Piet van der Meer also has a seat on the Biosafenet advisory board. PRRI’s activities are clearly allied with the private sector, and many meetings are jointly organised. 3 http://pubresreg.org 4 www.anbio.org.br/upmr/Science4BioReg_DoW_2 0-10-06.pdf 2 The regional meetings for example held ahead of the upcoming CBD meeting in Bonn were organised in collaboration with AfricaBio, a South Africa based biotech stakeholders organisation in Africa, and with the European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) in Europe – a body which brings together companies, biotech associations, universities and research institutions. PRRI members’ links with industry A number of PRRI members have close links to industry. As stated above, Dr. Gerard Barry, who is now an employee of the International Rice Research Institute, was formerly a research director at Monsanto. PRRI chairman, Prof. Phil Dale, works at the John Innes Centre, a research centre which receives tens of millions of pounds in funding from big biotech corporations. And PRRI member Roger Beachy, is founding president of the Danforth Center, set up and funded by Monsanto, along with other biotech companies, as well as former co-chair of the scientific advisory board of the Akkadix Corporation, a global agricultural biotechnology company. Willy de Greef, until recently a PRRI member, was former global head of regulatory affairs for Syngenta until 2002, then becoming director of his own private consultancy. De Greef left PRRI in April 2008 to become the new Secretary General of EuropaBio, the European biotech industry lobby group, where he sees his challenge as “to overcome society’s fear of change and convince decision makers to welcome innovative improvements”. Syngenta, De Greef’s former employer, has been a key player in the Global Industry Coalition which has represented the biotechnology industry during the Biosafety Protocol negotiations. De Greef was involved in an early initiative to give a voice to “public researchers” when the Global Industry Coalition brought together a panel of researchers in 1997 during the course of the Biosafety Protocol negotiations. Although unsuccessful, this appears to have provided a model for PRRI – with the crucial difference that the researchers are now presented as wholly independent of industry. Piet van der Meer, another key player in PRRI, is married to a lobbyist for the Global Industry Coalition (a lobby group of biotech and seed corporations with a special focus on the Biosafety Protocol), Laura Reifschneider. Piet van der Meer was involved in negotiating the Biosafety Protocol, ostensibly as a non-partisan expert, but others found him far from impartial. Dr Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, Chair of the Africa Group at the Protocol negotiations, described him as the most unfair of the chairs in the negotiations. “Many of our delegates were, understandably, not very fluent in English. He used to make them sound as ridiculous as he could by finding fault with how they said what they said, instead of focusing on the content,” he recalled. “Sometimes he championed ideas, disregarding the fact that he was chairing.” 5 Piet van der Meer went on to be Programme Manager at the United Nations Environmental Program-GEF Projects on Implementation of National Biosafety Frameworks where he was also criticised for his industry bias. He eventually quit. Dr Steven Strauss, co-chair of the PRRI working group on genetically engineered (GE) trees, is director of the Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative (TBGRC – previously known as TGERC) at Oregon State University and is a well-known advocate of the commercial benefits of genetically engineered trees. Members of TGERC, who contribute to research through financial and in-kind contributions, have included Arborgen, the world’s biggest forest biotechnology company – currently running field trials with GM poplar, eucalyptus, pine, sweetgum and cottonwood trees6; the paper and packaging group Mondi and paper company Potlatch. Recent work on GE trees has been funded by the US Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Agricultural Research Service (ARS), together with Arborgen. “That someone who has been funded by the likes of Weyerhaeuser, Monsanto and International Paper passes himself off as a publicly funded researcher is an affront to real publicly funded research.” Anne Petermann, Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project. 5 GM Watch, 13 March 2006,www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6336 6 www.wrm.org.uy/bulletin/82/trees.html 3 Other examples of PRRI members and industry links PRRI member Kelebohile Lekoape, was formerly South African Assistant Director of Genetics at the National Department of Agriculture and was instrumental in drafting the South African GMO Act. Lekoape was manager for Monsanto South Africa regulatory affairs in 2001 and has represented the biotechnology lobby group AfricaBio.7 Charles Mugoya was on the PRRI delegation in Curitiba for MOP3 in 2006 and represented the USAID-funded Association to Strengthen Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), which facilitates collaborative research. According to the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), the Association’s principal aim is to foster regional acceptance of GM through weak biosafety regulations. Dr. Florence Wambugu represents “A Harvest Biotech Foundation International”, Kenya on PRRI and is a well-known GM advocate who trained with Monsanto. “A Harvest” is backed by CropLife International. Dr Wambugu is also a DuPont Biotech Advisory Panelist, was twice winner of Monsanto’s Outstanding Performance Award and became the first Director of the AfriCentre of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications (ISAAA), based in Kenya.8 Prof. Jaroslav Drobnik, a PRRI member from the Czech Republic is also well-known as an advocate of genetic engineering in the Czech Republic, giving lectures, writing articles and doing lobby work. He has acted as a consultant to Monsanto. He is also involved in the pro GE organisation, Biotrin – which disseminates information about biotechnology. PRRI member, Dr. Ervin Balazs, from the Department of Applied Genomics Agricultural Research Institute in Hungary, is one of the country’s most outspoken GMO supporters. He joined the Agricultural Research Institute following its controversial deal with Monsanto to genetically modify Hungarian bred corn varieties. The Institute had been considered a flagship of traditional plant breeding in Hungary, and the deal led to fears that Monsanto would have access to Hungarian corn germplasm. Dr. Balázs is also a key figure in the Zoltan Barabas Biotechnology Association – an organisation representing geneticists and industry in Hungary . Prof. Elena Badea from the University of Agricultural Sciences in Timisoara, Romania, is an 7 www.edmonds-institute.org/html/directory-61.html 8 www.mindfully.org/GE/2004/Florence-Wambugu- Wambuzle12jan04.htm advocate of GM in Romania and a member of PRRI. While head of the Romanian Biosafety Commission, she spoke out in favour of GM potatoes following a Ministry of Environment decision to reject field trials. She has been involved in a number of research contracts between Monsanto and the University in Timisoara. PRRI member Prof. Atanas Atanassov from Bulgaria is involved with the Institute for Genetic Engineering, which undertakes projects for companies including Monsanto and Pioneer. He is also Executive Secretary of the Council for the Safe Use of Genetically Engineered Higher Plants, where he plays a key role in granting permits to companies, like Monsanto, to release GMOs. According to ANPED, Prof. Atanassov was also involved in preparing Bulgaria’s new draft legislation on GMOs.9 The draft law has been criticised for not following the precautionary principle, as advocated in the Biosafety Protocol. Various PRRI members, including Prof. Atanassov, Yaroslav Blume, Elena Badea and Marc van Montagu10 are signatories to the “Yalta Declaration” – an agreement made in 2006 supporting the use of GMOs, investment in agricultural biotechnology and better intellectual property protection. The declaration was also signed by Monsanto, the European Federation of Biotechnology and the ISAAA. PRRI lobbying on liability, GURTS and GM trees Liability and redress From the outset of the Biosafety Protocol and much to the dislike of the biotech industry, a working group was installed to establish rules on liability and redress compensating for damage done by GMO trade. At MOP4, the issue cannot be postponed any more and parties are expected to take action. NGOs demand that the “genetic polluter pays”, and that in case of GM contamination, both farmers, traders and consumers would be compensated. This would naturally pose a huge economic risk to the biotech industry.11 9 “Bulgaria:The Corporate European Playground for Genetically Engineered Food and Agriculture”, ANPED and EcoSouthWest, 2000 10www.bsbanet.org/doc/kucha/yalta_declaration_2006.ph p?ln=en 11www.greenpeace.org/international/press/releases/biotec h-industry-impunity-fuel 4 PRRI claims that the biotech industry is a lowrisk industry and argues against mandatory insurance or funds based on the principle of the polluter pays. It told a UN meeting in Colombia this year that: “modern biotechnology is not an activity with inherent risks, such as transport of hazardous chemicals,” claiming that: “after over ten years of growing GMOs commercially on over hundred million hectares, and after tens of thousands of field trials, there are no verifiable reports of damage to biodiversity or human health.”12 PRRI also argues that it is “essential” that modern biotechnology is used to deal with challenges such as population growth, environmental degradation, climate change, and loss of natural and arable land. In fact, PRRI argues that: “A disproportionate liability mechanism can seriously hamper technology transfer and important public research without adding anything to safety. This would do much injustice to future generations, especially in the poor developing countries that are being marginalized in a highly globalised world.” While some marginalized and impoverished communities might be surprised to find they had champions like PRRI, such positions among biotech corporations are not new. GE trees and GURTS Both GE trees and Terminator seeds (also called Genetic Use Restriction Technologies, GURTS) are key issues at COP9/MOP4. At its 2006 Conference of the Parties (COP-8), the CBD made a decision recommending parties to take a precautionary approach with regard to GE trees. Also, COP 8 upheld the COP-5 moratorium on the release and use of Terminator technology from 2000 – a genetic modification that disrupts germination of farm-saved seeds and prevents seed saving making farmers dependent on seed corporations. PRRI is an eloquent advocate of the benefits of public research into genetically engineered trees 12 http://pubresreg.org/index.php? option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=28&Itemid =39 noting that it can “often addresses crop species whose value, scale, or production cycle does not meet the financial objectives of corporations.” It adds that: “research that does not guarantee near term financial benefits; can span long time scales that go beyond normal financial and product cycles…”13 It also argues that public research engenders more “transparency”, “so that biosafety and value elements can be fully scrutinized and thus trusted”. Public funding for high risk, high cost research is also of course extremely beneficial for the biotech companies, who gain essential research and credibility, paid for with public money. This diversion of public funds into research that serves private interests is an increasingly common problem. PRRI is opposed to a ban on GURTs (Terminator Technology) instead saying that it should be considered on a case by case basis. Indeed it argues that it may bring potential benefits such as: “improving food and feed production, health care for all people and environmental protection”. At the COP-8 meeting in Curitiba, the PRRI-statements on GE trees and GURTs were always in line with and supportive of the respective statements of the USA and the agrobiotech industry. PRRI’s backing for GURTS, echoes the argument put forward by the industry that terminator technology is not aiming to stop farmers from reusing seeds, but is a way of promoting coexistence and avoid cross-pollination with non- GM crops.According to PRRI, GURTS are important to allow the co-existence of plants engineered for “specific uses, such as for food, industrial rapeseed, biofuels and even plantmade vaccines”. PRRI argues that field trials of terminator seeds should not be ruled out under the Convention on Biodiversity decision (V/5 section III) which they say should be seen as requiring regulation under national laws. 13PRRI’s publicity for its side event at SBSTTA, Rome, February 2008 5 CBD Decision V/5 section III: “Recommends that, in the current absence of reliable data on genetic use restriction technologies, without which there is an inadequate basis on which to assess their potential risks, and in accordance with the precautionary approach, products incorporating such technologies should not be approved by Parties for field testing until appropriate scientific data can justify such testing, and for commercial use until appropriate, authorized and strictly controlled scientific assessments with regard to, inter alia, their ecological and socio-economic impacts and any adverse effects for biological diversity, food security and human health have been carried out in a transparent manner and the conditions for their safe and beneficial use validated. In order to enhance the capacity of all countries to address these issues, Parties should widely disseminate information on scientific assessments, including through the clearinghouse mechanism, and share their expertise in this regard”14 Following the European Parliament’s April 2008 vote supporting a precautionary approach to the use of GURTS and a moratorium on genetically engineered trees at the CBD, PRRI chairman Marc van Montagu wrote to the EP expressing his concern. He told MEPs that by referring to the precautionary approach, they had given: “the wrong impression [that] there are inherent threats of serious or irreversible damage connected to the use of these technologies. Such a view has no scientific basis.” “GURTs can complement isolation, male sterility, crop rotation, etc., to allow co-existence of diverse crops and traits.”, Van Montagu states. The final EP resolution however remained unchanged.15 Excerpt EP resolution: − “whereas the last CBD COP reaffirms the application of the precautionary approach to the use of Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURTs) and recommends that field trials and commercial use should not be approved” − “ensure that COP 9 adopts a final decision to ban all terminator technologies (GURTS), and agree a moratorium on the environmental release, including field trials, and commercial use of genetically modified trees” 14www.banterminator.org/Glossary/Moratorium 15www.europarl.europa.eu Proving the benefits of GM? PRRI has put a lot of effort into making the case for GM crops, also at other international fora. PRRI was well represented in the “International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development” (IAASTD), an intergovernmental process to evaluate agricultural knowledge, science, and technology. In March 2008, PRRI wrote an open letter to the organisations and governments involved in the production of the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) expressing its concern about the final draft chapter on genetic engineering. In it they advocate: “Any solution that can be put into the crop seed; higher productivity, enhanced nutrition, disease and insect resistance, resistances to inexpensive herbicides, drought tolerance, increased fertilizer use efficiency, etc., lessens costs of inputs as well as decreases environmental impact and provides the consumer with a better product at lower cost.” Engineering the seed is the way to deal with agricultural issues, rather than addressing the whole system. PRRI proposed that the whole chapter be re-written. With some background knowledge of the IAASTD process, this letter is much more than a simple complaint of frustrated GE crop lobbyists. It is the recognition that PRRI was not able to present GE crops in a positive light during the IAASTD process. PRRI was certainly one of the bestrepresented organisations in the assessment. Three of its former or current members were named as authors for the various IAASTD documents: Joel Cohen, Theresa Sengooba and Idah Sithole-Niang. In addition to this strong representation of GE crop promotors, the biotech industry was given ample opportunity to influence the report by submitting their information and documents. However, after scrutinizing the additional evidence presented by both PRRI and the biotech industry on GE crop benefits and their future potential, the other IAASTD scientists and experts were apparently not convinced that this evidence met the quality standards to be included, as it was more about interpretation of the available data, rather than overlooked information. 6 Conclusion PRRI and its members have many links with industry and a strong agenda to promote genetic engineering as safe and acceptable, including promoting Terminator technology and GE trees. PRRI claims to represent ‘public researchers’ in modern biotechnology, but the question is how much it represents the public interest. MOP delegations should be aware of this when being lobbied by PRRI representatives. The European Commission should be asked why it grants public funds to an organisation with close ties to commercial interests in biotechnology, to lobby biosafety negotiations. 7
 

Will EFSA become more transparent, and to lobbyists or scientists? After its public consultation on its draft transparency policy, the Authority must now choose.
This must-watch film is now online. The film shows how corporations and actors within the Commission are teaming up to demolish a major piece of public health legislation.
Campaign groups today called on members of the European Parliament to back citizens' demands for improved rules to prohibit the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops. A letter signed by five environment, consumers and farmers groups was sent to all members of the parliament's environment committee, which will debate this controversial issue later in the week.
A few observations on the debate sparked by our open letter on the position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission, and on the need for proper scientific advice to EU legislators.
A crusade for big business-friendly deregulation, waged during José Manuel Barroso's Presidency of the European Commission, shows no signs of stopping. This neoliberal push to weaken or block new legislation appears likely to expand with Jean-Claude Juncker's new Commission team.
Our correspondence with Pr. Anne Glover, the current Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission (CSA), on her role in the European Commission's review of endocrine disrupting chemicals shows how the very existence of her position was used by business-friendly interests to convey key messages to the top of the European Commission's hierarchy, playing a determining role in the massive delay now inflicted to the European Commission's handling of this important public health regulation. We ask that the CSA position is not renewed in the new Juncker Commission.
Will EFSA become more transparent, and to lobbyists or scientists? After its public consultation on its draft transparency policy, the Authority must now choose.
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) today criticised the plenary vote of MEPs to approve the Jean-Claude Juncker Commission.

Corporate Europe Forum