How part of the CNRS relayed an influence campaign in favor of “new GMOs”


Members of the Institute of Molecular Plant Biology (IBMP) in Strasbourg pose with a message in favor of new genomic techniques.  Photo posted on February 5, 2023 on X by the IBMP account.

The use of scientific authority is a powerful political lever. Ahead of the vote by MEPs, Wednesday February 7, on the conditions for authorizing “new GMOs” in Europe, the WePlanet organization orchestrated an influence campaign on social networks based on highlighting researchers in favor of the deregulation of the diffusion of these plants, resulting from new genomic techniques (NGT for New Genomic Techniques). The organization, which presents itself as an “eco-modernist NGO” and campaigns for nuclear energy, genetically modified organisms and the development of cellular nutrition, has benefited from significant support in France: that of part of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).

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Two days before the vote, high authorities of the flagship of French research, according to information from the World, invited researchers from the Institute of Biology, one of the ten main departments of the CNRS, to participate in the WePlanet campaign, by sending them the communication elements concocted by the organization: hashtags, pre-written tweets, instructions questioning of parliamentarians, etc.

Dated February 5, the email was sent by the secretariat of the CNRS biology institute to around fifteen unit directors. Its leak, via mailing lists of university researchers and public organizations, fueled numerous comments. When questioned, the CNRS communications department ensures that the decision to relay the WePlanet campaign is a decision of its biology institute, “addressed only to researchers at this institute”.

“Hold-up”

“The CNRS is in favor of a relaxation of GMO regulations on NGT in order to accelerate research and innovation based on these new techniques, we read in the message. On the occasion of this debate, WePlanet coordinated the writing of an open letter, notably signed by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and sent to the members of the European Parliament to encourage them to vote in favor of ‘relaxed regulations for new genomic techniques. »

The message relays WePlanet’s proposal to scientists “to take a photo of themselves in front of their laboratories and publish their image on social networks using #GiveGenesAChance [“Donnez une chance aux gènes”] and #NGTs ».

There open letter coordinated by the WePlanet organization and relayed by the CNRS biology institute calls on European parliamentarians to “carefully consider the benefits of adopting NGT”has “reject the darkness of anti-science alarmism and turn to the light of prosperity and progress.” The text was signed by around 1,500 European scientists, often researchers in molecular biology or plant genetics, including just under twenty declaring an affiliation with the CNRS. However, NGTs are the subject of great divergences of opinion within the scientific community, often according to disciplinary fields.

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