Experts in agroecology withdraw from Cornell Alliance for Science Agroecology Webinar, cite bias of CAS

Blog authored by AGRA Watch

Tomorrow, October 1st, the Cornell Alliance for Science is hosting a webinar on Agroecology. Given the Alliance’s established record of attacking agroecology and acting as a mouthpiece for the biotech industry, we were concerned that the presentation would be another opportunity for CAS to distort and misrepresent agroecology.

Thus we were heartened to see that Sieglinde Snapp and Pablo Tittonell were among the panelists, two well-known experts on agroecology and its benefits. However, on Monday we received word that Snapp and Tittonell chose to withdraw from the webinar due to their concerns about the activities of the Cornell Alliance for Science. In their email to moderator Joan Conrow announcing their withdrawal (reprinted with permission from the author), they state:

“Sieglinde and I agreed to participate in this event when we saw each other’s names among the panelists; that was enough for both of us to trust the organisation behind this event. But reading some of the blogs and opinion pieces issued by the Alliance, the publications by other panelists, learning about the biased and uninformed claims against agroecology, the ideologically charged push for certain technologies, etc. we came to the conclusion that this venue is not serious enough to engage in an open, unbiased, constructive and, most importantly, well informed scientific debate.

We therefore withdraw from this debate.

Apologies for not having done our homework earlier so as not to accept from the beginning.”

We were surprised when Conrow reached out directly to CAGJ’s Director last week to inform us about the webinar (the website states that it is “sold out,” however it will also be live-streamed on Facebook).

After Snapp and Tittonell withdrew, CAS announced that Pam Ronald will replace them. Dr. Ronald’s scientific credentials were tarnished in 2012 and 2013, when she was forced to withdraw her research publications, and stepped away to become an apologist for the biotech industry (see Can the scientific reputation of Pamela Ronald, public face of GMOs, be salvaged?). Ronald has also spent considerable effort attacking Vandana Shiva (see Gunning for Vandana Shiva and Response to Pam Roland Attack).

Also among the panelists is Nassib Mugwanya – a 2015 CAS Global Leadership Fellow, member of the CAS Training Team, and subject of our recently published case study: Messengers of Gates’ Agenda. Our research documented how his career trajectory in Uganda has been closely aligned with organizations funded by the Gates Foundation. In his 2019 article, “After Agroecology: Why Traditional Agricultural Practices Can’t Transform Agriculture”, Mugwanya characterizes critics of GMO technologies and policies as ‘anti-science’ – a common CAS narrative. In a 2018 interview he stated that if his promotion of GMO technology “means being a propagandist, I am unapologetic about it!”

Joining Mugwanya and Ronald will be Frédéric Baudron, Systems Agronomist at International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), which is funded by the Gates Foundation. While CIMMYT is not known for integrating an agroecological approach, according to his personal website, Baudron has collaborated with Tittonell on several projects. We hope that Baudron’s presence will ensure that the event will not be completely one-sided.

CAS just announced receipt of a further $10 million in funding from the Gates Foundation to continue its promotion of high-tech, high-cost agriculture as the answer to Africa’s food and nutrition problems. In her article in the Cornell Chronicle, Joan Conrow claims the intent of the grant is “to counter conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns that hinder progress in climate change, synthetic biology and agricultural innovations”. With claims like these, it is difficult to believe that the Alliance aims to “depolarize the debate” as stated in their founding documents.

With their “ideologically charged push for certain technologies” (in the words of Snapp and Tittonell), CAS and the Gates Foundation need to be held to account for their biased approach to agriculture, to Africa, and to science itself.



Join our Twitterstorm during the webinar!

THURS OCT 1, 2020

8-9AM PDT / 11AM-12PM EDT / 3-4PM GMT / 5-6PM CET / 6-7PM EAT

If you are not registered for the webinar, watch the live-stream on Facebook.

Follow CAGJ: @cagjseattle and @StacyMalkan





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