Monsanto providing for “scientific” research
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Documents released in a freedom of information request by US Right to Know (USRTK), a non-profit advocacy group funded by the Organic Consumers Association shed light into the increasingly nasty and divisive public relations war over GMOs. According to Global News the documents show that professors and academics were contacted by companies like Monsanto and the industry trade association’s public relations firm to provide expert opinion and offer credibility in a complicated debate.
One professor at a renowned American university volunteered as a science expert to help spread a pro-GMO message. His name is Kevin Folta, chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida. Folta began corresponding with Monsanto in 2013, according to emails released by USRTK. From there a relationship began with Monsanto, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and Ketchum, a public relations firm hired by the trade association, the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI).
Folta wrote articles, blog posts, contributed to industry website GMOAnswers.com, attended public hearings, forums and events to explain and defend GMO technology; he also lobbied Congress and other government agencies. During these appearances and in his writings Folta has repeatedly referred to himself as an “independent scientist.”
The documents reveal that Monsanto, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and Ketchum reimbursed Folta’s travel costs. After the emails were released, Folta admitted as much in his blog posts. In August 2014, Monsanto also gave Folta an unrestricted $25,000 grant telling him in a letter it “may be used at your discretion in support of your research and outreach projects.” Folta admitted in a Sept. 2015 blog post there were “many things I could have done differently.”
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