Natural Health365 — March 20, 2017
In April of 2014, Academics Review released its organic marketing report – and proceeded to blast the organic foods industry. The report, which received extensive coverage by the mainstream media, accused the industry of creating false and misleading perceptions and indulging in intentionally deceptive marketing. (Wait, until you see what Monsanto is doing – keep reading)
The report was billed as “the findings of independent researchers,” while the Academics Review itself is described as “an association of academic professors, researchers, teachers and credentialed authors from around the world who are committed to the unsurpassed value of the peer review in establishing sound science.”
It all sounds pretty lofty, right? Until you consider that one of the groups helping Academics Review to obtain corporate funding was none other than the most hated corporation in the world, the multinational biotech company – Monsanto. (Of course, they really don’t want you to know that)
Monsanto-related emails reveal a shocking truth about “independent research”
In emails obtained by US Right to Know, a non-profit organization working for transparency in the nation’s food system, it is abundantly clear that executives for Monsanto engaged in fundraising for Academics Review.
The emails, which were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal communications between Academics Review co-founder Bruce Chassy ,Ph.D. – a professor emeritus at University of Illinois – and assorted PR operatives, Monsanto employees, and bigwigs in the biotech industry.
As Carey Gillam, researcher director of US Right to Know, asserts: “Industry players cloaked pro-GMO messaging within a veil of independent expertise.”
Self-described “independent expert” blatantly looking for cash
A March 11, 2010 email exchange between Chassy and Jay Byrne, a former head of communications at Monsanto who now helms his own PR firm, puts fundraising front and center.
“Well, I suggest we work on the money (for all of us) first and quickly!” Byrne writes.
Eric Sachs, a senior public relations officer for Monsanto, was also in communication with Chassy, and even offered his help in getting trade groups on board.
“I can help motivate CLI (Crop Life International) /BIO (Biotechnology Innovation Organization) /Council for Biotechnology Information to support….”
Later in the email, Sachs brainstorms, “The problem is one of expert engagement, and that could be solved by paying experts to provide responses.” And – probably the most revealing sentence – “The key will be keeping Monsanto in the background so as not to harm the credibility of the information.”
Truth exposed: Professor Chassy is on the Monsanto payroll
According to an investigation by Chicago TV station WBEZ News, Professor Chassy was paid more than $57,000 over 23 months to “take his show on the road” – traveling, writing and speaking about GMOs.
In fact, Professor Chassy has collaborated on several projects with Monsanto to allay public concerns about GMOs – while masquerading as an independent academic. According to WEBZ News, Monsanto eventually funneled at least $5.1 million in undisclosed money through the University of Illinois Foundation to university employees and programs between 2005 and 2015. As per requests by Chassy and the university, Monsanto deposited the payments through the University of Illinois Foundation, which is protected from public scrutiny.
Although Chassy was given the opportunity to disclose his financial ties to Monsanto on state and university forms aimed at detecting potential conflicts of interest, he did not.
Incidentally, Professor Chassy is featured as an “independent expert” on the GMO Answers website. The website, funded by a half-dozen agrichemical companies, generally trumpets the merits of GMO foods. Academics Review co-founder David Tribe, Ph.D. – a lecturer at University of Melbourne – also appears on GMO Answers.
Report cited in articles demonizing the organic food industry
Articles in trade publications, including Food Navigator and Food Safety News and Hoard’s Dairyman, utilized splashy headlines to accuse the organic food industry of disinformation, deception, and scare tactics.
In a quasi-humorous article for the New York Post, Naomi Schaffer Riley decried the “tyranny of the organic mommy mafia,” and demeaned the parents who choose organic food for their children as snobbish, arrogant, overly controlling and engaging in “an outgrowth of helicopter parenting.”
Henry I. Miller, a Hoover Institute fellow and vocal supporter of corporate interests, used the AR report as source material to attack organic farming in such high-profile publications as Newsweek, the National Review and the Wall Street Journal.
As for Professor Chassy, he describes the publishing of his emails under the FOIA as an assault on his 40 years of science, research and teaching. He defends the financial support as “appropriate, commonplace and needed to further the public interest,” and insists that Academics Review “only accepts unrestricted donations from non-corporate sources, and does not solicit or accept funds from any source for specific research.”
Unfortunately, the emails tell a different story.