College professors could be writing and disseminating articles designed to promote genetically modified food on behalf of Monsanto and other agribusiness giants, emails obtained by The New York Times indicate.
The professors even may have written articles suggested by Monsanto’s PR team.
“Professors/researchers/scientists have a big white hat in this debate and support in their states, from politicians to producers,” Bill Mashek, a vice president at the Ketchum PR firm which was working for biotech firms, wrote in one email. “Keep it up!”
A Monsanto executive named Eric Sachs also may have suggested topics for the professors, Mother Jones alleged. Those articles were then posted on websites and given to media members by a PR firm, CMA.
The professors were not promoting a message about GMO safety but about the safety of herbicides, The Times said.
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The organic industry argues that herbicide usage has increased as genetically modified crops have become more popular.
How Monsanto May Have Turned Professors Into Lobbyists
Mother Jones writer Tom Philpott and Times writer Eric Lipton sifted through a cache of emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests by the group US Right to Know. Here is what they learned:
- Sachs sent nine professors an email suggesting that they write “short policy briefs on important topics in the agricultural biotechnology arena.” Philpott alleged that the topics of the briefs were proposed by Sachs.
- Once the briefs were written, a GMO industry trade group called the American Council on Science and Health and CMA would suggest them for blogs, newspaper op-eds and other media. Sachs wrote this was done because “Monsanto wants the authors to communicate freely without involvement by Monsanto.”
- GMO companies like Monsanto are donating large amounts of money to universities in an attempt to get support from professors, Lipton said.
- Agribusiness firms like Monsanto and Dow are engaged in a billion dollar war with organic industry firms like Stonyfield Farm, Whole Foods and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Both sides in the war are spending big money to enlist professors and scientists in the fight.
Testimony provided by academics recruited by agribusiness helped get the US House of Representatives to pass a law making it illegal for states to require GMO labeling, Lipton said. The Senate is planning to consider that law this year. The professors’ efforts also helped persuade the US Department of Agriculture to approve the use of new genetically modified seeds, Lipton wrote.
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