“Independent” GMO Researcher Forced to Release Emails Showing $25K Grant from Monsanto

August 17, 2015   |   Cassius Methyl

Cassius Methyl
August 17, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Oakland, CA –  In January of 2015, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by Oakland organization U.S. Right to Know requested email records between academics, scientists, and representatives of Big Agriculture. The FOIA requests were sent to 14 scientists at four public universities, requesting information on communications and email records.

The FOIA findings included communications of well-known, staunch proponents of GM crops like Kevin Folta, a professor and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Gainesville, who received a $25,000 grant from Monsanto. The emails reveal the funds could “be used at [his] discretion in support of [his] research and outreach projects”.

About 4,600 pages of emails, among other records, were obtained from Folta.

According to the communications, the ties between allegedly objective scientists and Big Agriculture run deep. According to Nature Magazine,

“The documents show that Monsanto paid for Folta’s travel to speak to US students, farmers, politicians and the media. Other industry contacts occasionally sent him suggested responses to common questions about GM organisms.”

While it’s not uncommon for scientists to receive corporate funding through grants, these revelations are troublesome because Folta is regularly sold to the public as an “independent” authority on GMOs. In fact, the biotech industry-funded site, GMOanswers.com — which seeks to dispel myths about the dangers of GM foods and pesticides — has still not disclosed Folta’s financial ties to Monsanto.

According to an article from Nature Magazine, U.S. Right to Know is “probing what it sees as collusion between the agricultural biotechnology industry and academics who study science, economics and communication.”

In layman’s terms, the organization is made up of ordinary people who seek to make corruption transparent and obliterate illusions of objectivity.

Executive director of U.S. Right to Know, Gary Ruskin, said one of the reasons the organization made the requests is that “The agri-chemical industry has spent $100 million dollars in a massive public relations campaign.The public has the right to know the dynamics.”

It looks like the FOIA targets are doing everything they can to avoid revealing information. According to Wired, “Legal teams at the universities—Nebraska, University of Florida, UC Davis, and the University of Illinois—are currently evaluating the situation, but some scientists have already spoken out against the FOIA request.”

FOIA requests might be one of the greatest threats to corruption and revolving door politics, which explains why those who oppose transparency are doing everything they can to prevent them.

“Open records requests are increasingly being used to harass and intimidate scientists and other academic researchers, or to disrupt and delay their work,” a report from The Union of Concerned Scientists claims.

“Academic institutions and other involved parties need to be prepared to respond to these requests in a way that protects the privacy and academic freedom of researchers while complying with the law and respecting the public’s right to information.”

Kevin Folta did what he could to avoid blame, saying, “I’m just a teacher, trying to distill a controversial literature for the general public.”

“I turned over everything [requested by the FOIAs] immediately,” he said.

There is no such thing as objective science when a researcher receives tens of thousands of dollars from the GM producers themselves, then goes on to promote their financiers’ products. Corporate collusion between government bureaucracies and educational institutions has become a serious issue in the U.S. that has corrupted objectivity in nearly every sector of American life.

If there is corruption in our society that you wish to make transparent, you can file your own Freedom of Information Act request, just like U.S. Right to Know did.


This article (“Independent” GMO Researcher Forced to Release Emails Showing $25K Grant from Monsanto) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Cassius Methyl and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Cassius Methyl joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in March of 2014. His topics of interest include thinking, creating a future, deep spirituality, and astrology. He resides in Sacramento, California. Learn more about Methyl here!

Author: Cassius Methyl

Cassius Methyl joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in March of 2014. His topics of interest include thinking, creating a future, deep spirituality, and astrology. He resides in Sacramento, California.

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32 Comments

  1. Wow…1 single guy loosely associated and possibly biased. ..lol I'm totally convinced now…monsanto , monsanto monsanto…total propaganda machine for the organic naturopathic and homeopathic industries. 27 billion dollars a year split between 25 main players in the organic industry alone…people are blind easily lead sheep.

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  2. As some who has worked in medical research a $25K grant isn't exactly a windfall. A large lab needs 100's of thousands a year to run effectively. Dr. Folta is a molecular biologist so of course he has an interest in genetic modification of plants. I see his relationship with Monsanto as just like minded scientists working together. There's nothing sinister here I can see.

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  3. "There is no such thing as objective science when a researcher receives tens of thousands of dollars from the GM producers themselves," But he did not receive tens of thousands of dollars. Monsanto was a minor doner for a meeting. Folta did not receive the money. Stop spreading lies. If you can't make your point truthfully perhaps you should reconsider your (uninformed) position.

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  4. There is no reason to believe there is any "bias" beyond the the fact that he understands the issue. Knowledge does bias people, but that's a good thing.

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  5. One single guy who does have, after all that's been conveyed in numerous rhetorical forms, a connection with Monsanto.

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  6. You are blatantly misrepresenting the money as a "grant". It wasn't money granted to Folta, nor was it for research. It was, as the emails themselves prove, a donation to participate in the organization fees for a meeting/convention. If you want to get to the truth, and spread it as well, you better start by not twisting it.

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  7. Just because someone has a grant it doesn't follow that they are corrupt. That's a fallacy. Folta can being right about the safety of GMO crops and have a small grant from Monsanto. Also I hope you understand that their are many Ag. companies that sell GMO seed not just Monsanto. Can you provide any published work that refutes the safety of GMO crops? And I mean in a real science journal like, Cell, Nature, Science, JAMA, NEJM, BMJ etc. Because I haven't seen any.

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  9. Wow, It would have been proper for you to actually ask me what this is about. First of all, the USRTK emails were never released by them. They did not reveal the $25 K. I was not "Forced to Release" anything. This was funding for a science communications outreach program that have been perfectly public for more than a year. The activists that want to destroy my reputation only discovered it now. It always was public and is used to cover travel expenses, coffe/donuts/subs for workshop participants, etc. It did not provide any salary, etc, that was volunteer time. Other contributors include organizations like Oregon Farm Bureau and individuals that support science literacy.

    My workshops teach science communication to scientists and farmers, and do cover the science behind biotechnology. We discuss the strenghts and weaknesses of the science, as described by the peer-reviewed literature. That's what scientists do.

    There has not been one criticism of the workshops, the content or any of my research. My research has never been sponsored by Monsanto. I'm a researcher, that's my primary job. The fact that they supported my outreach program is a good thing, and anyone interested in science literacy should do the same thing. http://www.talkingbiotech.com.

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  10. I did not receive any funds. These are used for a science communication program and I can account for every cent used. In fact, I'm going to post it all next week. I know it is hard for people like you to believe that others can represent an idea without being influenced by finances. People that can be bought off and have no integrity find it curious. My statements and teaching are based on 30 years of studying the topic, and have not changed, no matter how many dollars support it. That's called integrity. Nobody buys my words. They are not for sale. I will never apologize for using come company's money to enhance scientific literacy. Thanks

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  11. Rosemary Smith I'll be sure to call you next time. Send me your email address. I'm serious. Any funding to my program is public record, it always has been there, always will be there. The fact is, nobody really cared until I told Kloor about it and he put it in Nature. I told him. I provided the emails. It was not USRTK and it was not forced. Just let me know and I"ll be glad to provide you with a call or email whenever I receive funding. Since this attack, funds have been pouring in from companies, organizations and individuals, so this is a net positive.

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  12. Reid Lyons– You're right. This was not a research grant. My lab burns $10k a month in supplies, and $25k would support a half-time BS level technician for half a year with fringe, etc. This was to provide workshops for scientists to learn how to talk about science, something anti-science groups need to stop.

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  13. Rosemary Smith It is my job to have connections to leading ag companies. I"m a public scientist. I know what they are up to, as well as hundreds of other industries. This singles out one to make me look like a bad guy. I have closer ties to my local school district where I use these outreach funds to teach about citrus disease. Why stop that?

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  20. REALITY – Large quantities of industry and public money incentivises academic scientists to
    produce research on GM crops that favours the industry, and underplays contrary evidence.

    MYTH – Genetically modified organisms do not harm human or animal health, and therefore do not have
    any adverse effects on crops and the environment.

    TRUTH – The report, titled ‘Sustainability Assessment of Genetically Modified Herbicide Tolerant Crops’
    concludes that due to major gaps in the scientific literature, it is not possible to give a scientific verdict on
    their safety. Monsanto’s dossier, the report concludes, demonstrates a range of methodological
    weaknesses, and highlights the problem of incomplete information and research on GM crops in the
    available literature.

    “Contrary to this assertion, the literature provides indications of harmful and adverse effects to the
    environment and to health (both animal and human), as well as to socio-economic conditions, particularly
    over the medium- and long-term.”

    “Statements of the safety of GM crops rely principally on the absence of evidence of harm in specific
    research tests, rather than actual evidence of safety,” said Catacora-Vargas:

    “Absence of evidence of harm is a too low standard for adequate protection of human and environmental
    health… Moreover, today, a large portion of the research on GM crops is based on short-term studies that
    have inherent methodological weakness for detecting subtle yet significant effects that materialise in the
    long-term. Another common weakness — as indicated in my report — is the lack sufficient analytical rigour
    to derive any meaningful conclusions.”

    FACT – Hunger and poverty are due to structural factors and not a lack of food.

    OBVIOUS – Researchers like Kevin Folta refuse to acknowlege the corruption and revolving door politics,
    corporate collusion between government bureaucracies and educational institutions and major gaps in the
    scientific literature that clearly demonstrate the baseless assertions that GMOs/Pesticides are safe, even though there has not been one long-term epidemiological study conducted to show this. He talks about feeding the hungry, democracy and choice yet there is no mention whatsoever of the crimes, cover ups, and decades of environmental pollution (that go on today) that a certain company that forms part of the pro-GMO lobby has been involved in.

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  22. And let me guess, anti gmoniks never get funding from say, Big Organics. But yeah, you all do keep a lookout for those "Illuminati Lizard People". They're after your brains, and they're starving to death.

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  23. Maybe the anti-GMO folks are geting some cash from Big Organics, but the profit margins from Big Organics cannot come close to those for Monstersanto, and the losses they would incure from labling GMO foods would be devastating. We can't let the market determine what paople want now, can we?

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  24. Timothy Bresson Let's call this "The Monstersanto Fallacy". NYSE shows Monsanto coming in at about 16B gross revenue in '14. (http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/mon/financials)
    Gross revenue of Big Org in the US alone was pegged at 39B in '14 (https://www.ota.com/resources/market-analysis)
    39B just in the States. Who's your underdog?
    Losses incurred from labelling would have a detrimental effect to a great many more entities than just Monsanto. Not to mention that the labelling "movement" is dishonest in it's stated intentions.
    And yes, market economics is a good thing. But like all things becomes warped when taken to fanatical extremes. In this case, you are betting on scientific illiteracy as a driving force in the market. You have chosen to align with the Foodie Taliban.

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