Column: The face of the anti-biotech movement

FRESNO, Calif. — My apology up front for the length of this commentary. It is longer than usual and will jump to another page. The reason is I received a series of disturbing e-mails from a man who represents a segment of a so-called environmental activist group attempting to ban biotechnology from California agriculture. The e-mails are worth reading if California agriculture is to understand the challenge it faces in turning back this emerging statewide biotech ban battle.

The Mendocino County resident is part of the group that successfully passed an anti-Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) initiative last spring in Mendocino County and is backing similar initiatives that will appear on the November ballot in several other counties. There is an article in this issue about that effort.

It was a bitter and hateful Mendocino County campaign waged by the elements of the anti-biotech campaign against those who opposed what was called Measure H. Political consultants hired by agriculture to manage the opposition to Measure H said it was an unusually vicious campaign. It was so vile the president of one agricultural organization cut his vacation short because his staff was fearful for their safety in the organization’s office because of the hate mail they had received from those supporting the Mendocino County initiative.

California is infamous for its initiative process where anyone can get just about anything on a city, county or statewide ballot to create laws city councils, board of supervisors or the state legislature will not. Initiative debates are often heated and factually distorted. However, seldom have they been as acrimonious as the one in Mendocino County.

Some of the people behind Measure H — which has been called by the anti-biotech group "The H Bomb" — have been linked to destruction of student crops at UC Davis several years ago in a failed attempt to destroy biotech crops. They have been compared to PETA, the animal rights group with a reputation for violence. I believe it from the e-mails I received.

One comment before the e-mails. I interviewed Doug Mosel, a leader of the Mendocino County measure who will be playing a key role in the other initiatives. The man who wrote the following e-mails copied Mosel, who fervently and without hesitation apologized for the e-mails. He called them personal, inappropriate diatribes.

In interviewing Mosel, it was obvious he is sadly ill informed about agricultural biotechnology. While passionate and argumentative about his cause, however, he was courteous and respectful of people of differing opinions. He knows the e-mail writer, Jack Hayward II, as a fellow Mendocino County resident who joined the anti-biotech effort late in the campaign. However, Mosel said he does not represent the proponents of the anti-biotech movement. Nevertheless, he is part of the movement and that is troubling.

Let me set the stage for the e-mails. I attended a grape field day in Madera County where UCCE farm advisor George Leavitt commented about biotechnology research in Australia that may genetically improve the powdery mildew resistance in varietals highly susceptible to powdery mildew. However, Leavitt said getting such technology into California would be impossible if the anti-biotechnology group succeeded in its statewide effort to ban plants that had been genetically modified.

I wrote a small article that first appeared on the Farm Press Web site and Farm Press Daily. My e-mail address was on both. The article is also in this edition of this Western Farm Press. It was a news article, not a commentary. The following is a series of e-mail exchanges between me and Hayward about the article he read on-line.

First e-mail:

"Do you really think that all your money and all your lies are going to stem the tide that is running against the continued untrammeled contamination of the earth by the bio-tech corporations and industry?

Environmental radicals include folks across the political spectrum as you perfectly well know, neighbors, friends, people who are coming to trust one another more and more in face of the cancerous nature of big business in the world today.

Don't you people have children or grandchildren? Do you feel good about the world your brainwashed greed will leave them?


Jack Hayward II

My Response:

Yes, I have children and grandchildren and I pray for the day when my 16-year-old granddaughter does not have to inject herself with insulin every day because a biotech corporation perfects a way to put insulin in the egg whites of chicken eggs so she can get the daily insulin she needs to stay alive from eating a pair of healthy eggs each morning rather than injecting a needle into her stomach every day.


Harry Cline


Western Farm Press

Hayward’s Response:

"Oh, please, spare me the sanctimony. And don't hide global fascist greed behind your poor granddaughter. Didn't you take simple logic in school? Do none of you industry and corporate people?

What your granddaughter needs can be developed in secure laboratory conditions. In the laboratory, where all such radical experimentation, Dr. Frankenstien (sp.), must take place before corporate and industry interests complete the destruction of agriculture set in motion by the agribusiness and petrochemicals industries.

Biotech is corporate not science, stupid, says a sign I carry at demonstrations. The interests of human kind and the natural world and those of the corporate world are on a devastating collision course.

No matter how dogmatically ingrained you are, if you are smart enough to use a word processor, surely you are smart enough to grasp the simple fact that is so apparant (sp.) to millions on millions around the world.

Wake the f… up before you bring it all down!"

Jack Hayward II

My Final Response:

You have got to be kidding...your "logic" and thinking would have us still rubbing sticks together to create fire and living in caves. Don't bother sending any more e-mails....they don't serve the effort to hit the delete key.

Mr. Hayward’s final diatribe:

"Soon you will be claiming the corporations created fire, that the First Big Corporation, not God, created it all. Some theology. As for deleting, Snoopy, DELETE you and your masters. Down, boy."

I receive a fair share of e-mails from my commentaries and I sincerely appreciate getting them — agree or disagree with me. However, I have never received anything like Hayward’s e-mails and certainly not from any article I had written.

Unfortunately, agriculture must now confront the mentality expressed by Hayward as they are forced to defend biotechnology in an arena where decency is non-existent. It is such an unnecessary exercise. Biotech crops have undergone unprecedented government, academic and corporate scrutiny. Biotechnology is accepted by agriculture worldwide. The barriers erected by the radicals are coming down.

This exercise is not only ludicrous, but scary if Hayward represents a significant segment of the anti-biotech movement.

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