Agricultural Biotechnology Council
In 2002 Monsanto along with Bayer CropScience, BASF, Dow Agrosciences, Dupont and Syngenta set up the UK lobby group, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC).
The ABC is part of Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe (ABE) which also represents industry lobbies in Belgium, Denmark, France, Spain, and Sweden. Other openly industry-backed lobby groups in Europe include EuropaBio and the UK-based CropGen.
The first chairman of the ABC was the former Head of Syngenta Seeds UK, Stephen Smith. The current chairman is Julian Little of Bayer CropScience. Before that it was Paul Rylott, also of Bayer although formerly UK Seed Manager for Aventis CropScience.
Initially, the ABC was represented by Weber Shandwick, one of the world's largest PR companies. However, in November 2002 it changed to Lexington Communications, run by Mike Craven, a former aide to the UK's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott. Prior to Lexington, Craven was the Labour Party's chief media spokesperson and before that a lobbyist with Market Access. While Craven was Managing Director of Market Access it faced accusations of a 'massive disinformation campaign' in lobbying for the European 'patents on life' directive, which was approved despite strong public opposition.
In January 2003 Lexington Communications hired Bernard Marantelli, a PR operative from Monsanto, to run a pro-GM PR campaign for the ABC to educate 'regulators, legislators, retailers and consumer groups'. The budget is £250,000, the same amount of money that was originally proposed for the whole national Public Debate on GM in the UK, held in 2003.
In February 2002, a major conclusion of the ABC's inaugural report was that if GM could be seen to be beneficial to birds like the skylark, then that would ensure the majority of people would support GM. Research, part-funded by Monsanto, was promoted in just these terms in January 2003.
The ABC's first Chairman, the late Stephen Smith, was routinely quoted with other 'scientists' in press releases put out by the Science Media Centre (SMC) on GM issues. In January 2003 he was quoted in one promoting the 'skylark-friendly' GM research. The SMC also agreed for the ABC to hold its launch at the Centre.