The American multi-national chemical company, Monsanto, says it spent £1 million on the advertising campaign that ran in the British press this summer. The aim of the advertising was to increase public acceptance of GM (genetically modified) food among the “upper socio-economic segment” of British society.

Here are some of the things Monsanto did not put in its ads. All the quotes below come from two leaked internal memos, ‘The British Test’ and ‘The Maturing Crisis’ (in Germany), apparently produced for Monsanto. According to Greenpeace, the memos appear to have been written by Stan Greenberg, Chairman and Chief Executive of Greenberg Research, who has served as polling advisor to President Clinton, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder:

“Biotechnology and Monsanto face their toughest European test in Britain. The broad climate is extremely inhospitable to biotechnology acceptance and, absent political support in government, Monsanto would surely face unfavorable decisions on its key products. Over the past year, the situation has deteriorated steadily and perhaps at an accelerating pace.”

“The latest survey shows an on-going collapse of public support for biotechnology and GM foods. At each point in this project, we keep thinking that we have reached the low point and that public thinking will stabilize, but we apparently have not reached that point. The latest survey shows a steady decline over the year, which may have accelerated in the most recent period.”

“Overall feeling toward foods with genetically-modified ingredients have grown dramatically more negative, which is probably the best measure of our declining fortunes in Britain.”

“In the most recent research confidence in all regulatory agencies has slipped…In our earlier focus groups, stating that seed had been approved by British food safety agencies reduced support for our products.”

“The retailers are critical arbiters in this process, since they have very high credibility in Britain, according to our surveys, and because they believe Monsanto has handed off to them the task of winning public acceptance. They carry with them their resentment of Monsanto for badly mismanaging the introduction of biotechnology in Europe and for allowing the issue to be decided in the supermarkets. As a result, they are right on the edge – testing public acceptance, but now very open to a moratorium that would get them off the front lines. They are anxious for someone else to move on the front lines, preferably the government.”

“These observations about the retailers are based on interviews conducted between September 25th and 29th with the heads of corporate communication, heads of corporate affairs, chief scientific advisors and senior buyers and managers at Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Tesco, CWS, Asda and Safeway.”

“Retailers are divided about how this will work out over the long term. One was fairly confident that, barring “a major catastrophe,” it will continue and it will be accepted as a regular process”; others thought there was a “fifty-fifty” chance of “losing to the pressure groups”; it could “turn out like irradiation. Which is, you don’t do it.”

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