Gates Foundation Backed Pro-GMO Cornell Alliance for Science On the Attack

The Cornell Alliance for Science has launched a frontal attack against a small public interest group based in Oakland, California.

The Cornell Alliance for Science was launched last year with a $5.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “add a stronger voice for science and depolarize the charged debate around agricultural biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).”


(Translation: we’re out to defend GMOs on behalf of the agrichemical and food industries against all critics.)

Cornell decided last week go after a newly created public interest group — U.S. Right to Know — which was created to “expose what the food industry doesn’t want you to know.”

U.S. Right to Know is the brainchild of anti-GMO campaigner Gary Ruskin.

And one of the group’s first campaigns is to identify professors at universities with ties to corporations backing GMOs.

Earlier this year, Ruskin’s group filed for correspondence and emails to and from professors at public universities who wrote for the agrichemical industry’s PR website — GMO Answers.

The GMO Answers website was created by Ketchum, a corporate public relations firm.

“We taxpayers deserve to know the details about when our taxpayer-paid employees front for private corporations and their slick PR firms,” Ruskin said. “This is especially true when they do work for unsavory entities such as Ketchum, which has been implicated in espionage against nonprofit organizations.”

The public records requests filed by U.S. Right to Know covered correspondence to and from professors who work for publicly-funded universities and agrichemical companies such as Monsanto, as well as to and from PR firms such as Ketchum or Fleishman Hillard, and to and from trade associations such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Council for Biotechnology Information.

The requests are not an effort to obtain any personal information or academic research involving the professors.

The records request did not sit well with the corporate minded directors of the Cornell Alliance for Science.

They are calling on the public to “stand with the Science 14” against U.S. Right to Know’s record request.

“It’s a tactic pulled straight from the climate change deniers’ playbook — and now an anti-science, agenda-driven organization is using it to bully another group of scientists,” the Cornell Alliance for Science says.

“All of these scientists have proactively engaged with the public to raise scientific awareness about agricultural innovation and contributed to the scientific consensus about the safety of GMOs.”

“FOIA requests are a vital tool for a transparent democracy. However, this FOIA is clearly a last ditch witch-hunt by an anti-GMO group to mislead the public and keep scientists from doing their work.”

“We’ve seen this anti-science bullying tactic before in Climategate, where academic discussion was taken out of context to mislead the public.”

“Broad anti-science campaigns like this are hurting our society.”

“Please join the fight for academic freedom by signing our letter to support the scientists under attack and urging them to stand strong in the face of anti-science bullying,” the Alliance says.

As of this writing, 653 people have signed a letter of support to the Science 14.

(For the debate on record requests aimed at scientists, see Why Scientists Often Hate Record Requests by Anna Clark, Columbia Journalism Review, February 25, 2015.)

(The National Geographic magazine also recently fell into the trap of equating the consensus on global warming with the science on GMOs. (Consensus on one, not on the other). See The War on Genetically-Modified-Food Critics: Et tu, National Geographic? by Timothy Wise, FoodTank, February 27, 2015.)

(The pro-GMO Center for Science in the Public Interest recently refused an offer to debate the issue of the labeling of GMO foods. See CSPI Refuses to Debate Consumers Union on Labeling of GMO Foods Corporate Crime Reporter February 27, 2015.)

Ruskin says the Cornell Alliance is just another arm of the corporate push for GMOs.

“The agrichemical industry has a new PR shop at Cornell University, financed by the Gates Foundation,” Ruskin said. “This is just the latest sorry example of the corporatization of the university in general, and Cornell University in particular.”

“The agrichemical industry and the Gates Foundation have hired the good name of Cornell University to trash our efforts to uncover the details of the agrichemical industry’s $100 million campaign to defend GMOs.”

“The Cornell Alliance for Science says that they want to ‘depolarize’ the debate on GMOs. But really it seems like they just want to defeat public health, public interest, consumer and environmental advocates who are concerned about the health and environmental effects of genetically engineered food.”

“Why is the Gates Foundation funding this attack on public health, public interest, consumer and environmental advocates?”

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