Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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A 'tasty' GM food event in Brussels?

A peculiar pro-biotech event took place in Brussels. A 'farmers network' gave Brussels the chance to sample some  genetically modified (GM) cuisine at an event in the upmarket Renaissance Hotel on 28 June, just across the road from the European Parliament. Lucky Brussels?

[Update: later it became known that this event was sponsored by EuropaBio. See following blog:
http://www.corporateeurope.org/agribusiness/blog/nina/2010/07/13/gm-food...)

Lobbyists mingle

On the menu there was GM polenta, produced in Spain from Monsanto's Bt-maize (also called MON810), along with a variety of meats and sausages, undoubtedly made from animals fed with RoundupReady soy.

The event was organised on behalf of the Farmers Biotech Network by The Centre (formerly dubbed 'Brussels first Think-Do Tank' - "pioneering new forms of dialogue" -, now merged  with Edelman public affairs  and called 'Edelman The Centre') The Farmers Biotech Network claims to "unite farmers from all over Europe who want to grow GM crops" and it  argues that European farmers' access to this “innovative technology” is being hindered by "an extremely restrictive GM policy, which is currently adopted in the EU for political reasons".

According to one member, this network was formed in the UK by farmers who had previously participated in field trials, and who had  stayed in touch. However, on the FBN website it looks as if the network only has in fact 18  farmers, with three each in the UK, Romania and Germany, two in Spain, Portugal and France, and one in Denmark, Hungary and Bulgaria. It is not clear  how these farmers were brought together.

Only one of the three supporting MEPs, German Liberal Britta Reimers, turned up to the GM feast. She echoed the animal feed industry's complaint that the EU’s zero-tolerance policy on the presence of non-authorised GMOs in food and feed was detrimental to the sector's competitiveness "in this time of financial crisis". A proposal on this issue is expected by the end of this year, but Reimers said it should come earlier: "We can't close our gates". Bob Fiddaman, one of the farmers present, invited Reimers and the other guests to enjoy a meal that "increases consumer choice". He said that GM crops offered solutions for food security and climate change.

According to the information distributed during the event, the FBN does not pay salaries or fees to its members, "who are all volunteers", but who. "For this event, they have shared some travel and accommodation costs with industry". And, presumably, the considerable amount needed to hire a Brussels lobby consultancy to organise the event on a prime location.. CEO has asked The Centre who paid for the event, and we are waiting for an answer to be provided by Mr David Hill, Chairman of the FBN.

The biotech lobby is clearly looking for 'other voices', more civil-looking than the industry, to bring its pro-GM message to Brussels. A similar event was held in the European Parliament earlier this year by PRRI, a group of individual 'public researchers' who nevertheless have many ties to industry, including Monsanto funding.

At this event, Via Campesina (a network uniting millions of family farmers across the world) distributed information on the impacts of GM maize contamination on organic maize producers in Spain. Perhaps the farmers would like to explain how this benefits 'consumer choice'?

On the menu there was GM polenta, produced in Spain from Monsanto's Bt-maize (also called MON810), along with a variety of meats and sausages, undoubtedly made from animals fed with RoundupReady soy. The event was organised on behalf of the Farmers Biotech Network by The Centre (formerly dubbed 'Brussels first Think-Do Tank' - "pioneering new forms of dialogue" -, now merged  with Edelman public affairs  and called 'Edelman The Centre') The Farmers Biotech Network claims to "unite farmers from all over Europe who want to grow GM crops" and it  argues that European farmers' access to this “innovative technology” is being hindered by "an extremely restrictive GM policy, which is currently adopted in the EU for political reasons". According to one member, this network was formed in the UK by farmers who had previously participated in field trials, and who had  stayed in touch. However, on the FBN website it looks as if the network only has in fact 18  farmers, with three each in the UK, Romania and Germany, two in Spain, Portugal and France, and one in Denmark, Hungary and Bulgaria. It is not clear  how these farmers were brought together. Only one of the three supporting MEPs, German Liberal Britta Reimers, turned up to the GM feast. She echoed the animal feed industry's complaint that the EU’s zero-tolerance policy on the presence of non-authorised GMOs in food and feed was detrimental to the sector's competitiveness "in this time of financial crisis". A proposal on this issue is expected by the end of this year, but Reimers said it should come earlier: "We can't close our gates". Bob Fiddaman, one of the farmers present, invited Reimers and the other guests to enjoy a meal that "increases consumer choice". He said that GM crops offered solutions for food security and climate change. According to the information distributed during the event, the FBN does not pay salaries or fees to its members, "who are all volunteers", but who. "For this event, they have shared some travel and accommodation costs with industry". And, presumably, the considerable amount needed to hire a Brussels lobby consultancy to organise the event on a prime location.. CEO has asked The Centre who paid for the event, and we are waiting for an answer to be provided by Mr David Hill, Chairman of the FBN.The biotech lobby is clearly looking for 'other voices', more civil-looking than the industry, to bring its pro-GM message to Brussels. A similar event was held in the European Parliament earlier this year by PRRI, a group of individual 'public researchers' who nevertheless have many ties to industry, including Monsanto funding.At this event, Via Campesina (a network uniting millions of family farmers across the world) distributed information on the impacts of GM maize contamination on organic maize producers in Spain. Perhaps the farmers would like to explain how this benefits 'consumer choice'?
 

This week's European Commission decision to extend Glyphosate's market authorisation points to many broader problems - here is a CEO overview of the issues at large.

The official EU assessment of glyphosate was based on unpublished studies owned by industry. Seven months later, the pesticide industry still fights disclosure and, so far, successfully. We obtained a copy of their arguments.

In recent times we have seen various examples of green activists “coming out” as GMO-proponents, arguing that GMOs are safe and have multiple benefits: reduced pesticide use, higher income for farmers, contributing to food security, reduced greenhouse gas emissions... As an essential part of their discourse, organisations that continue to reject GMO technology are depicted as old-fashioned and as acting in contradiction to their own aims.

Mark Lynas is a well known example of this in the UK, with an (in)famous public apology for his past role in the anti-GM movement that drew a lot of media attention. Lynas' move has been copied by others, like blogger Stijn Bruers in Belgium. This framing of the GMO debate has proven quite attractive to the media, even though it is not always clear why specifically these people are seen to have the credentials to merit this attention.

There are many fundamental flaws in the argumentation they are putting forward. Claire Robinson of GMWatch, at the request of Corporate Europe Observatory, has written a rebuttal of many of the claims made by these newly converted GMO proponents. For practical reasons, this rebuttal follows the argumentation and claims made in an article by Bruers on his blog about GMOs .

On 15 June 2016, the Commission will finally announce the long-awaited scientific criteria for EDCs. Time to do a recap of this last season’s main episodes.

A few weeks after the May coup against Dilma Rousseff by conservative parties backed by the country's largest corporations, Brazil's “interim” government, led by Michel Temer, signed an emergency loan to the State of Rio de Janeiro to help finance infrastructure for the 2016 Olympics. The bailout was conditional to selling off the State's public water supply and sanitation company, the Companhia Estadual de Águas e Esgotos (Cedae). 

When we interviewed City Councillor and chair of Rio’s Special Committee on the Water Crisis Renato Cinco, in December 2015, he was already warning against such privatisation threats and provided important background information on the water situation in Rio.

José Manuel Barroso's move to Goldman Sachs has catapulted the EU’s revolving door problem onto the political agenda. It is symbolic of the excessive corporate influence at the highest levels of the EU.

Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth and LobbyControl today wrote to Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, calling on him to investigate Angelika Nieber MEP over a possible conflict of interest.

CEO presents some first reflections on the UK's vote for Brexit.

 
 
 
 
 
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The corporate lobby tour