Anti-biotech GM Watch’s connections to Maharishi TM cult, industry money

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There is one organic industry “front group” I check in on more than any other, GM Watch. The organization regularly publishes up-to-date “news” and opinions about biotech crops. They always seem to be one of the first to publish articles about the latest crank studies that claim to show the benefits of eating like our ancestors or to demonize modern agriculture. They also serve another purpose, to instantly smear any person or organization that seeks to debunk the myths spread by the primitive food movement, almost in real time.

Plan on refuting a study that was designed to scare mothers into eating organic food? They will just call you unscientific. Are you a plant scientist studying the effects of different colored lights, but like to volunteer some of your own time to debunk myths? They will accuse you of subterfuge and of running a network of hooded figures working for corporations. They are anti-vaccine and are quick to even call biotech crops developed by independent researchers vapor ware.

Their hatred of biotechnology knows no bounds. Recently they joined the trend of groups blaming the effects of the Zika virus on anything other than the mosquitoes that actually cause it, essentially because they oppose any type of solution that might come from biotech companies. Limit the population of the number one animal killer of humans? Encourage the production of a recombinant vaccine to immunize populations? No, they would rather try to introduce a potentially invasive species of fish into every body of standing water. A solution that may work on a small scale in some places but is hardly a viable global solution. As is typical of anti-technology extremists, it is all or nothing with GM Watch. Scientists call for a blend of methods but GM Watch highlights one method as an example and make it seem like that it is all the world needs.

According to the GM Watch page, started in 1998, it is currently run by Jonathan Matthews and Claire Robinson. Claire Robinson is well known in the anti-biotechnology world. She is currently on the board of advisers of GMO Free USA, a “research” director at Earth Open Source, and part of a dangerous mind control cult called transcendental meditation (TM). The connection with TM is most interesting, because long time anti-biotech activist John Fagan was given in 2008 the TM title: “Raja with Global Responsibility for Food Purity and Safety and for Healthy Invincibility” (Raja means Indian king or prince). In this capacity he is charged with creating a global network of labs to use scientific testing methods to verify food purity and quality of Maharishi Vedic Organic products.

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John Fagan

Fagan also happens to be a founder of Genetic ID (though no longer affiliated), which verifies products are non-GMO, has a vested interest in demonizing biotech crops to stay in business. According to the transcendental meditation belief system, the removal of biotech crops from the world food supply will bring about world peace and invincibility for all mankind. Fagan helped kickstart a large “grassroots” campaign against biotech crops when he traveled to England not long before GM Watch was started. TM’s political party in the UK, the Natural Law Party, worked hard to connect all biotech crops with pesticides in the minds of the people there. Even though the first one on the market, a tomato, had no connection with pesticide traits. GM watch’s web page also describes how one of the editors, presumably Robinson or Matthews, received money for work done with the Institute for Responsible Technology, another NGO from the same cult.

If Transcendental Meditation sounds familiar, it is because it has made the headlines many times over the decades. The Beatles flirted with the movement a bit, until John and George finally got fed up when the cult founder was accused of making unwanted advances towards Mia Farrow. The organization would go on to be sued in the 80s by its ex members. Patricia Ryan, daughter of the late Senator Leo Ryan, even equated TM to cults like the one started by Rev. Jim Jones whose followers committed mass suicide in the 1970s and killed her father. More recently Fagan and Robinson’s cult would cost tax payers $142,000 when their unvaccinated adherents brought measles back from India. Accusations against the cult also includes the exacerbation of existing psychological problems, leading to a murder on their campus in Fairfield.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Politico veers again into pseudoscience and politics with another misleading glyphosate infographic

Not much is known about Jonathan Matthews himself. A resident of Norwich, England he is an administrator of an English language school there. A startling thought considering his willingness to maliciously attack fellow educators. After several people on Twitter mounted an organized attack on my own personal life, he offered them a pedestal on which to stand, so they could claim they were somehow the ones victimized. Matthews was largely responsible for a massive smear campaign against Mark Lynas for the simple crime of the latter changing his mind on biotechnology when presented with evidence, and insinuated that Lynas’ apology speech was but a PR ploy. I asked Mark about his experiences with GM Watch, and he had this to say, “GM Watch is at the extreme end even of the anti-GMO movement. They specialize in smear tactics, innuendo and character assassination. They’re not part of any conversation I want to be involved in. The whole site reeks of hatred.”

Hatred seems to be an accurate word to use. GM Watch is part of a large network of web pages that use similar techniques to push their agenda. Spin Watch, which Claire Robinson also writes for, seems to have “a keen interest in the Jews“, and is very anti immigration.

For someone who seems to distrust any money that originates from corporations, and who goes as far as demonizing the wonderful Gates Foundation, he seems to have no problem accepting corporate money for his own organization. The web page proudly claims to have received funding from the JMG Foundation, created from the estate of the late billionaire tycoon James Goldsmith. It should come as no surprise to anyone then that Matthews hangs onto every word uttered by the son of James Goldsmith, millionaire Zac. Zac Goldmisth has served as editor of The Ecologist and has been promoting the primitive food movement campaigns for quite some time. Recently The Ecologist faced criticism for promoting myths about the zika virus and the transgenic mosquitoes set as a solution. This connection explains their lack of guilt.

Any further doubt about their industry ties are laid to rest considering they receive money from the Sheepdrove Trust. The Sheepdrove Organic Farm and Eco Conference Center was started in the 1990s, with the conference center opening in 2004 featuring anti GMO Prince Charles.

Matthews and Robinson have also received funding from the Isvara Foundation. Their web page was set up by The World Development Movement. Under their new name Global Justice Now, this is the organization that recently issued a report demonizing the Gates Foundation for promoting both vaccines and GMOs. The duo fail to state this conflict of interest whenever they criticize the Gates Foundation. The fact that Matthews and Robinson are connected to tractor companies, the Isvara Foundation is a product of Ayman Jallad, is just the icing on the cake that alludes to vested interests. Herbicide and insect tolerant crops allow for the reduction of tilling the soil and chemical applications. Something Big Tractor might not be very happy with?

Is Jonathan Matthews another brainwashed victim of Transcendental Meditation? Is he being bankrolled by the billion dollar organic industry to help them sell fear? Does he just want to watch the developing world die of malnutrition from his home in well fed England? I sent him an email with some questions, but he has so far refused to comment. All said and done, he is probably like everyone in the anti biotechnology movement –  fighting against human development.

This article originally appeared on We Love GMOs and Vaccines here and was reposted with permission of the author.

Stephan Neidenbach is a middle school teacher in living in Annapolis,
MD. He holds a BS in business administration from Salisbury University and a MS in Instructional Technology from University of Maryland University College. He started and runs the Facebook group We Love GMOs and Vaccines, follow him on twitter @welovegv.

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