Gary Ruskin and Jon Entine Tangle over the GMO Corporate Connection

Jon Entine is senior fellow at the University of California Davis Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy.


Entine is also a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

He runs the Genetic Literacy Project — which is a project of a non profit he heads called the Science Literacy Project.

Now comes Gary Ruskin of US Right to Know in Oakland, California.

Ruskin says that Entine has a long history of defending corporate interests — chemical, nuclear, pesticides, GMO and fracking.

In March 2015, Ruskin filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with UC Davis asking for any correspondence between Entine and a string of corporate interests, including Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF,Dow, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

UC Davis has yet to produce the documents Ruskin requested.

Ruskin’s lawyer, Jessica Krupke of Sandler Reiff in Washington, D.C., sent a letter to UC Davis calling the year long delay “unreasonable.”

“Our client has instructed us that, if your office continues to disregard the requirements of the law by failing to provide an estimate of the date of production and by unreasonably delaying the production itself, we are to pursue all available legal remedies to obtain the disclosure of public records to which our client is entitled,” Krupke wrote.

Ruskin wrote earlier this month to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi asking her “reveal the sources of UC Davis funding for Jon Entine, the Genetic Literacy Project, the UC Davis Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy, and its parent unit, the UC Davis World Food Center.”

“We are concerned that UC Davis may be acting as a financial conduit to enable corporations to direct third-party public relations attacks against targeted academics, individuals and institutions.” Ruskin wrote. “There is a significant body of evidence that Entine acts as a chemical industry public relations operative. Perhaps you are aware that he has written dozens of articles defending corporate interests, and attacking a range of targets whose work criticizes or detracts from the profit interests of the chemical and fossil fuel industries. Most recently, the Columbia Journalism School, as well as academics at Harvard and UC Berkeley, were his focus for attack. Alongside his role as senior fellow at the UC Davis Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy, Entine is also executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, which regularly attacks activists, journalists and scientists who raise concerns about the health and environmental risks of genetically engineered foods and pesticides.”

Entine says Ruskin is engaged in a “juvenile witch hunt.”

“The irony is that the Genetic Literacy Project receives 97% of its funding — the rest via the Internet/PayPay — from non partisan, independent foundations with no connection to the debate over GMOs, while Gary Ruskin’s US Right to Know gets $274,500 from the Organic Consumers Association, a fringe, anti-science group with huge influence in the organic community and throughout the web which benefits directly from scaring people about food and farming,” Entine told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “So while the Science Literacy Project/GLP is 100% funded by non-partisan 501(c)(3) foundations and individuals, Ruskin is a paid arm of one of the most extremist anti-science organizations in the US whose members directly benefit from the scare he can create around independent science.”

“And here’s the Alice in Wonderland world we live in,” Entine said. “We have a dramatic new technology called genetic engineering. It’s not risk free because nothing is. Research is expensive so governments are not in a position to take the lead on it, plus they are crappy at doing that anyway. Corporations pursue research in this, costing hundreds of millions in investments.”

“Reasonable regulations in place start getting distorted by anti-technology activists even though thirty years of research has shown an almost perfect record of safety and compliance. New tighter restrictions are put in place. Smaller corporations drop out of development because it’s too expensive. Now anti-technology activists complain GE has been taken over by large corporations, which are bad, so must be opposed, because they could control food supply. Governments begin developing smaller projects such as GE eggplant and wilt resistant banana and vitamin enhanced rice, with no corporate connections. They are condemned as Trojan Horses for Big Biotech. The food researchers develop inexpensive ways to tweak individual genes to stop browning in potatoes, apples and mushrooms. They are condemned as tools of the devil. Then a small company develops a sterile mosquito which would help prevent a Zika crisis, including in the US, and the same brainiacs believe it should be stopped, because it’s part of a larger plot of corporate takeover of the world.”

When did Entine start the Genetic Literacy Project?

“In 2011,” Entine says. “But I couldn’t get money directly. I had to go through a receiving foundation. I went through the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) and asked if they would act as the receiving foundation for the money for it. They said — if you pay us eight percent or ten percent for operational costs, I forget what it was. I said — sure. So, that’s what I did. STATS doesn’t exist anymore, by the way.”

“Now it’s the Science Literacy Project — that’s the 501(c)(3). Under that is the Genetic Literacy Project and the Genetic Expert News Service.”

Who funds the Science Literacy Project?

“Money came in last year from the Templeton Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, and the Winkler Family Trust.”

You have pro-GMO groups like yourself —

“I’m not a pro-GMO group,” Entine says. “How could you look at my site and even pretend to use those words? Sixty percent of what we talk about is human genetics. Why would you call that a pro-GMO group? Anyone who looks at it and comes to the conclusion that it’s a pro-GMO group can’t even add one plus one. We spent sixty percent of our resources or more on human genetic related issues. That’s been a large part of our focus and the focus of two of my books.”

“It’s a website about human genetics that does exactly what it says it does. It tries to look at human and agricultural genetics from a science point of view. It’s not a pro-GMO group. If bad things happen with GMOs — which I don’t believe exist as as concept — we write about it. We will carry articles by Gary Ruskin. It’s not like Gary Ruskin carries articles by me.”

You have posted articles by Gary Ruskin on your web site?

“We have printed articles by plenty of people who are pro-GMO on our web site. If Gary Ruskin could get an article in a major publication other than his own vanity site, we would print it. We do not print people from their vanity sites. And we do not print from NGO activist sites. If he is going to write an attack from an organic funded organization like USRTK, no I’m not going to print it. But if he has an article in Time magazine — we put up articles by Terry Gillam — who now works for Gary Ruskin — we have articles by her all the time.”

In his letter to UC Davis, Ruskin says that “there is a significant body of evidence that Entine acts as a chemical industry public relations operative.”

“There is no body of evidence,” Entine says.

Ruskin says Entine “has written dozens of articles defending corporate interests and attacking a range of targets.”

“I don’t believe that’s an accurate description of what we do. We report on the news. If a genetically modified mushroom happens to be safe and we report it — in Gary Ruskin’s eyes, that’s pro-GMO propaganda. In 98 percent of the world’s eyes, that’s science.”

You wrote a column March 1 in the New York Post that attacked the Columbia Journalism School. You argued that the school “smeared Exxon.”

“I’ll stand by the words that I wrote.”

Ruskin goes to public universities and seeks emails of people he considers to be corporate advocates and seeks their connections to corporations.

“I know exactly what Ruskin wants to do. His very first FOIA was directed at me. I know exactly what he wants to do.”

Is he going to find any evidence of UC Davis connections to corporate interests? Ruskin is saying that he is “concerned that UC Davis may be acting as a financial conduit to enable corporations to direct third-party public relations attacks against targeted academics, individuals and institutions.”

“He can say that all he wants, but there is no evidence to support it,” Entine said.

There have been other universities where he has found connections between the academics and the corporations.

“Gary Ruskin has a pathetically jaded view of what it means to have an interconnected world where corporations and universities and journalists act together. All I can say is that I don’t take any corporate money. The Genetic Literacy Project doesn’t take any corporate money. Our records are open. UC Davis got no corporate money funnelled from them to me. Ruskin has gone after me for a year and a half and done hundreds of Freedom of Information requests. And he hasn’t laid a hand on me. There is not one scintilla of evidence. It is all innuendo.”

Are you paid by UC Davis?


What if there are corporate connections with the UC Davis Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy and the UC Davis World Food Center. Let’s say Ruskin uncovers corporate money going to those entities.

“Corporations have a right to be involved,” Entine said. “We are talking about land grant universities, universities required by the state constitution to be involved with the organization that improves agriculture. UC Davis and Oklahoma State and Iowa and Nebraska and others would be violating state law if they were not involved in many ways, financially and others, with corporations. They are required to be involved. That’s all I’ll say about it. This is silly. This sounds like a juvenile witch hunt by someone who is obsessed with corporations. Corporations do good things and corporations do bad things. Gary Ruskin does good things and bad things.”

“There is no there there.”

Have you debated anti-GMO people in public debates?

“Yes, at a New York Times food conference last October. I debated a guy from a natural products company.”

You are willing to debate someone like Michael Hansen of Consumers Union?

“Yes. He’s an ideologue. He’s not a serious person.”

You say they are ideologues. They say you are a corporate —

“They have no evidence of that. They are creating that out of the people I support.”

“I’m a science journalist. I have no corporate ties. GLP has no corporate funding. No one has found any. There is none. They can make all these accusations they want. They can say I’m bought and sold. They don’t have the evidence. It’s not there. We stand by the science. I’ve offered space on the GLP site.”

You have never taken money from corporate funders?

“When I give a speech, I do.”

Funding of your groups?


Give me some recent speeches you have given and how much they have paid you?

“No. I’ve been paid at modest levels. I’ve spoken at the Australian National Press Club.”

What about corporate speeches?

“I have never given a speech for a corporation.”

What about industry groups?

“I have given speeches for various industries.”

Give us one example?

“I’m not playing that game with you.”

“I’m a skeptical guy who doesn’t take anybody at face value. I’ve been involved in trying to change the world in a positive way. I see people like Gary Ruskin and Michael Hansen as dangerous people. They are on the wrong side of goodness. They will hurt people. People will look back and see them as the ultra-reactionary right of this period of time, the ones who are so ideological and paranoid about technological progress that they are willing to subvert potential innovations purely on the speculation that corporations are somehow poised to take over the world.”

[For the complete q/a format Interview with Jon Entine, see 30 Corporate Crime Reporter 17(12), April 25, 2016, print edition only.]

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