Morrison readily admitted that B-M has hired
him to meet with farmers, unions, consumer and "faith-based"
groups to counter what he describes as "environmentalist public
hysteria" about biotech foods.
"I've been a union organizer, a community
organizer," Morrison said. "I'm not going to have my credentials
questioned by these folks. On most issues I work with environmental
groups. I disagree with them on this issue. Burson-Marsteller has
approached me to work with them on a number of other issues in the
past and I declined because I disagreed with them, but I agree with
them on this issue."
In fact, Morrison's liberal credentials appear
to be precisely the reason he was hired. PR Watch interviewed
several activists who disagree with Morrison's position but declined
to be quoted on the record. "I'm a friend of Jerry's,"
explained one, who said he is "pissed off" at his decision
to work for Burson-Marsteller. Morrison's connections, he said,
make it easier to stifle organized consumer opposition to biotech
foods. "It may not mean that Citizen Action goes out and says
they're fine," he said. "It may just mean that they're
silent, and that can be worse." (Note: Citizen Action has informed
us that it supports mandatory labeling for genetically-modified
Both Morrison and Burson-Marsteller have been
cagey about the details of their work. Morrison told O'Dwyer's
PR Services that he coordinates his work with B-M's Chicago
office, but refused to give the name of the person he reports to.
John LaSage, B-M's Midwest Region Chairman, said he wasn't aware
that Morrison had been hired. Peter Himler, B-M's executive vice
president for media relations, even refused on Nov. 11 to confirm
that Monsanto was a client. However, the New York Times reported
on Nov. 12 that Monsanto "recently retained Burston-Marsteller
... at an annual cost of millions of dollars."
Direct Impact, a subsidiary of B-M specializing
in "grassroots PR," has also been involved in trying to
get pro-industry testimony at the FDA hearings.
Reprinted with permission of
Center for Media & Democracy
The Center for Media & Democracy is a nonprofit, public interest
organization funded by individuals and nonprofit foundations and
dedicated to investigative reporting on the public relations industry.
The Center serves citizens, journalists and researchers seeking
to recognize and combat manipulative and misleading PR practices.