In April of 2014, an organization called Academics Review released its organic marketing report – and proceeded to blast the organic foods industry up one side and down the other. The report, which, somehow, received extensive coverage by the mainstream media, accused the organic foods 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.”
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 Monsanto 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.”
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 (emphasis added) 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.” (emphasis added)
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 – all while masquerading as an independent academic. (emphasis added) 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. The little sneaks!
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. (emphasis added)
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.
Articles in trade publications, including Food Navigator, Food Safety News, and Hoard’s Dairyman, utilized splashy headlines to accuse the organic food industry of disinformation, deception, and scare tactics. All basing their accusations on this FALSE REPORT! 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.” Sorry Ms. Schaffer Riley but I have got to call BS on that line!
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. More lies and BS!
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.
The threat of tainted food - whether by chemicals or through genetic manipulation - is a cause that arouses outrage at a pitch few other causes will ever muster. The threat of a shadowy corporation with its fingers buried in the heart of our food supply only heightens this outrage, and Monsanto's heavy-handed efforts at control, it’s outright lies, and it’s back-alley deals, have done nothing to soften its public image.
As things are now, it seems that GMOs will inevitably become a larger part of our food supply, because the corporate motivator in the United States has proved to be stronger than the citizen motivator in recent years. A few protests won't change that. But many of us working in our own neighborhoods could lead the way to that change! It will take concerted, long-running national efforts to change diets and attitudes before Monsanto and its peers are forced to loosen their grip on American farmlands. If you choose to be one of the people on the vanguard of that effort, make sure that you understand the science as it is, and not as you'd like it to be. Be honest in your concerns and in what you tell people – so not support lies to prove our point – that make us know better than Monsanto!
Are we less healthy today than we were decades ago? Yes, we are, even though most of the mainstream media refuse to report on that fact. But when we vilify the mega corps in the GMO business, keep this thought in mind, “Is it all Monsanto's fault?” Probably not, the majority of the blame must fall on each and every one of us, we all are implicated in the destruction of our planet, the eradication of countless species of plants and animals, and the deterioration of the health of our own species. Industrial farming and GMO-producing companies may have played a huge part, but only because we have allowed it them do so. Only we can undo the damage that has been done. It may even be too late, but in case it is not, we are obligated to do everything in our power to try.
Considering the evidence, nothing short of a revolution in the way we produce and enjoy our food will be enough. It is time we wake up and stop believing the lies agribusiness and mega-corporations like Monsanto have been feeding us and take matters into our own hands. We must stop buying industrially produced and GMO goods and foods, we must start supporting our local farmers, we must educate ourselves at every opportunity, and whenever possible, we must grow our own food. There is a great disconnect in the mind of the American people between our food and the land from which it comes. We all must in some ways get back in touch with nature. We can still enjoy the benefits of a modern society, but letting every decision that is made for us by multinational corporations go unchallenged is signing our own death warrant.
Happy (GMO-FREE) Gardening!!