GM food tasting: Farmers or EuropaBio?
The Farmers Biotech Network GM Food tasting event,reported on by Corporate Europe Observatory recently, was not paid for by the farmers network, CEO has learned, but by EuropaBio.
This sponsorship was not made clear to the people attending the event, or the media. The press pack only mentioned that the FBN had ‘shared some travel and accommodation costs with industry’ – and did not mention the involvement of the biotech industry’s main lobby group. The ‘private’ event, starring genetically modified MON810 polenta and organised by lobbying company Edelman-TheCentre on behalf of the ‘Farmers Biotech Network’, was part of industry’s campaign to persuade MEPs to ‘give farmers more choice’ in growing GM crops.
David Hill, the chairmaan of the FBN (uniting a mere 18 farmers from different European countries) told CEO when asked that “No fees or salaries are paid to its members, who are all volunteers. For this event, they have shared some travel and accommodation costs with industry".
Hill added that “In the interest of balance we are sure you will agree that despite the fact that you were not invited to this private event, you were allowed to stay and you were allowed to speak to all those who participated.” But the representatives of CEO and Via Campesina who were present, had been told by The Centre that it was an open event.
Edelman-TheCentre’s involvement in the lobbying activities of the FBN goes back a long way. In November 2009, staff from The Centre (Nailia Dindarova and Guillermo Beltrà) were present at another FBN meeting in Brussels. During that time, the Farmers Biotech network “and a cluster of cross-party MEPs in Brussels” came out together saying that “national governments must help strengthen farmers' ability to meet current and future expectations of GM farm productivity amidst ’media driven’ consumer hostility and expanding imports”. (source: AgBiotech Reporter)
Both Dindarova and Beltrà have lobbyists’ access passes to the European Parliament, but Edelman-TheCentre is not in the EU Commission’s lobbying register. According to Edelman-TheCentre, “EuropaBio have been our client for some years now and we continue to provide them with ongoing consultancy support.”
In December 2009, the FBN released a statement which started: “We, farmers from all over Europe”, despite the very limited number of farmers that are actually member of the FBN. They called on ‘European leaders’ to “allow us to become more competitive and more sustainable.”
It seems that rather than representing a substantial number of farmers, the Farmers Biotech Network is paid and used by EuropaBio as ‘another’ pro-GM voice in their lobby efforts.