Vedic businesses use clever advertising to implant beliefs about "Natural Law" in consumers psyches

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Over at ” Consider Icarus…” Cami Ryan had posted this on:

Genetic ID and its questionable connections…

By gathering information and data points through a review of publically available online information (journal articles and web pages), I generated a network on Genetic ID and the firm’s connections to a complexity of actors and institutions. The resulting network outlines what is clearly a convoluted network of bias – both politically and theologically – against GE and GMO. With the recent Triffid issue,Genetic ID has stood to reap significant financial benefits through testing revenues (I should qualify this – – – the company is “presumed” to have gained financially).

Updated network diagram. Connections between Genetic ID and other organisations involved in anti-GMO activity or related food industry activities. Diagram by Cami Ryan, click for larger image.

Please note, Jeffrey Smith of “Seeds of Deception” fame is at the centre of this network.  Also, the Maharashi (Transcendental Meditation “TM” yogi) and his affiliated interests and institutions are also central. Most of the organizations and several of the individuals are from Fairfield, Iowa where the Maharashi University is centred.  The Maharashi is a proponent of Vedic Science (look it up, weird stuff) and established the Natural Law Party whose platform revolves around the Vedic Science and TM. The Natural Law Party has branches in the US and in New Zealand.

This work is preliminary. What are your thoughts on this?

Update. 11/12/2010 1.02 PM Melbourne time

Cami has just posted an extra to this story of Maharishi goings-on with a celebrity kicker to the story line — Dr Oz is part of the network.

Here is a slab of that posting, (but why not go to Consider Icarus to get the full story):
The Wizardry of ‘Oz’ – a peek behind the curtain of the anti-GM movement
Consider Icarus blog post (11/12/2010)

Last year when the whole Triffid (flax) issue came to light, I did some research on Genetic ID, the lab/firm behind the discovery of Triffid in the EU food supply chain.  The main question that I had was – what’s the incentive for this particular lab to sniff out GM? (in addition to generating rents, of course)

Earlier this year, I took the initiative to mine some publicly available information on the internet and uncovered some interesting linkages amongst Genetic ID, the Maharishi Institute, the Natural Law Party and other anti-GM/GE individuals, organizations and firms.  See the network below.  The connections illustrated within the network represent a variety of linkages from board positions, organizational memberships, funding connections, fiscal interests in firms/companies, attendance at common events or like-sponsorship activities.  This data set, and the network, is – by no means – complete.  But the graph certainly sheds an interesting light on the interconnectedness amongst actors in this anti-GM/GE context.

[See Network image above]

Genetic ID is at the centre of the network but I would like to draw your attention to another node: Jeffrey Smith.  You will recall that Smith got the lion’s share of airtime and the accolades (relative to Dr. Pam Ronald) on the Dr. Oz episode earlier this week on Genetic Engineering and GM Food.  Jeffrey Smith is the VP of Communications for Genetic ID.  He also has close connections to the Natural Law Party and, although I was unable to find a documented or direct connection to it, the Maharishi Institute.  The Maharishi – a Transcendental Meditation “TM” yogi – and his legacy of affiliated interests and institutions are also central. Most of the organizations and several of the individuals are from Fairfield, Iowa where the Maharishi University is centered.  The Maharishi is a proponent of Vedic Science (look it up, weird stuff) who established the Natural Law Party.  The NLP’s platform revolves around the Vedic Science and TM (Jeffrey Smith ran for US senate in 1998 in Iowa for the NLP). The Natural Law Party has branches in both the US and in New Zealand. (check out Smith practicing ‘yogic flying’ on: Academics Review).

Now, if that wasn’t peculiar enough, here’s the real kicker. I decided to check into celebrity links with the Maharishi Institute (why not?).  There are numerous celebrities connected to the Maharishi Institute through fundraising events and sponsorship.  These include Ringo Starr, Clint Eastwood, Russell Brand, Katy Perry…the list goes on and on.  David Lynch is also one of them.  He established the David Lynch Foundation to support the teaching of TM.

But, interestingly enough, guess who is also part of this celebrity network?  Yep – Dr Oz. Apparently, Lynch, Oz and some other celebrities, including Clint Eastwood and George Lucas, got together for a fundraiser in late November in an effort to bring Transcendental Meditation to veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  And if you happen to be in NYC on Monday night, you might even want to take in the David Lynch Foundation “Change Begins Within” Benefit Event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Dr. Oz will be there….

The Pundit’s Response

I’m sure we can add Australian examples to the connections between the Maharishi organisations and followers and opposition to genetic modification. In Australia the Natural Law Party participated in the several election campaigns of the late 90s and often campaigned on the basis of opposition to genetic modification in agriculture, and the links between the Natural Law Party and the Maharishi followers are numerous. For example, Adelaide businessman Peter Fenwick, and teacher-consultant  Vladimir Lorentzon were candidates in those elections. Both Fenwick and Lorentz are involved in activities associated with the Maharishi cult.

The policy of the Natural Law Party of Australia (now apparently defunct) was to oppose the use of genetic engineering in agriculture but we can still read about these policies in the archived websites of the party at the National Library of Australia. Peter Fenwick has remained active in networking and lobbying against genetic modification for many year,s and several results of his lobbying appear on the public record in government agencies in Australia, accessible by Google searching.

Editor’s note: Some of the links in this post weren’t formatted correctly. They were fixed on 11 Dec 10.

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David Tribe is an applied geneticist, teaching graduate/undergrad courses in food science, food safety, biotechnology and microbiology at the University of Melbourne.