The Monsanto Papers: Roundup (Glyphosate) Cancer Case Key Documents & Analysis

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This post redirects to the new Monsanto Papers PAGE. Please go to the page to make text updates. Note that the date must be updated here to appear current on the USRTK home page. If you don’t see the date field appearing on the right hand side of this page, click on the gear wheel at the top of the page then click “Document.” The date field will appear next to “Publish” and you can change it by clicking there.

Study Shows Coca-Cola’s Efforts to Influence CDC on Diet and Obesity

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 29, 2019
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350 or Nason Maani Hessari (+44) 020 7927 2879 or David Stuckler (+39) 347 563 4391

Emails between The Coca-Cola Company and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrate the company’s efforts to influence the CDC for its own benefit, according to a study published today in The Milbank Quarterly. Coca-Cola’s contact with the CDC shows the company’s interest in gaining access to CDC employees, to lobby policymakers, and to frame the obesity debate by shifting attention and blame away from sugar-sweetened beverages.

The study is based on emails and documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act by U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit consumer and public health research group. The investigation into Coca-Cola is of particular relevance because the CDC has recently faced criticism for its links to manufacturers of unhealthy products, including those of sugar-sweetened beverages. The emails demonstrate Coca-Cola’s efforts to “advance corporate objectives, rather than health, including to influence the World Health Organization,” the study says.

“It is not the proper role of the CDC to abet companies that manufacture harmful products,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “Congress should investigate whether Coca-Cola and other companies that harm public health are unethically influencing the CDC, and subverting its efforts to protect the health of all Americans.”

“Once again we see the grave risks that arise when public health organisations partner with manufacturers of products that pose a threat to health,” said Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “Sadly, as this example, and more recent ones in the United Kingdom show, these risks are not always appreciated by those who should know better.”

The paper concludes: “It is unacceptable for public health organizations to engage in partnerships with companies that have such a clear conflict of interest. The obvious parallel would be to consider the CDC working with cigarette companies and the dangers that such a partnership would pose. Our analysis has highlighted the need for organizations like the CDC to ensure that they refrain from engaging in partnerships with harmful product manufacturers lest they undermine the health of the public they serve.”

The Milbank Quarterly study was co-authored by Nason Maani Hessari, research fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know; Martin McKee, professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; and, David Stuckler, professor at Bocconi University.

U.S. Right to Know is currently litigating two FOIA cases to obtain more documents from the CDC. In February 2018, U.S. Right to Know sued the CDC over its failure to comply with its duty under FOIA to provide records in response to six requests about its interactions with The Coca-Cola Company. In October 2018, CrossFit and U.S. Right to Know sued the Department of Health and Human Services seeking records about why the Foundation for the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC Foundation) and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health (NIH Foundation) have not disclosed donor information as required by law.

The U.S. Right to Know Food Industry Collection, containing documents from today’s study, is posted in the free, searchable Food Industry Documents Archive hosted by the University of California, San Francisco. For more background about USRTK’s work regarding the CDC and Coca-Cola, see: https://usrtk.org/our-investigations/#coca-cola.

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit consumer and public health research group that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy. For more information, see usrtk.org.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is a world-leading centre for research, postgraduate studies and continuing education in public and global health. LSHTM has a strong international presence with 3,000 staff and 4,000 students working in the UK and countries around the world, and an annual research income of £140 million. LSHTM is one of the highest-rated research institutions in the UK, is partnered with two MRC University Units in The Gambia and Uganda, and was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2016. Our mission is to improve health and health equity in the UK and worldwide; working in partnership to achieve excellence in public and global health research, education and translation of knowledge into policy and practice http://www.lshtm.ac.uk

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UCSF Chemical and Food Industry Libraries Host USRTK Documents

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Update 1/29/19: The University of California, San Francisco added the USRTK Food Industry Collection of emails to its Food Industry Documents Library. The first batch of USRTK emails posted to the database contain emails between the Coca-Cola Company and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including those reported in January 2019 study in the Milbank Quarterly, Public Meets Private: Conversations Between Coca-Cola and the CDC, by Nason Maani Hessari, Gary Ruskin, Martin McKee and David Stuckler. See our Coca-Cola and CDC Resources Page for more information.

UCSF Chemical Industry Documents Library Now Hosts U.S. Right to Know Collection

News Release
For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 19, 2018
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

The University of California, San Francisco Industry Documents Library today placed online several collections of agrichemical industry documents, including some acquired and donated by U.S. Right to Know, a consumer and public health watchdog group.

The documents shine light on the public relations, scientific, legislative and regulatory tactics the industry has used to defend its products and profits.

“These documents offer an inside view of agrichemical industry communications about the health and environmental risks of its products,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “We hope they will prove to be a valuable resource for policymakers, investigative journalists and the public at large.”

The documents will be housed in the UCSF Chemical Industry Documents Archive, which is affiliated with the UCSF Truth Tobacco Industry Documents, an archive of 14 million documents created by tobacco companies and their allies.

The documents donated by U.S. Right to Know will be known in the archive as the USRTK Agrichemical Collection. Many of these documents were obtained via federal and state public records requests. In February, the Freedom of the Press Foundation documented growing opposition to the use of public records requests for documents related to the agrichemical industry.

“We want to make these documents available so that others don’t have to go through the trouble and expense of obtaining them,” Ruskin said.

Many of the documents known the “Monsanto Papers” will also be made available.These documents are surfacing in litigation over whether Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

During the last year, these documents have been the subject of dozens of news stories worldwide. In March, two journalists at the French daily Le Monde, Stéphane Foucart and Stéphane Horel, won a European Press Prize Investigative Reporting Award for their work with the Monsanto Papers.

The documents are catalogued, indexed, fully searchable and downloadable so they will be easy to use for policymakers, journalists, academics and the general public. They are available free of charge.

Documents in the USRTK Agrichemical Collection at UCSF have been reported on in many news articles, including:

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit consumer and public health organization that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy. For more information, see usrtk.org.

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Consumer Group USRTK Asks FTC to Investigate Advertising of Sucralose

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News Release

For immediate release:Monday, November 19, 2018
For more information contact:Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

The consumer group U.S. Right to Know sent a letter today to Federal Trade Commission (FTC), asking it investigate whether companies that manufacture or sell the artificial sweetener sucralose, such as Tate & Lyle PLC and Coca-Cola Co., are advertising and marketing it deceptively, by claiming that it neither metabolizes nor bioaccumulates.

Sucralose, sold under the brand name Splenda, is an organochlorine artificial sweetener used in thousands of food products. Emerging evidence, published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, suggests that sucralose metabolizes and bioaccumulates in rats, contradicting some advertising and marketing materials about sucralose.

“Are food companies deceiving consumers by telling them that sucralose doesn’t metabolize or bioaccumulate?” asked Gary Ruskin, co-director of the consumer and public health group U.S. Right to Know. “That’s what we’re asking the Federal Trade Commission to figure out.”

Tate & Lyle’s website sucralose.com statesthat “SPLENDA®Sucralose is not recognized by the body as a carbohydrate and is not metabolized by the body.” Coca-Cola’s website claims that “The small amount of sucralose that is absorbed is not metabolized, but is rapidly eliminated in urine as sucralose. Sucralose does not accumulate in the body.” These statements and others appear to be contradicted by the study in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health.

In 2015, U.S. Right to Know petitioned the FTC and FDA to stop Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. from using the term “diet” in advertising, branding and labeling of Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, because it appears to be deceptive, false and misleading.Numerous scientific studies and literature reviews suggest that artificial sweeteners do not assist in weight loss and may cause weight gain. Neither the FTC nor FDA acted on these requests.

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit consumer and public health group that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy. For more information, see usrtk.org.

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Jon Entine, Genetic Literacy Project: Monsanto, Bayer, Chemical Industry PR Messengers

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Jon Entine is executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project and principal of the public relations firm ESG MediaMetrics, whose clients included Monsanto. Entine portrays himself as an objective authority on science, but evidence shows that he is a longtime PR operative with deep ties to the chemical industry and undisclosed industry funding. He plays a central role in the agrichemical industry’s efforts to promote GMOs and pesticides, and attack critics.

A 2015 Monsanto PR document named the Genetic Literacy Project as an “industry partner” that could help “orchestrate outcry” against the World Health Organization’s cancer research panel for their finding that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is probably carcinogenic to humans.

Genetic Literacy Project origins: Jon Entine’s PR firm and a nonprofit with tobacco ties

Jon Entine is founder andprincipal of ESG MediaMetrics, a public relations firm that promised to “address an unfilled frustration voiced by corporations…” Entine’s clients from 2010-2015 (according to archived web pages) included Monsanto, the Vinyl Institute and Merisant, a Monsanto spin-off that manufacturesartificial sweeteners. In 2011, ESG MediaMetrics registered theweb domain for GeneticLiteracyProject.org.

Entine was also at that time employed by Statistical Assessment Services (STATS), a nonprofit group that journalists have described as“disinformation campaign” “known for its defense of the chemical industry.” According to anarchived version of the STATS website, Genetic Literacy Project was developed as a “cross disciplinary program with STATS.” Tax filings show that the Science Literacy Project, the parent organization of the Genetic Literacy Project, inherited the STATS tax ID number.

An investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinelfound that STATS was a “major player in the public relations campaign to discredit concerns about bisphenol A” and that its parent organization, the Center for Media and Public Affairs, “was paid in the 1990s by Philip Morris, the tobacco company, to pick apart stories critical of smoking.” Entine was a director of the Center for Media and Public Affairs through June 2015, according to tax forms.

Monsanto was a client of Entine’s PR firm, ESG MediaMetrics, which set up the domainregistration for GeneticLiteracy Project.

Partners with Monsanto to Spin GMOs and Pesticides

Documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know and from litigation against Monsanto show that Entine and the Genetic Literacy Project are central players in the agrichemical industry’s propaganda campaigns.

  • Genetic Literacy Project is a key messenger in Monsanto’s PR campaign to “protect the reputation” of Roundup from cancer concerns byattacking the scientists of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). More than 200 articles on GLP’s website defend glyphosate and attempt to discredit the cancer scientists, claiming they are “anti-chemical enviros” who “lied” and “conspired to misrepresent” the health risks of glyphosate.
  • A June 2017prize-winning Le Monde investigation into Monsanto’s “effort to destroy the United Nations’ cancer agency by any means possible” describes the Genetic Literacy Project and the American Council on Science and Health as “well-known propaganda websites” and key players in Monsanto’s communication networks.
  • Plaintiffs’ attorneys suing Monsanto over glyphosate cancer concerns stated in a May 2017 filing that: “Monsanto quietly funnels money to ‘think tanks’ such as the ‘Genetic Literacy Project’ and the ‘American Council on Science and Health,’ organizations intended to shame scientists and highlight information helpful to Monsanto and other chemical producers.”
  • In 2015, Genetic Literacy Project published a series of pro-GMO papers written by professors that were assigned and promoted by Monsanto, with no disclosure of the corporation’s role. The Boston Globe reported that Monsanto suggested the topic and headline for a Harvard professor’s paper, “then connected the professor with a marketing company to pump it out over the Internet as part of Monsanto’s strategy to win over the public and lawmakers.” Ina September 2014 email, Monsanto executive Eric Sachs wrote to a professor with “proposed edits on your brief,” and identified Entine’s Genetic Literacy Project as the “the primary outlet” for publishing the papers and “building a merchandising plan” with the public relations firm CMA (now Look East).
  • Look East, the PR firm that promoted the Monsanto-assigned professor papers, is directed by Charlie Arnot, who also runs the Center for Food Integrity, a food industry front group that receives funding from Monsanto. Center for Food Integrity gives funding tothe Genetic Literacy Project.
  • In 2014 and 2015, Genetic Literacy Project partnered with Academics Review, a front group started with the help of Monsanto to attack critics of the agrichemical industry, to organize the Biotech Literacy Project boot camps. Paul Thacker described the events inThe Progressive:“Industry has also secretly funded a series of conferences to train scientists and journalists to frame the debate over GMOs and the toxicity of glyphosate.”
  • Entine is involved with several other groups identified as “industry partners” in Monsanto’s 2015 PR plan to defend Roundup, includingAcademics Review, Center for Food Integrity,Biofortified, the AgBioChatter listserve, Sense About ScienceUSA (now merged with STATS), and the agrichemicalindustry-funded PR website GMO Answers.

Ties to Syngenta / American Council on Science and Health

Syngenta was funding ACSH when it published Entine’s book defending Syngenta’s pesticide.

Jon Entine has partnered for years with the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), acorporate front groupthat Monsanto paid to help spin the WHO/IARC cancer report on glyphosate. Syngenta was also funding ACSH at the time that ACSH published Entine’s 2011 book, “Scared to Death: How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health.” The book defends atrazine, a pesticide manufactured by Syngenta.

In a 2012 article about Entine for Mother Jones,Tom Philpott described the circumstances leading up to the publication of the book. The article is based on internal documents, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, that described Syngenta’s PR campaign to get third-party allies to defend atrazine,and ACSH’s attempts to raise more money from Syngenta specifically to defend atrazine.

In a2009 email, ACSH staff asked Syngenta for an additional $100,000, “separate and distinct from general operating support Syngenta has been so generously providing over the years,” to produce a paper and “consumer-friendly booklet” about atrazine. In 2011, ACSH announcedEntine’s book as a “companion friendly, abbreviated position paper” written in response to the “growing level of chemophobia the irrational fear of chemicals among the American public.”

Entine told Philpott he had “no idea” Syngenta was funding ACSH.

Attacks on Scientists and Journalists

A key theme in Entine’s work is attacking scientists and journalists who report critically about the chemical industry, the oil industry or the health problems associated with their toxic products and practices. Some examples:

  • In a 2014 New Yorker articlebased on internal Syngenta documents, Rachel Aviv reported that Syngenta’s public relations team had plotted to destroy the reputation of UC Berkeley Professor Tyrone Hayes in attempt to discredit his research connecting the herbicide atrazine to birth defects in frogs. In a lengthy Forbes article, Entine attackedAviv’s story as a “botch puff piece” and claimed Hayes is “almost completely discredited.” Entine’s primary source was a “summary analysis” by University of Illinois Professor Emeritus Bruce Chassy, the founder of the Monsanto front group Academics Review.
  • In 2017,Entine attacked Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes, co-author of Merchants of Doubt, as “a populist Luddite, the intellectual Rottweiler of in-your-face, environmentalism, unduly wary of modern technology.”
  • In 2016, Entine attacked Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll and journalist Susanne Rust for their series reporting that Exxon knew for years that climate change was real but hid the science to keep revenues flowing.
  • In a follow-up attack in 2017 (since removed from the Huffington Post website), Entine accused Rust of having a “journalistic history” that raises “ethical and science questions.” He cited as evidence Rust’s award-winning investigative series on BPA that was short-listed for a Pulitzer Prize— but didn’t disclose that the series outed his former employer STATS as a “major player in the public relations effort to discredit concerns about BPA.”

Reporting by Rust and Meg Kissinger in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and by Liza Gross in The Interceptin 2016, describes how Entine’s former employers, STATS and Center for Media and Public Affairs, pioneered their methods of attacking journalists and media while working for Phillip Morris to defend cigarettes in the 1990s.

The Murky Funding Trail to Entine and the Genetic Literacy Project

Entine’s funding history is complex and opaque, but tax documents and his own disclosures reveal a pattern of funding from anonymous sources and right-wing foundations that push deregulation and climate science denial, as well as undisclosed funding from the biotechnology industry.

Inaccurate, ever-changing “transparency” note

The “financial transparency” note on the Genetic Literacy Project website is inaccurate, changes often and at times contradicts itself. For 2017 and 2018, the Genetic Literacy Project claimed it received funding from a handful of foundations including the Templeton and Searle foundations, which are two of the leading funders of climate science denial efforts. GLP also notes funding from the Center for Food Integrity, a food-industry front group that receives money from Monsanto and also partners with Monsanto and Genetic Literacy Project to promote agrichemical industry PR.

In September 2016, the “disclosure”note said GLP received no funding from corporations, but noted a $27,500 “pass through” from “Academics Review Charitable Association,” which appears not to exist. That group is apparently AcademicsReview.org, a front groupfunded by the agrichemical industry. The “pass through” was for the Biotech Literacy Project Boot Camp, an event funded by the agrichemical industry.

In March 2016, GLP made no financial disclosures and Entine tried to distance GLP from his former employer STATS, claiming that STATS provided accounting services only to GLP from 2011-2014 and that the groups weren’t involved with each other’s activities. But in 2012, GLP said it was “developed as a cross disciplinary program with STATS.”

Center for Media and Public Affairs/George Mason University

For the fiscal year2014/2015, according to tax records, Entine received $173,100 for his work as “director” at Center for Media and Public Affairs, a group based at George Mason University and founded by GMU ProfessorRobert Lichter.CMPAwas paid by Phillip Morrisin the 1990s to deflect concerns about tobacco,according to documents in the UCSF Tobacco Industry Library.

CMPA does not disclose its funders but has received funding from George Mason University Foundation, the leading recipient of donations affiliated with Charles Koch and Koch Industries.GMUF also received $5.3 million from Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund between 2011-13, according to the Guardian. These funds channel money from anonymous donors including corporations to campaigns and academics who push industry interests, as Greenpeace demonstrated in an undercover investigation.

STATS Payments and Loans

CMPA’s sister group, also founded by Lichter and based at GMU, was Statistical Assessment Services (STATS), a nonprofit group that played a key role in chemical industry PR efforts to defend toxic products, according to reporting in The Intercept, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Atlantic and Consumer Reports.

According to IRS forms:

  • STATS paid Entine $140,600 in 2012/2013 and$152,500 in 2013/2014as a “research consultant”
  • STATS listed Entine as Director in2014/2015and his compensation as $173,100. The Center for Media and Public Affairs also listed Entine as Director that year with compensation in the same amount. Tax records for both groups also listed President Trevor Butterworth for $95,512 and Director Tracey Brown with no compensation. Tracey Brown is the director of Sense About Science, a group that also spins science to defend chemical industry interests; Butterworth became founding director of Sense About Science USA in 2014/2015 and merged STATS into that group).
  • Science Literacy Project took over the tax ID of STATS in 2015/2016and listed Entine as Executive Director with compensation of $188,800.Science Literacy Project paid Entine$177,504 in2016/2017
  • ESG MediaMetrics, Entine’s PR firm, reported $176,420 in income in 2018

CMPA has also loaned money to STATS, which “due to inadequate funding” has “not been reimbursed.” George Mason University Foundation, which does not disclose its funding, gave CMPA grants in those years. Tax records show:

Biotechnology industry funding to train scientists and journalists

In 2014 and 2015, the Council for Biotechnology Information, which is funded byBASF, Bayer, DowDuPont and Monsanto Company, spent over $300,000 on two events organized by Genetic Literacy Project and the front group Academics Review to “train scientists and journalists to frame the debate over GMOs and the toxicity of glyphosate,” according to tax records and rep0rting in The Progressive. The events, called the Biotech Literacy Project boot camps, were held at the University of Florida in 2014 and UC Davis in 2015. The agendas describe the events as “communication skills training” for scientists and journalists to help reframe the food safety and GMO debate, andpromised to provide scientists with the “tools and support resources necessary to effectively engage the media and appear as experts in legislative and local government hearings, and other policy making and related outreach opportunities.”

Faculty at the first first boot campincludedrepresentatives from the agrichemical industry, food industry front groups and trade groups, and pro-GMO academics including University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta, and University of Illinois Professor Emeritus Bruce Chassy, both of whom have accepted undisclosed funding from Monsanto and promote the GMOs and pesticides that Monsanto sales rely upon. Washington Post food columnist Tamar Haspel, who also acceptsmoney from agribusiness interests, wasthe journalist onfaculty.

Climate science denier funders

Major financial supporters of Entine’s former employer STATS and his current group Genetic Literacy Project include right-wing foundations – primarily Scaife Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust and Templeton Foundation – that are leading funders of climate science denial, according to a 2013 Drexel University study.See USRTK investigation: Climate Science Denial Network Funds Toxic Chemical Propaganda.

Chemical Industry Defense Guy

For many years, Entine has been a prominent defender of chemical industry interests, following the industry playbook: he defends the chemicals as safe; argues against regulation; and attacks science, scientists journalists and others raising concerns.

Defending Neonicotinoids

Growing scientific evidence suggests that neonicotinoids, the most widely used class of pesticides, are a key factor in bee die-offs. The European Union has restricted neonics due to concerns about impact on bees.

Entine:

  • Accused European politicians of trying to kill bees by restricting neonics (Forbes).

Defending Phthalates

In August of 2012, Entine defended vinyl plastic backpacks that were found to be exposing children to phthalates.

  • Entine criticized an NBC reporter for “shoddy journalism” for raising questions about the safety of phthalates (Forbes).

Defending Fracking

Entine defends hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the pumping of high-pressure chemical-laced water into the ground to crack shale and extract natural gas. As in his many other messaging campaigns, Entine blasts science and scientists who raise concerns, framing them as “activists,” while making sweeping and indefensible statements about “scrupulous” science conducted over many years that defend its safety.

For example, Entine claimed: “From a scientific perspective, no reason exists to even suspect unknown health or environmental issues will turn up” from fracking (New York Post).

Entine also:

  • Accused New York Times reporters of misleading children about the potential environmental dangers of fracking (Forbes).
  • Attacked two Cornell University scientists for their study suggesting that fracking operations leak methane (Forbes).
  • Attacked the Park Foundation, claiming that it has “almost single-handedly derailed shale-gas development in methane-rich New York State, and put its imprint on public opinion and policy decisions around the country.” (Philanthropy Roundtable)

Defending BPA

Entine writes in defense of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), despite a large body of scientific evidence raising concerns about its endocrine disrupting potential and other health problems associated with it. Canada declared the chemical to be toxic in 2010, and the EUbanned BPA in baby bottles in 2011.

Entine:

  • Attacked “a small but determined group of university researchers, activist NGOs and journalists” raising concerns about BPA (Forbes).
  • Tells women who can’t get pregnant not to blame it on plastics (Forbes).
  • Challenged scientists linking BPA to heart disease (Forbes).

Defending Nuclear Power

Entine:

  • Criticized Harvard Professor Naomi Oreskes for pointing out the economic and environmental risks of nuclear power (Huffington Post).
  • Claims that nuclear power plants are environmentally benign and that “Nothing as bad as Chernobyl is likely to occur in the West” (Jon Entine).
  • Argued that Germany is “taking a gamble” by transitioning away from nuclear power (Ethical Corporation)

Fellowships

Entine was an unpaid fellow at the Center for Health and Risk Communication at George Mason University (GMU) from 2011-2014.Entine is also a former senior fellow at the UC Davis World Food Center’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy, which does not disclose its donors, and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a DC think tank funded in part by corporate and dark money contributions.

See also, Greenpeace Polluter Watch page on Jon Entine and “the hidden story of the Genetic Literacy Project.”

The American Council on Science and Health is a Corporate Front Group

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The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is a front group for the tobacco, agrichemical, fossil fuel, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. Emails released from lawsuits against Monsanto in 2018 and leaked financial documents from 2012 reveal the ACSH’s corporate funding and its strategies to spin science in defense of corporate products to secure financial support from corporations.

Monsanto funding for Monsanto defense

August 2017: A series of emails about the American Council on Science and Health released via lawsuits against Monsanto reveal that Monsanto paid ACSH on an ongoing basis to help defend its embattled products. Monsanto executives described ACSH’s materials promoting and defending agrichemical products as “EXTREMELY USEFUL” [sic] and noted that ACSH was working with Monsanto to discredit the World Health Organization’s cancer panel report about the cancer risk of  glyphosate (read more about Monsanto PR strategy to discredit IARC here).

The emails show that ACSH staff wrote to Monsanto requesting “Monsanto’s continued, and much needed, support in 2015.” Some Monsanto staffers were uncomfortable working with ACSH but decided to pay them anyway, according to the emails. Monsanto’s senior science lead Daniel Goldstein wrote to colleagues: “I can assure you I am not all starry eyed about ACSH- they have PLENTY of warts- but: You WILL NOT GET A BETTER VALUE FOR YOUR DOLLAR than ACSH.”

July 11, 2017: Paul Thacker reported in the Progressive: “Monsanto ignored repeated questions about their financial support for the American Council on Science and Health.” ACSH Director Hank Campbell responded in a post: “I don’t care. If a large food corporation, like Whole Foods, or a smaller one, like Monsanto, wants to buy an ad here, they can. We will cash that check.”

June 1, 2017: Le Monde investigation into Monsanto’s “war on science” described ACSH as a key player in Monsanto’s communication and lobbying network (see English translation).

May 2017: Plaintiffs’ attorneys suing Monsanto over glyphosate cancer concerns stated in a brief:

“Monsanto quietly funnels money to ‘think tanks’ such as the ‘Genetic Literacy Project’ and the ‘American Council on Science and Health,’ organizations intended to shame scientists and highlight information helpful to Monsanto and other chemical producers.”

August 2013: Emails reveal that Monsanto tapped ACSH to publish a series of pro-GMO papers assigned to professors by Monsanto and merchandized by a PR firm:

Monsanto executive Eric Sachs wrote to the professors: “To ensure that the papers have the greatest impact, the American Council for Science and Health is partnering with CMA Consulting to drive the project. The completed policy briefs will be offered on the ACSH website … CMA and ACSH also will merchandize the policy briefs, including the development of media specific materials, such as op-eds, blog postings, speaking engagements, events, webinars, etc.”

The papers were published in the end by Jon Entine’s Genetic Literacy Project (a close ally of ACSH) with no disclosure of Monsanto’s role.

Leaked ACSH docs reveal corporate-defense funding strategy

A leaked 2012 ACSH financial summary reported by Mother Jones revealed that ACSH has received funding from a large number of corporations and industry groups with a financial stake in the science messaging ACSH promotes — and showed how ACSH solicits corporate donations for quid pro quo product-defense campaigns. For example, the document outlines:

  • Plans to pitch the Vinyl Institute which “previously supported chlorine and health report”
  • Plans to pitch food companies for a messaging campaign to oppose GMO labeling
  • Plans to pitch cosmetic companies to counter “reformulation pressures” from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
  • Efforts to court tobacco and e-cigarette companies

Mother Jones reported, “ACSH’s donors and the potential backers the group has been targeting comprise a who’s-who of energy, agriculture, cosmetics, food, soda, chemical, pharmaceutical, and tobacco corporations.” Funding details:

  • ACSH donors in the second half of 2012 included Chevron, Coca-Cola, the Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Bayer Cropscience, Procter and Gamble, Syngenta, 3M, McDonald’s, and tobacco conglomerate Altria. ACSH also pursued financial support from Pepsi, Monsanto, British American Tobacco, DowAgro, ExxonMobil Foundation, Philip Morris International, Reynolds American, the Koch family-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Dow-linked Gerstacker Foundation, the Bradley Foundation and Searle Freedom Trust.
  • Reynolds American and Phillip Morris International were the two largest donors listed in the documents.

Syngenta funding, Syngenta defense

In 2011, ACSH published a book about “chemophobia” written by Jon Entine, who also has many close ties to Monsanto. Entine’s book defended atrazine, a pesticide manufactured by Syngenta, which was funding ACSH.

A 2012 Mother Jones article describes the circumstances leading up to the publication. The article by Tom Philpott is based in part on internal company documents, obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, describing Syngenta’s PR efforts to get third-party allies to spin media coverage of atrazine.

In one email from 2009, ACSH staff asked Syngenta for an additional $100,000 – “separate and distinct from general operating support Syngenta has been so generously providing over the years” – to produce an atrazine-friendly paper and “consumer-friendly booklet” to help educate media and scientists.

Email from ASCH staffer Gil Ross to Syngenta seeking funding for science project on atrazine “controversy” to include a peer reviewed paper and accompanying “consumer friendly booklet”:

A year and a half later, ACSH published Entine’s book with this release: “The American Council on Science and Health is pleased to announce a new book and companion friendly, abbreviated position paper … authored by Jon Entine.” Entine denied any relationship with Syngenta and told Philpott he had “no idea” Syngenta was funding ACSH.

ACSH personnel

  • ACSH’s longtime “Medical/Executive Director” Dr. Gilbert Ross was convicted in a scheme to defraud the Medicaid system prior to joining ACSH. See court documents about Dr. Ross’ multiple fraud convictions and sentencing, and article in Mother Jones “Paging Dr. Ross” (2005). Dr. Ross was found to be a “highly untrustworthy individual” by a judge who sustained the exclusion of Dr. Ross from Medicaid for 10 years (see additional references and court document).
  • In June 2015, Hank Campbell took over ACSH leadership from acting president (and convicted felon) Dr. Gilbert Ross. Campbell worked for software development companies before starting the website Science 2.0 in 2006. In his 2012 book with Alex Berezow, “Science Left Behind: Feel Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti Science Left,” Campbell describes his background: “six years ago… I decided I wanted to write science on the Internet … with nothing but enthusiasm and a concept, I approached world famous people about helping me reshape how science could be done, and they did it for free.”

Incorrect statements about science 

ACSH has:

  • Claimed that “There is no evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke involves heart attacks or cardiac arrest.” Winston-Salem Journal, 2012
  • Argued that “there is no scientific consensus concerning global warming.” ACSH, 1998
  • Argued that fracking “doesn’t pollute water or air.” Daily Caller, 2013
  • Claimed that “There has never been a case of ill health linked to the regulated, approved use of pesticides in this country.” Tobacco Documents Library, UCSF, The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition document page 9, 1995
  • Declared that “There is no evidence that BPA [bisphenol A] in consumer products of any type, including cash register receipts, are harmful to health.” ACSH, 2012
  • Argued that the exposure to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, “in conventional seafood causes no harm in humans.” ACSH, 2010.

Recent ACSH messaging continues in the same theme, denying risk from products that are important to the chemical, tobacco and other industries, and making frequent attacks on scientists, journalists and others who raise concerns.

  • A 2016 “top junk science” post by ACSH denies that chemicals can cause endocrine disruption; defends e-cigarettes, vaping and soda; and attacks journalists and the Journal of the American Medical Association.

USA Today gives ACSH a platform 

USA Today continues to publish columns by ACSH president Hank Campbell and senior fellow Alex Berezow, who is also member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, without disclosing their funding ties to corporations whose interests they defend. In February 2017, 30 health, environmental, labor and public interest groups wrote to the editors of USA Today asking the paper to stop providing a platform of legitimacy to ACSH or at least provide full disclosures about who funds the group.

The letter states:

  • “We are writing to express our concern that USA Today continues to publish columns written by members of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a corporate-funded group with a long history of promoting corporate agendas that are at odds with mainstream science. USA Today should not be helping this group promote its false identity as a credible, independent source on science. Your readers deserve accurate information about what and whom this group represents, as they reflect on the content of the columns.”
  • “These are no idle allegations. Many of the undersigned health, environmental, labor and public interest groups have been tracking ACSH’s work over the years. We have documented instances in which the group has worked to undermine climate change science, and deny the health threats associated with various products, including second-hand smokefrackingpesticides and industrial chemicals – all without being transparent about its corporate backers.”
  • We note that financial documents obtained by Mother Jones show that ACSH has received funding from tobacco, chemical, pharmaceutical and oil corporations. Public interest groups have reported that ACSH received funding from the Koch Foundations between 2005-2011, and released internal documents showing that ACSH solicited $100,000 from Syngenta in 2009 to write favorably about its product atrazine – a donation that was to be “separate and distinct from general operating support Syngenta has been so generously providing over the years.”
  • “At a time when the public is questioning the legitimacy of the news media, we believe it is vital for publications such as USA Today to follow the highest standards of journalistic ethics and serve the public with as much truth and transparency as possible. We respectfully ask you to refrain from publishing further columns authored by members of the American Council on Science and Health, or at the very least require that the individuals identify the organization accurately as a corporate-funded advocacy group.”

As of December 2017, USA Today editorial page editor Bill Sternberg has declined to stop publishing ACSH columns and the paper has repeatedly provided inaccurate or incomplete disclosures for the columns, and failed to notify its readers about ACSH’s funding from corporations whose agenda they promote.

Statement from Carey Gillam on Monsanto Roundup Cancer Verdict

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News Release

For immediate release: Friday, August 10, 2018
For more information contact: Carey Gillam (913) 526-6190 or carey@usrtk.org

Comment from Carey Gillam, Research Director of U.S. Right to Know and author of the award-winning book that details Monsanto’s manipulation of the science surrounding its herbicide products:

“Monsanto and its chemical industry allies have spent decades actively working to confuse and deceive consumers, farmers, regulators and lawmakers about the risks associated with glyphosate-based herbicides. As they’ve suppressed the risks, they’ve trumpeted the rewards and pushed use of this weed killer to historically high levels. The evidence that has come to light from Monsanto’s own internal documents, combined with data and documents from regulatory agencies, could not be more clear: It is time for public officials across the globe to act to protect public health and not corporate profits.”

Carey Gillam is a journalist and author, and winner of the Society of Environmental Journalists 2018 Rachel Carson Book Award. She also is a public interest researcher for US Right to Know, a not-for-profit food industry research group.

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“Serious Flaws” Found in Journal Standards, Document Review Shows

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Friday, June 8, 2018                          

For More Information Contact:
Carey Gillam, USRTK Research Director (913) 526-6190 or carey@usrtk.org
Sheldon Krimsky, Tufts University Professor 617-866-3100 or Sheldon.Krimsky@tufts.edu

When vital public health research reports are published in refereed journals, there is a heightened expectation that they meet professional standards of scientific integrity. But a new paper published in the Journal of Public Health Policy finds that those standards have been egregiously and intentionally violated with respect to papers dealing with a popular pesticide.

The paper is authored by Sheldon Krimsky (PhD), the Lenore Stern Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Department of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning at Tufts University, and author of Science in the Private Interest, and Carey Gillam, Research Director of U.S. Right to Know and author of Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science. 

The paper reviews court-released discovery documents obtained from litigation against Monsanto Co. over its herbicide Roundup and documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests (requests to regulatory agencies and public universities in the United States). The findings include evidence of ghostwriting, interference in journal publication, and undue influence of a federal regulatory agency.

Journals are the gatekeepers of reliable evidence and credible knowledge. They must set the highest standards of scientific integrity. Journal editors must never manifest a bias to some individual or organization. When a journal learns that an article has been ghost written or that there were undisclosed conflicts of interest, it has an obligation to act appropriately and inform readers. The new paper makes the case that two journals, Critical Reviews of Toxicology and Food and Chemical Toxicology, did not measure up to these standards. The documents signal serious flaws in the ethics of scientific publication and regulatory processes that must be addressed.

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit organization that works to advance transparency and accountability in the nation’s food system. For more information about U.S. Right to Know, please see usrtk.org.

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U.S. Right to Know Sues EPA for Glyphosate Residue Documents

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 22, 2018
For More Information Contact: Carey Gillam (913) 526-6190

U.S. Right to Know, a consumer advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for violating provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Public Citizen Litigation Group, a public interest law firm in Washington, D.C., is representing U.S. Right to Know in the action.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., seeks documents related to the EPA’s interactions with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding testing food samples for residues of the weed killing chemical called glyphosate. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world and is the key ingredient in Monsanto Co.’s branded Roundup herbicides as well as other weed-killing products.  Concerns about the chemical have grown since the World Health Organization in 2015 said its cancer experts classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

For decades, the FDA has annually tested thousands of food samples for different pesticides to determine compliance with legal tolerance levels established by the EPA. But it was only in 2016 that the FDA started some limited testing for glyphosate residues in food, and the agency has yet to report official results from those tests. Documents obtained from within the FDA indicate residues of the weed killer have been found in many food samples, including honey and oats.

U.S. Right to Know is suing to require EPA to comply with a FOIA request made in July 2016 that seeks release of documents pertaining to the EPA’s communications with the FDA regarding the residue testing for glyphosate, as well as any communications EPA has had with Monsanto regarding the same.

The lawsuit also requests that EPA comply with a FOIA filed in February 2017 seeking records between EPA employees and CropLife America, a trade association for the agrochemical industry.

The lawsuit specifically claims that U.S. Right to Know has a statutory right under FOIA to the requested records and that EPA has no legal basis for refusing to produce these records. The complaint asks the court to order EPA to make the requested records promptly available.

The lawsuit comes three days after U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu sent a letter to the FDA asking for more information on the FDA’s efforts to test glyphosate levels in food. The letter follows a report published in The Guardian indicating that glyphosate, the chemical commonly used in herbicides, could be found in common foods.

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit organization that works to advance transparency and accountability in the nation’s food system. For more information about U.S. Right to Know, please see usrtk.org.

Public Citizen Litigation Group litigates cases involving open government, health and safety regulations, consumer rights, access to the courts, and the First Amendment. It is the litigating arm of the national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, Public Citizen. The Litigation Group often represents individuals and organizations seeking access to records under the Freedom of Information Act. More information can be found at citizen.org.

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Study: How Coca-Cola Declared War on the “Public Health Community”

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Thursday, March 15, 2018
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

The Coca-Cola Company proposed and financed the now-defunct group Global Energy Balance Network as a “weapon” in the “growing war between the public health community and private industry” over obesity and the obesity epidemic, according to a new study published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

The study is based on documents obtained via state Freedom of Information request by U.S. Right to Know, a consumer and public health group.

The study states that “The documents reveal that Coca-Cola funded and supported the GEBN because it would serve as a ‘weapon’ to ’change the conversation’ about obesity amidst a ’growing war between the public health community and private industry’.”

“This study reveals The Coca-Cola Company’s true intentions to go to war with the public health community over obesity and who is responsible for it,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of US Right to Know, a co-author of the study.

Other co-authors of the study are: Pepita Barlow, University of Oxford; Paulo Serôdio, University of Oxford; Professor Martin McKee, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and Professor David Stuckler, Bocconi University.

The title of the article in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health is: “Science organisations and Coca-Cola’s ‘war’ with the public health community: insights from an internal industry document”.

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit consumer and public health organization that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy.  For more information, see usrtk.org.

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