by Jonathan Latham, PhD
Greenpeace was denied entrance yesterday (June 30) to a National Press Club Event in Washington, DC of 107 Nobel Laureates. The event was ostensibly organised by a scientific group calling itself Support Precision Agriculture to publicise a letter, signed by 107 Nobel Laureates, demanding that Greenpeace cease its opposition to “golden rice” and GMO technology in general.
Greenpeace was attempting to attend the event in the person of senior research specialist on GMOs, Charlie Cray. He was accompanied by Tim Schwab, senior researcher from Food and Water Watch. Both were physically prevented from entering the Press Club.
“We were told that only credentialed Press were allowed.” Schwab told Independent Science News.
However, says Schwab “I then saw Greg Jaffe from the NGO Center for Science in The Public Interest (CSPI) entering the room.” Informed of this, the security person changed his story: some NGO’s were invited to attend.
Afterwords, Schwab told us “Some NGOs were invited: Really? Why not Greenpeace—the subject of this campaign?”
More importantly, the security person was not just anyone. Schwab and Cray recognised him as Jay Byrne, formerly head of corporate communications for Monsanto (1997-2001).
Byrne now heads the biotech public relations outfit v-Fluence and is heavily involved in biotech-academic PR. Typical of his output is his contribution to the book “Let Them Eat Precaution” published in 2005 by the American Enterprise Institute and edited by Jon Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project.
The Genetic Literacy Project promotes biotechnology and is heavily connected to the industry. Its strapline is “Science Trumps Ideology”. Asked by Cray and Schwab why he was minding the door, Byrne claimed he was “strictly a volunteer“.
Charlie Cray, the Greenpeace researcher later tweeted this:
According to the website GMWatch, there is a further strand connecting the Nobel Laureate letter to the biotech industry, the url supportprecisionagriculture.org has an inoperative sister domain supportprecisionagriculture.com that is traceable back to the Genetic Literacy Project. Oops!
Addendum (12:56 pm): The list of signatories includes Alfred G Gilman, who died last year (on Dec 23 2015).
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