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SPECIAL REPORT: Springtime in Luddite Land

We’ll say this much about activists who devote their lives to opposing genetically modified (GM) foods: they don’t let a little thing like reality slow them down. Despite a biotech crop boom in Asia, the continued acceptance of GM foods by U.S. consumers and European governments, a report from the UK’s Royal Society that activists’ “unfounded claims” have poisoned the public debate on biotech foods, and a grain-belt mainstream here at home that is increasingly savvy about tuning out these unscientific scaremongers, the lunatic fringe of the anti-biotech movement is ramping up its propaganda campaign. And the Center for Consumer Freedom can now reveal who is funding their efforts.

Next week, the city of St. Louis will play unwilling host to this year’s “BioDevastation” protest, to be held in tandem with the World Agricultural Forum’s 2003 World Congress. As with previous “BioDev” events (as the hip technophobes call them), the usual suspects have opened their wallets this year to showcase some of the world’s most laughable pseudo-scientists:

Percy Schmeiser — a Canadian farmer whose conviction for pirating Monsanto’s patented canola seeds has turned him into one of the world’s best-known crybabies;

Vandana Shiva — an Indian agrarian prophet of doom-and-gloom who opposes the development of potentially life-saving “golden rice,” and lectures hungry and malnourished people to eat a prohibitively expensive diet of “liver, egg yolk, chicken, meat, milk and butter” instead;

Brian Tokar — a self-described unrepentant socialist whose “direct action” group, known as “Northeast RAGE,” has participated in the destruction of GM plantings and large-scale vandalism of grocery stores;

Michael Hansen — an activist in a lab coat, whose advisory position with the virulently anti-biotech (and woefully misnamed) Center for Food Safety has, surprisingly, not disqualified him from his work developing positions on GM foods for Consumer Reports magazine;

Mae-Wan Ho — Great Britain’s most outspoken biotechnology conspiracy theorist, who insists that the SARS virus is a by-product of genetic engineering, and admits in her speeches that she has “never tried to be a ‘good responsible scientist’“; and

Ignacio Chapela — the disgraced Berkeley professor whose 2001 anti-biotech research on “genetic drift” in Mexico’s maize fields was embarrassingly disavowed by the prestigious journal Nature, which concluded that “the evidence available” was “not sufficient to justify [its] publication.”

The Center for Consumer Freedom has obtained documents showing that last year’s “BioDev” event, held in Toronto, was underwritten by (among others) grants of over $5,100 from Brian Tokar’s Institute for Social Ecology; $5,000 from Canada’s anti-free-trade Polaris Institute; and $3,000 each from the Solidago Foundation, the (British) JMG Foundation, the “Philanthropic Collaborative” program of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and the Fund for Wild Nature.

This last funder was originally known as the “Earth First! Foundation,” and functions primarily as a tax-exempt vehicle for collecting donations to “Earth First!” — the radical green group that spawned the terrorist Earth Liberation Front in 1992.

The 2003 event is being organized by the Gateway Green Alliance (GGA), the St. Louis affiliate of the recently Ralph-Nader-ized Green Party USA. GGA’s two biggest sources of financial support are the Fund for Wild Nature and “RESIST,” a pacifist charity co-founded in 1967 by the dean of the Hate-America-Loonies, Noam Chomsky.

Other internal documents obtained by the Center for Consumer Freedom reveal that this year’s “BioDev” event will be underwritten by RESIST, the Green Party USA, the JMG Fund (which has committed $12,000), and several national organic food marketers, including Wild Oats Markets, who seek to diminish competition from less expensive and more abundant biotech crops. Organizers also expect financial support from the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the C.S. Fund, the Solidago Foundation, and the Jenifer Altman Foundation.

These big-money benefactors share a disdain for technology, an unparalleled hubris, and practically limitless financial resources — all of which make them perfect partners for this year’s most visible anti-biotech tantrum. The BioDevastation conference takes place May 16-18. We’ll keep you posted.

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