The end of third-party advocacy for GMOs?

As freedom of information requests reveal ostensibly independent GMO proponents to be working hand-in-hand with the GMO industry, Claire Robinson asks if the misinformation game is finally over

GM Watch, 17.10.15

Below is a selection of some of the GMO industry’s bad press following the emails released as a result of freedom of information requests by the NGO, US Right to Know and various journalists.

The emails show exactly how Monsanto and other agribusiness companies enlist ostensibly independent scientists and academics to promote GMOs. This strategy, known as the third-party PR technique, was notoriously used by the tobacco industry, which enlisted doctors to promote smoking. It is employed to pull the wool over the eyes of the public, who are much more likely to trust apparently independent experts than to trust industry.

In the latest scandal, the tsunami of press articles triggered by the disclosed emails has exposed a comprehensive list of pro-GMO individuals and outfits – many of whom will be familiar to GMWatch readers – as working hand-in-hand with industry to promote and defend GMOs and pesticides.

They include:
* Kevin Folta, the self-declared independent scientist who turned out to have taken money from Monsanto for outreach and communication
* The “Biofortified boys”, who write for the pro-GMO Biology Fortified website. They include Kevin Folta, Karl Haro von Mogel, and Steve Savage
* The experts who answer the public’s questions on GMOs on the GMO Answers website – they include Folta and Savage
* University of Illinois professor emeritus Bruce Chassy and David Tribe, who run the pro-agrochemical industry website, Academics Review
* Jon Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project (the GLP dominates Wikipedia coverage of GMOs)
* Nina Fedoroff, emeritus professor of biology at Penn State, professor of biosciences at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, and former chief science and technology adviser to secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton
* Harvard professor Calestous Juma
* Channapatna Prakash, a GMO advocate and dean at Tuskegee University
* Peter Phillips, a policy professor at Canada’s University of Saskatchewan
* Mississippi State University’s Davis Shaw and Tony Shelton of Cornell.

In addition, the emails reveal three journalists – Amy Harmon, Tamar Haspel, and Keith Kloor – as being disturbingly close to the GMO industry and its lobbyists.

In a world with any justice, we could confidently say that the third-party advocacy game for GMOs and pesticides is over. Once the puppetmasters are revealed, the “expert” pronouncements of the puppets lose their power.

The world and the power structure being what it is, however, we can expect the game to continue for some time and even for the pace and intensity to be jacked up, as the puppetmasters feel their control slipping away.

If you know any honest people who are still taken in by the shadow play, please send them this article, so that they can learn and reach their own conclusions.
——

Selection of media articles

New York Times: Food industry enlisted academics in GMO lobbying war, emails show

Independent Science News: The puppetmasters of academia

GMWatch: Death threats, libel, and lies – Part 1: Death threats

GMWatch: Death threats, libel and lies – Part 2: Documented liar?

GMWatch: How “the Biofortified boys” defended the pesticide industry’s secrets in Hawaii

Food Tank: Dirty money, dirty science

Mother Jones: These emails show Monsanto leaning on professors to fight the GMO PR war

Common Dreams: The conflict of interest culture among GMO advocates

Boston Globe: Harvard professor failed to disclose connection

Alternet: Three journalists who are disturbingly cozy with the agrichemical industry

Huffington Post: Monsanto and its promoters vs. freedom of information

EcoWatch: University scientists caught conspiring with Monsanto to manipulate public opinion on GMOs

The Intercept: Jeb Bush campaign manager helped Big Pharma beat back anti-meth lab legislation

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