My discussion with the Museum of Natural Sciences about their Biotechnology Day continues with the communication below that I sent to Dr. Betsy Bennett, the Museum’s director. Unfortunately, I called her Ms. Bennett in the email, instead of Dr. Bennett. This error occurred because the Museum’s website did not identify her as a doctor, but a “Friend of the Museum” mentioned her title in a comment on my blog post: Please Act – NC Museum of Natural Sciences Ignores Its Mission and Promotes GMO Food and Big Pharma.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to contact the Museum about your concerns, there is still plenty of time. I know that for many people registering concerns with a government agency can be intimidating, but they are a government agency and it is part of their job to receive and respond to public feedback. The Museum is a public agency receiving public money via monetary appropriations from our state’s General Assembly.
I am hopeful that Dr. Bennett will take the letter I sent below with the seriousness that I intend. It is through hope and taking action that together we can make a difference. Thank you for reading.
Dear Ms. Bennett:
As a long-time visitor to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, I want you to know how much I appreciate the Natural Science programs that the Museum presents. The year-round and traveling exhibits are excellent, as are the speakers, and staff members have been overwhelmingly wonderful in their education efforts. Unfortunately, I do have concerns regarding the Museum’s Biotechnology Day, and I have been in a lengthy discussion with Dr. David Kroll. My concerns are outlined in the emails below. I am writing to you to formally register my opposition to Biotechnology Day, to urge the Museum to stop holding the event and to encourage your staff to be more open to the public’s concerns.
Rather than repeat my Biotech Day objections and recommendations in their entirety (they are included in the email chain below), I want to present concerns regarding my interactions with Dr. Kroll. During these interactions I raised serious concerns and recommendations which have gone largely unaddressed. In addition, Dr. Kroll tried to creatively paint a scenario where modern Biotechnology is complementary to Natural Science, which I had to dispel by using the Museum’s own contributor’s definitions of Biotechnology. When faced with this information, Dr. Kroll abruptly ended the conversation with the following statement:
As you noted in your July 24 email that you are "a former state government employee who has interacted highly with the public," I'm sure you will appreciate that our workload includes responsibilities to the 911,000 visitors who have come through our doors over the last 12 months as well as to our diverse collection of stakeholders. I'm certain you will agree that several of us at the Museum have expended an inordinate amount of effort in responding to your individual inquiries. As such, we wish you well in your endeavors and consider this matter now closed.
This response is highly offensive to all citizens. Citizens should be taking active roles in their communities and their governments, with the expectation that constructive dialog will continue and that citizens will not be mocked, misled and dismissed for pointing out information even if it undermines an agency’s position. The evidence supporting these concerns is based in my email exchanges with Dr. Krolll, not just the conversation-ending paragraph above.
For ten years I was a state government employee at an environmental agency. In that role I was often in the heart of some very heated and high profile environmental cases, and I have had an exceptional amount of public interaction with both emotional and fact-based citizens. It has always been my goal to see each interaction to an amicable conclusion when possible. Given that my conversation with Dr. Kroll was rational, sensible and factual, I was highly disappointed when he ended our communication.
In addition, I asked Dr. Kroll for all emails, notes, memos or other communications related to our correspondence and he responded that there were none. I find this hard to believe given that he stated that “several of us at the Museum have expended an inordinate amount of effort in responding to your individual inquiries.” If several people have in fact “expended an inordinate amount of effort” then surely there must be additional correspondence. If not, then that leads me to the potential conclusion that my emails have caused an inordinate number of lengthy verbal meetings with several staff members, resulting in no documentation, which would be surprising in this electronic age. Accordingly, I ask that the Museum check again to see if there is any other staff documentation regarding Dr. Kroll’s and my email discussion. I am interested in even the smallest of electronic communications and ask that they be forwarded.
It is offensive that Dr. Kroll believes that he and other staff have spent an inordinate amount of time responding to my concerns. That is absurd, given the length of his responses to my concerns and the fact that he ignored most of the points for which I requested his response. What is even more offensive, though, is the amount of time I have spent dispelling the misinformation presented by Dr. Kroll and finding constructive information to present to him. A citizen should not have to work this hard to ensure that facts are the basis for discussion with your agency in an effort to stop it from holding an event that is antagonistic to its very name and mission.
Finally, it still highly bothers me that Dr. Kroll believes that the presentations made at the Museum were ethical. Many of the corporate presenters have been legally penalized for their lack of ethics. Take this August 2012 bribery case regarding Biotech Day exhibitor Pfizer, where overseas doctors were bribed to increase sales: Pfizer Settles US Charges of Overseas Bribery. I will not go into the number of Biotech Pharmaceutical products that were marketed using false information, causing significant injury and death. I could list the legal charges and settlements worldwide against a number of the Museum’s contributors, but that is an exorbitant burden that I will not undertake.
I will provide one more example. Monsanto, another Biotech Day contributor, falls under a different line of horrific ethics. Monsanto manipulates the legal system to penalize and bankrupt small farmers when their non-Monsanto, non-GMO crops are cross pollinated by Monsanto’s GMO crops, causing patent infringement. This type of action gained notoriety in the legal case brought by Monsanto in Monsanto vs Schmeiser. Monsanto’s bullying and devastating efforts have become such a threat that a number of small and organic farmers are filing suit against Monsanto so that they hopefully will be protected from Monsanto’s patent infringement lawsuits. See Briefs Filed to Stop Monsanto's Patent Infringement War Against Family Farmers. These farmers want no part of Monsanto or its GMO crops, and it is unbelievable that legal action is required to keep them safe. Based on such encroaching, strangling companies like Pfizer, Monsanto, I am unable to see how many presentations or exhibits could possibly be considered ethical.
I would very much like to meet with you, Dr. Kroll and any other staff to learn more details regarding why the Museum is rejecting my concerns. Please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at to set up an appointment.
Thank you for your consideration of my concerns.