Insane Twitter rant calls into question whether NGOs should be more transparent

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Food and Water Watch’s (F&WW) food “researcher” Tim Schwab appears to have been assigned the task of distracting the public about the science of genetically modified crops. Rather than concerning himself with evidence of harm or safety, he has been leading F&WW’s charge t0 cast doubt on any proponents of biotechnology with the shill gambit.

Recently featured in Stephanie Strom’s New York Times piece, National Biotechnology Panel Faces New Conflict of Interest Questions, Schwab claims to be concerned that some committee members stand to benefit “directly or indirectly” from their involvement.

This preemptive attack is not a first for Food and Water Watch. They appear to be quite fond of criticizing reports without even reading them. When the National Academy of Science released a report in May on biotech crops NPR reported their opinion was made before the report came out:

“The makeup of the panel is pretty clear. People are coming in with a perspective that is pro-genetically engineered crop,” says Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch.

The chair of the committee at the time, Fred Gould, has actually been quite critical of GMOs in the past. Even trying to restrict the planting of crops. “I have not been a darling of the industry. As a matter of fact, they denied me seeds and plants to do my experiments.”

This assumption that everyone and everything that even has the appearance of being even moderately in favor of the use of biotechnology as being paid to do so is nothing more than distraction. If they can distract the public away from the scientists and farmers in favor of the technology, they can cast political doubt.

So it should not come as a surprise to see Schwab’s recent Twitter behavior following this same pattern.

The fact that Schwab is being incredibly hypocritical, being that he is literally paid to be anti-GMO, appears to escape him.

The executive director of Food and Water Watch, Wenonah Hunter, owns an organic farm in Virginia selling over priced produce via a delivery service for urbanites. Her six-figure salary at F&WW allows her to get paid for demonizing GMOs and promote fear mongering to encourage more customers for her own for profit business.

But of course NGOs seem to just get a free pass in the press when it comes to COI and issues of bias. It doesn’t matter that their funding relies on continuing to create controversy year after year. Transparency also appears to be irrelevant.

A large percentage of funding for F&WW appears to come from donor-advised funds. These funds allow donors to make large contributions, receive immediate tax deductions, and instruct the fund where that contribution should go. This allows F&WW to accept such funding, without having to be transparent about where it comes from. Their millions could have originated from supplement and “natural cures” salesmen like Dr. Joseph Mercola or organic industry executives like Gary Hirschberg, and we would never know.

When confronted by these ideas, Schwab already has his answer. Because NGOs are portrayed as the “little guy” it doesn’t matter.

So via the New York Times he is able to portray a couple of scientists with small start-ups as having a conflict of interest, but NGOs with larger budgets should be free of scrutiny because “Monsanto”.

FW&W appears to make the assumption that “the other side” is playing dirty, and that because some corporations have more funding it means it is only moral for them to do the same. For thousands of years tribes and empires have completely wiped out every man, woman, and child of their enemy for fear of “what they might do”. But, regardless of who you supported, the recent US election shows how little funding matters. The US presidency went to a candidate that spent half of what his opponent spent.

In some ways F&WW is more invested in fighting GMOs, than Monsanto is in supporting them. Monsanto has none in the pipeline, and more than half their research goes into conventional breeding. They seem to be doing just fine in Europe with little GM crop sales, and would survive an outright banning in the US.

F&WW, on the other hand, has taken millions of dollars from people with the promise of continuing the fight against GMOs. If they back down and acknowledge the consensus that the risk is no more than traditional breeding, they lose that funding.

Like a country throwing more troops into a losing war so those already lost were not “sacrificed in vain”, Food and Water Watch must amp up their fear mongering so their money was not spent in vain.

Author: Stephan Neidenbach

Stephan Neidenbach is a middle school teacher, husband, and father living in Annapolis, MD. He holds a BS in business administration from Salisbury University and a MS in Instructional Technology from University of Maryland University College. He started and runs the Facebook page We Love GMOs and Vaccines, follow him on twitter @welovegv.