American Enterprise Institute

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American Enterprise Institute

Founded in 1943 and located in Washington, D.C., the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is the Godfather of Washington neo-conservative lobby groups - America's richest, largest and most influential think tank. It is also regarded as one of the Bush administration's closest allies.

It has the CEOs of both pharmaceutical giant Merck and of The Dow Chemcial Company, as well as the Vice President of Exxon, among the many corporate figures on its Board of Trustees.

Several of the leading lights of the Bush administration, most notably Vice President Dick Cheney, directly connect to AEI, which also rents office space to the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). Founded in 1997, PNAC has been agitating since its inception for war with Iraq. Like PNAC, the AEI is regarded as a major promoter of President Bush's war-agenda.

AEI has some fifty resident scholars and fellows augmented by a network of more than a hundred adjunct scholars. Among its scholars are Roger Bate, Newt Gingrich, James Glassman (of Tech Central Station) and Richard Perle.

In June 2003 AEI held a day-long seminar on 'NGO influence and accountability', entitled Nongovernmental Organizations: The Growing Power of an Unelected Few. Among the speakers at the Washington seminar was Gary Johns of the Institute of Public Affairs which had launched a corporate newsletter called NGO Watch two years earlier. Other contributors included Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Roger Bate of AEI, IEA, ESEF, IPN, SDN etc. According to Bate, ' NGOs definitely provide benefits in the short run. But I would argue in the long run their influence is nearly always malign, either through their own political acts directly or via aid agencies.' Some commentators saw a profound irony in that fact that AEI is itself an 'unelected' NGO with a truly remarkable degree of influence.

Following on from the seminar, AEI and the Federalist Society launched NGOWATCH.ORG - 'an effort to bring clarity and accountability to the burgeoning world of NGOs'. The writer Melanie Klein describes it as in truth, 'a McCarthyite blacklist, telling tales on any NGO that dares speak against Bush administration policies or in support of international treaties opposed by the White House.' Its launch, Klein noted, coincided with a push by the Bush administration to get NGOs 'to do a better job of linking their humanitarian assistance to U.S. foreign policy' - an effort overseen by USAID and its director Andrew Natsios.

Bush to NGOs: Watch Your Mouths

AEI also produces The American Enterprise, 'an influential policy magazine' which, like other AEI publications, is 'distributed widely to government officials and legislators, business executives, journalists, and academics; its conferences, seminars, and lectures are regularly covered by national television.'

In June 2003 AEI hosted a conference Biotechnology, the Media and Public Policy, which brought together probably the largest gathering of leading GM lobbyists assembled outside of the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual conventions. June 12 2003

Biotechnology, the Media and Public Policy  



Jon Entine, AEI


Opening Address:
Lester Crawford, Food and Drug Administration


Panel I: Biodiplomacy and Public Perception

Tim Friend, USA Today

Vivian Moses, CropGen

Robert Paarlberg, Wellesley College

C. S. Prakash, AgBioWorld

Javier Verastegui, CamBio Tec-Canada



12:20 p.m.

Keynote Speaker:
Andrew S. Natsios, USAID

1:30 Panel II: Emerging Challenges for Commercializing Biotechnology

 Moderator: Justin Gillis, Washington Post 
 Panelists: Rob Horsch, Monsanto 
   Joseph McGonigle, Aqua Bounty  
   Patrick Moore, Greenspirit 
   Martina Newell-McGloughlin, University of California 

3:15 Panel III: GMOs and Communications Issues

 Moderator: Jon Entine, AEI 
 Panelists: Jay Byrne, v-Fluence, Inc. 
   Carol Tucker Foreman, Consumer Federation of America’s Food Policy Institute 
   Tony Gilland,Institute of Ideas 
   Thomas Hoban, North Carolina State University 
   Doug Powell, Agnet 

Papers developed out of several of the contributions to the conference were subsequently published in The American Enterprise (March 2004) under the heading BIOTECH BOUNTY. These half a dozen articles included:

Let Them Eat Precaution By Jon Entine, an AEI fellow who tells his readers that 'It's high time genetically modified products got their fair shot in the marketplace.'

Reaping the Biotech Harvest By Lester Crawford, head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA regulates GM foods in the US although, in reality, it is currently largely a voluntary process.

How Much Should We Worry about Biotech? By Tony Gilland and Carol Foreman Gilland is part of the notorious LM-network. His piece trots out the standard LM line about 'the worrying European trend of emotional and psychological, rather than rational, responses to concerns about biotechnology'. Carol Foreman 'encourages us to love not fear biotech products'. The author was an outspoken lobbyist on behalf of Monsanto's genetically engineered cattle drug rBGH before returning to the Consumer Federation of America (CFA)!

Battle for Biotech Progress By Patrick Moore – 'A Green activist warns that the anti-science, anti-human obstructions of environmentalists must be resisted.' Not everyone would recognise someone who helps front a Canadian logging industry financed group as the AEI's 'a green activist' but the article typically trades on Moore's previous connection with Greenpeace, even though it ended nearly two decades ago. Moore writes, 'Imagine an advertising campaign that showed graphic images of blind children in Africa, explained Vitamin A deficiency, introduced Golden Rice, and demonstrated how Greenpeace's actions are preventing the delivery of this cure. Imagine another ad that showed impoverished Indian cotton farmers, explained Bt cotton, and presented the statistics for increased yield, reduced pesticide use, and better lives for farmers - followed by the clear statement that activists are to blame for the delayed adoption of the technology.'

Technology That Will Save Billions From Starvation By C. S. Prakash and Gregory Conko. Prakash and Conko founded the AgBioWorld campaign. Conko works for AEI's young cousin the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) which has Dow Chemical among its funders. AgBioWorld has had links to Monsanto's PR operations, particularly its Internet PR firm Bivings Group. Aaron deGrassi, at the Institute of Development Studies, exposed in a report on GM and Africa how Prakash had promoted the benefits of Monsanto's GM sweet potato project in Kenya when he had no actual knowledge of the data. The recent publication of that data has shown the project has been a complete failure with the GM sweet potato outperformed by the conventional sweet potato which it was supposed to be replacing beacause of its 'miserable' performance.

The timing of the AEI's conference and of BIOTECH BOUNTY fits perfectly into the Bush administration's trade agenda and its WTO case on GMOs - a case that it could not get one African country to support (Egypt initially leant its name then withdrew), even though it was launched in the name of Africa. The principal orator at the launch was CS Prakash.