Not a grain of truth in sneaky Greenpeace tactics
A few weeks ago Greenpeace turned its “greenmail” forces on national franchise chain Bakers Delight, telling customers they soon would be eating bread made from genetically modified wheat.
There was no justification for the claim, and no thorough examination of the merits or otherwise of GM crops.
Said Greenpeace on Facebook: This week we are suggesting that Bakers Delight change its well-publicised motto: “Bakers Delight bakers use real ingredients to bake unreal bread”. To the less snappy motto: “Bakers Delight bakers use risky genetically modified ingredients to bake unreal bread”.
“If you shop at Bakers Delight, you will soon lose your right to know if you’re eating safe and real food.”
In just two hours of Facebook activism, Bakers Delight folded like warm pizza dough and agreed to give Greenpeace a remarkable set of assurances. Even then, Greenpeace wasn’t happy.
“In a positive step forward, Bakers Delight responded to consumer pressure and have now promised to not use genetically modified wheat in their baked goods,” crowed Greenpeace on Facebook.
“Congratulations to everyone who took action! We’d still like Bakers Delight to use its position as the biggest bakery franchise in Australia to support stronger GM labelling legislation and to oppose the release of GM wheat in Australia. In the meantime, it is great to see Bakers Delight respecting customer concerns.”
However, Bakers Delight could not not have used Australian GM wheat had it wanted to. Greenpeace failed to mention that it doesn’t exist. Those concerned customers weren’t concerned until Greenpeace misled them.
The claim that Bakers Delight customers “will soon” be served a product with GM ingredients was simply made up by Greenpeace. The best the taxpayer-subsidised protesters could say was that Australia was “on the brink of commercialising genetically modified wheat”.
Bakers delight had its reputation damage and possibly its customer base reduced by a false accusation.
The CSIRO is experimenting with wheat crops and in July a Greenpeace group broke into a Canberra trial plot and destroyed about half a hectare of plants, claiming the vandalism was warranted by of “secrecy and safety” issues.
So far Greenpeace and partner groups have made targets out of a range of companies including Harvey Normal and paper maker Solaris in Western Sydney.
The strategy is part of a “campaign of harassment centred around threatening a business”, according to managing editor of Menzies House Tim Andrews.
“Please note, this type of greenmail would be illegal under the Commonwealth Trade Practices Act, if it were not for the specific exemption of ‘environmental organisations’,’’ said Andrews.
Matthew Cossey, the chief executive of CropLife, representing GM agricultural projects, said genetically modified wheat varieties were now under development. He said in a statement they would “include low-GI varieties that will increase dietary fibre, reduce bowel cancer, heart disease and diabetes rates, and allow sufferers of coeliac disease to consume wheat products”.
“All products are rigorously assessed by Australian regulators before they can be sold in Australia,” said Cossey.
“It is understandable that a company can be influenced by the intimidating tactics of Greenpeace. This is the organisation’s standard operating procedure where companies that refuse to comply with Greenpeace’s anti-science ideology on GM crops are threatened with ‘consequences’.
“These types of intimidating stand-over tactics would make Al Capone proud.”
The response of Bakers Delight was perfectly understandable. The offensive against it had all the identifiers of a Greenpeace onslaught.
It threatened a customer boycott; it was scant on solid argument; and it insisted its standards were superior to and more important than those applied under law.
Whether or not GM wheat would be good or bad for you, Greenpeace had made a decision and that was the end of discussion.
Tim Wilson of the conservative Institute of Public Affairs has pointed to the “voluntary” certification schemes whereby environmental groups demand companies agree to their requirements, no matter what the standards enforced by law.
Wilson highlighted a “good cop, bad cop” tactic which a Greenpeace researcher recently wrote would “drive organisations to partner with groups that seem more middle-of-the-road in orientation”.
So a hardline group would attack a company, driving it into the embrace of a less strident organisation and ready to enter into its “voluntary certification schemes” to escape the barrage.
The ultimate aim of the 10-step program drawn up by Greenpeace was to make these voluntary agreements “compulsory standards for business”.
Government would be lobbied to change laws, such as those on timber imports, with the argument that “business already ‘voluntarily’ adopted them,” wrote the Greenpeace researcher.
That’s why Greenpeace chastised Bakers Delight for not “using its position” to press the Government on GM labeling.
It’s a campaign which starts at the executive boardroom and government ministerial offices, but the consequences are felt at the shopping mall, and consumers and staff are not its top priority.
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