An unpublished strategy document from a meeting of NGO activists and members and advisers of the European Parliament has fallen into my possession. As the Risk-Monger is a strong advocate for transparency, I feel it would be remiss of me to not share it so we can learn how NGOs conspire to use political figures and institutions, fabricate evidence and attempt to disrupt market and judicial processes to gain attention and win campaigns. Here is the story of how 23 little malcontents plan out a secret strategy to manipulate and corrupt the decision-making process, non-transparently and without facts or evidence.
If ever you would think that such relentless pro-organic food campaigns as those against glyphosate, neonicotinoids, endocrine disruption … are merely the voice of the people spontaneously rising up, this document might make you think again. Behind the scenes, in murky backrooms, are a network of little evil geniuses (think: Pinky and the Brain) secretly plotting world domination. It would rightfully be ridiculous and totally laughable if their mindless idealism were not making such disastrous inroads in this Age of Stupid regulatory chaos.
The Berlin Slime Strategy
On 22 January 2017, a group of at least 23 environmental activists and European Parliament officials met in Berlin to plot how to use the ongoing mergers of chemical companies to make the public more afraid of agri-technology and push policymakers to regulate against conventional farming. They did not speak about the science of agri-tech, the economics of the mergers or how the increased regulatory challenges have been pushing these companies into consolidation. Of course not! The activists met in Berlin to see how they can use these corporate events to make people more afraid of industry, worry about risks in the food chain, nominate victims in developing countries to be “vulnerabilised”, tie up regulators in long legal processes and get their friends in international organisations to use this commotion to act against agri-technology. Thank God for the passionate opportunist!
Essentially the Berlin Slime Strategy is a commitment of all NGOs and political figures in that smokey backroom to do whatever it takes to attack agri-technology: to mislead, exploit, fabricate and manipulate facts and people in order to achieve a further negative public perception and regulatory reaction against GMOs, plant protection products and the companies who manufacture them. That these activists speak so openly of their slimy behaviour doesn’t surprise me, but from an ethical perspective, it horrifies me!
The Secret Meeting
This clandestine Berlin Slime Strategy meeting took place the day after a demonstration against conventional farming and during the German Grüne Woche (an extravagant week-long consumeristic celebration of all things green). Minutes of the secret meeting were taken, distributed and are available here. As there is no word: “Confidential” written on the document or conditions for release, the Risk-Monger can only assume it was intended for public distribution.
The meeting started with a “tour de table” where the members shared what they were doing to raise awareness and public concerns about the mergers of ChemChina and Syngenta, Dow and DuPont as well as Bayer and Monsanto. The strategists then moved to considerations on how activist lawyers can hold up or disrupt the merger processes and then how to escalate the campaign to the international level before concluding with some open brainstorming.
The Berlin Slime Strategy meeting was allegedly called by Benedikt Härlin, an old hand at anti-GMO campaigning. A former MEP, Greenpeace activist and founder of Save our Seeds, Härlin has been credited as the ring-leader of the GMO fictions and fears that emanated out of the early irresponsible days of activist smear in the 1990s. But Benny was not leading the show anymore – that role was taken by Adrian Bebb from Friends of the Earth’s Brussels office and Jan Urhahn from INKOTA (who has set up the sinister-sounding “AGLE Working Group on Baysanto” … that seems to have had several strategy meetings on their own).
Other attendees of the secret meeting included the usual suspects from Corporate Europe Observatory, the Transnational Institute, Pesticide Action Network, Oxfam and SumOfUs – organisations that will travel the world for an opportunity to slam industry, emerging technologies and the western economic order. I suppose they all got to Berlin by cottage-industry constructed bicycles. German Catholics and Protestants were also gracing the meeting with their involvement (and perhaps financing) as well as the deep pockets of the organic food industry lobby.
And of course, narcissists that they are, they even invited a filmmaker to the meeting to start work on their documentary! I wish I were making this up!
The Green Fox in the Europarl
The most interesting participants in the room during the Berlin strategy meeting came from the European Parliament. It offers an insight on how European Green Party officials work as NGO campaigners, just with salaries paid by the European taxpayers and the ability to use the European Parliament institutions and sites to run environmental campaigns on behalf of their activist colleagues. As many people in the room like CEO’s Nina Holland or TNI’s Katie Sandwell make their trade attacking industry for trying to influence political figures, the non-transparent hypocrisy of such direct involvement of Green Party politicians is mind-blowing.
Leading the Europarl representation at the Berlin NGO activist strategy meeting was Maria Heubuch, the German Green Member of the European Parliament from Munich who travelled from Brussels on the public purse to help find a way to screw industry. For those who are not aware, Heubuch introduced legislation in the European Parliament to try to starve Africa. She wants the EU to withdraw from a G8 multi-stakeholder programme to help develop African agriculture, despite the protestations of African farmer organisations and the scientific community. Why? Because one of the donors was a fertiliser company and the programme might recommend biotech solutions to improve African agricultural yield. Given the urgency for Africa to develop its agricultural sector, Heubuch’s legislation should be a crime against humanity. Instead she was fêted in the room!
MEP Heubuch is a wily operator so she knows enough that her involvement in the murky backroom activist strategy meeting should be kept secret. So instead of using her official europarl.europa.eu email address, Heubuch is continuing the strategy discussion using her personal Gmail account. (Maybe the MEP also has a private email server in her basement?) Should someone seek transparency and do an EU access to documents request, Heubuch’s emails won’t show up. In essence, the MEP was smoke in the room – she didn’t exist (except for her personal expenses to travel to Berlin of course … that was paid for by you and me!). Pity … I had thought Maria was an advocate of transparency – not a bucket of green slime!
Not so crafty or deceptive were two parliamentary advisers to the European Green Party. On the Green Slime email distribution list, both Andrzej Nowakowski and Hans-Martin Lorenzen used their European Parliament email addresses. The funny thing is that they were listed as attendees from the NGOs PAN and ARC 2020 respectively, so this begs the question: Are they NGO activists or officials from the European Parliament? Well … both! It seems the European Green Party has no means of separating activists from their role as European Green Party officials. But as policy advisers, I do not believe these two activists have the budget to travel to an NGO strategy meeting in Berlin. If they are using their europa.eu email addresses, I can only assume they are pretending that their attendance in an NGO strategy meeting is an official EU activity for which they could claim public funds. Imagine an EPP adviser who was also employed by Monsanto, travelling on Monsanto-related activities as a European public servant. Would there be any public reaction? Activists don’t get the double standards or their deeply entrenched hypocrisy. I fear these slimy activist advisers are in breach of EU budgetary procedures and I would hope that someone in the European Parliament makes an internal inquiry about this.
This Berlin Slime strategy document demonstrates yet again how green activists use European funds to support activists running around Brussels under the presumption of being “policy advisers” but essentially as NGO activist campaigners. Nowakowski, Lorenzen or my good friend, Axel Singhofen, attend meetings as invited guests (they are not elected and have no official position, budget or European constituency) and then take over the meetings to run their campaigns for the NGOs they actually are non-transparently representing. This abuse needs to be checked.
Some of the Pinky and the Brain participants got too excited salivating at the possibilities the present corporate mergers have offered. Take Friends of the Earth Europe’s Adrian Bebb who stated:
So Friends of the Earth is organising a campaign “coming together in the US” with the hopes of exporting it to EU member states. This is standard operating procedure now with campaigns like glyphosate and endocrine disruption being crafted by Americans but run in the EU with the hopes that success in the precaution-friendly Brussels arena can then be exported back to Washington. Bloody carpetbaggers!
Bebb actually found the string of mergers to be “useful” because any anti-conventional agriculture campaigns causing fear and unease will then “show the public what is wrong with the current food and farming structure and how another system is essential”. What a manipulative opportunist! With the same logic, I suspect Friends of the Earth advised its American members to vote for Donald Trump in order to increase their own donations. OK, maybe not in Brussels where Friends of the Earth Europe is wholly financed by unscrutinised contributions from governments.
And if that were not manipulative enough, Bebb looked at how the Team Baysanto hacks (I wonder if they printed up T-shirts?) could bring in some suffering poor people from the “South” to highlight the injustice of the corporate mergers. Which countries? Doesn’t matter – ‘we’ll find some vulnerable people somewhere we can exploit in our Friends of the Earth campaigns‘ (later in the meeting, Mexico was suggested). What a piece of work!
Bring in the Eco-Lawyers!
European activists are adopting American NGO tactics like using lawyers to gum up the democratic process. This seems to be the key strategy for the activists attending the Berlin Slime meeting.
So even though the NGOs have no financial, market, research or anti-trust issues in any of the mergers, they are using a legal loophole to demand a place in the court-room to raise their issues (even if they are irrelevant to the purpose of the hearings). They admit they have no business being in a competition procedure, but the real goal is to have their lawyers have access to all documents of the hearings that they can then use in their campaigns outside of the courthouse. I wonder if anyone in the room raised the question of whether this was an abuse of public services let alone their own budgets.
SumOfUs has already been busily fundraising for Baysanto legal costs since, as they claim, “lawyers aren’t cheap!” … especially if they plan to hold up the process in every EU Member State. Anne Isakowitsch, who was at the meeting representing SumOfUs, is spamming me daily with requests of a few bob for their lawyer fund. How much slimier can you get?
A few years back I blogged on my concern over the lawyerisation of the EU policy process and that the dialogue-driven process is not geared for the litigation approach now being imported from American NGOs. As Isakowitsch put it bluntly in one of her spam emails:
“… we need to get out the big guns if we want to stop this merger. We’ve done this before and we know that we can be successful. When we heard about Bayer’s and Monsanto’s proposed merger last year, we hired former antitrust lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice …Now we are planning to do the same in the European Union. But we need your help.”
Isn’t it rich that groups like Friends of the Earth, SumOfUs and Corporate Europe Observatory campaign against trade agreements like CETA and TTIP because corporate lawyers could have the means to hold governments accountable, and then, in secret, they plan how their lawyers can clog up the process. Talk about Hypocrites with a capital H!
I am not going to get into the nature of the lawyers mentioned at the secret strategy meeting, and whether Mr Kraemer is indeed the former EU public servant. They are clearly still looking for lawyers. I just hope these lawyers have more sense than slime than to work for these charlatans!
Tricks of the Trade
The Berlin Slime Strategy meeting document provides valuable insight into how NGOs strategise, manipulate and win campaigns. This adds further understanding to how the Activist Playbook develops. One essential point the activists have learnt is that their arguments have to be simple and general, with more emotion than detail, reaching a wide audience, governments and vulnerable groups.
These are communication-savvy organisations who know how to package a message, fill it with emotion and deliver it to the right targets. They are pure PR animals geared to winning. The UN has become a favourite target. Why? Many ambitious activists reach the top of their NGOs at an early age and can only move up the career ladder by shifting into international organisations. So whom do we know that we can use in UN organisations like the FAO?
The FAO CFS is the UN’s Committee on World Food Security that the activists hope to use their networks to tap into. Where else but at the UN would these activists find opportunities to promote their medieval seed technology and backward looking agroecology philosophy as an actual development strategy? That simple message they need to craft will have to hit at the heart-strings of the Global South in order to make impact. The NGOs just need to get the right message in order to “use” the public support.
During the secret meeting’s tour de table, representatives from Crocevia and Bread for the World mentioned their activities and networks at the FAO level. It is no surprise that activists manipulate their networks that worm their way into United Nations organisations (we have seen that in IARC, the IPCC, UNEP …). It is a surprise they talk so openly about whom they can use.
I have come to the conclusion the people attending this meeting are either stupid or awful. Their tactics of using people, crafting emotional PR messages and exploiting the vulnerable populations in developing countries in order to win a campaign has me leaning to the latter. Even the one group at the meeting directly tied to developing world, African Center for Biodiversity, is producing its reports with the cooperation of the controversial Berlin-based Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
No Science Necessary … We Can Ignore the Facts!
What nobody in Berlin at the secret activist strategy meeting seemed to talk about is facts. No science or data was discussed. What is incredible is that the one bit of evidence that was put before them, during a presentation from the Oxfam participant, Marita Wiggerthale, and AktionAgrar’s Jutta Sundermann, was completely ignored. See an honest slide from their meeting PowerPoint presentation that should have screamed to the activists in the room reading these slides that they are wasting their time.
So the Oxfam slide admits that the three mergers do not largely change the balance of power in the seeds market nor in the pesticides market. These three mergers will not change anything and are not factually relevant to the noise the activists intend to make about them. DuPont will still be the largest seed manufacturer (“No Virginia, it never was Monsanto!”) but there will not be any dominant players. The numbers are, simply put, uninteresting and Wiggerthale even admits the EU’s data may even be an over-estimation. Well, to be honest, these numbers are very interesting to investors since all three mergers seem to be perfect fits for better research synergies and agricultural service harmonisations. I wonder why these consolidations had taken so long.
But no NGO would admit the facts staring them in the face! No activists left the room saying such a campaign would be a waste of time and a waste of their members’ and funders’ money. Campaigners are not science-driven; they are pure opportunists.
Facts don’t matter when you are running an emotional campaign that your foundations and the organic food industry are paying you to win. That these activists and political actors would act in a non-transparent, unethical manner to try to undermine western free-market principles, misuse their positions of power or try to abuse others in power through manipulative fear-mongering and opportunistic vulnerabilisations of people in poor countries is just mind-numbingly offensive.
This is an exposé of green slime at its stinkiest!
By releasing this document, I hope we can learn more how NGO activists operate in their murky backroom meetings; how European Green Party members abuse the European Parliamentary process; and how methodical and coordinated NGO campaigns actually are.
Yet will anyone care? How these environmental activists think they can operate with impunity (even minuting their morally questionable strategies) and why most people don’t feel outraged by such offensive behaviour will be the subject of my next blog.
If you have an interest in the future of farming and would like to participate in the Baysanto working group, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.