Staging public protests seems like an odd way to depolarize a debate, yet the Cornell Alliance for Science — a public relations campaign funded by the Gates Foundation to “depolarize the charged debate” about GMOs — joined in a recent protest at Willamette University to confront Vandana Shiva, PhD, an Indian scholar, author and environmentalist.
Joining self-described “science nerd” protesters from groups with names like March Against Myths About Modification (MAMyths), Vegan GMO and PDX Skeptics in the Pub — several of whom had attended a recent Cornell Alliance training event in Mexico to practice GMO promotion strategies — the Cornell affiliates hit the streets at Willamette to counter what they claimed was “misinformation” and “doublespeak” from Dr. Shiva. This is according to Jayson Merkley, a former Cornell Alliance fellow and co-founder of Vegan GMO who now works for the training team of Cornell Alliance.
“We aimed to keep our message friendly, approachable, and positive,” Merkley wrote, “our slogans reflected a theme quite different from the fear-mongering we often see: ‘Don’t start a fight. Start a conversation.’”
The group misfired, however, by promotin misinformation and doublespeak. For example, when a woman voiced concerns to Merkley about water quality and chemical exposures related to genetically engineered foods, he “smiled and nodded” and took the opportunity to explain that “GE innovations aren’t the problem” but rather part of the solution. (In fact, most GMO foods are engineered to tolerate glyphosate-based Roundup herbicides, and have dramatically driven up the use of glyphosate, which the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency says is a probable human carcinogen.)
When Dr. Shiva walked past the protesters, her eyes remained “steadfast on the ground,” Merkley wrote, “that way, she could avoid locking eyes with anyone who might ask about the hundreds of thousands of children dying from preventable micronutrient deficiencies in India.”
What Merkley and the protesters left out: the relevant facts relating to malnutrition.
Despite a decade of trials, there is no GMO solution for nutrient deficiencies available to help dying children. Instead, most GMOs in the fields and heading to the market are herbicide resistant crops that are raising serious concerns about water quality and pesticide exposures in GMO-growing areas such as Hawaii, Argentina and Iowa.
Science-based evidence also shows that malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies have risen sharply in developing countries such as Africa, despite billions of dollars spent by the Gates Foundation and African governments on promoting and subsidizing expensive commercial seeds and chemicals as the solution to hunger.
Unfortunately, the Cornell Alliance for Science relies on propaganda, not science, as a guide for its pro-GMO communication efforts. It is well documented that the Cornell group promotes inaccurate information about science and uses questionable tactics in its efforts to hype up the future possible benefits of GMOs, while ignoring documented problems and marginalizing critics – an approach sure to polarize no matter how friendly the protest slogans.
This blog was updated to clarify that Cornell Alliance for Science said they did not organize the Vandana Shiva protest, although they promoted it and people trained by the Alliance in direct action techniques participated in it. Updates were also added in 2020 with new data on malnutrition.
- Why is Cornell University hosting a GMO propaganda campaign? by Stacy Malkan, The Ecologist (2016)
- Gates ‘failing green revolution in Africa,’ by Stacy Malkan, The Ecologist (2020)
- Fact sheet on MAMyths co-founder Kavin Senapathy