Are Coke and Pepsi Lying to You About Diet Soda?

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fatdietcoke

In what appears to be a truly classic case of false advertising, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo call their artificially sweetened colas Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi.

Why false advertising?

It turns out that in recent years, many scientific studies link artificial sweeteners to weight gain, not weight loss.

That’s right. Artificial sweeteners are linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, increased appetite, metabolic disorders, obesity, and other conditions that are the opposite of the meaning of the term “diet.”

Talk about sickeningly sweet.

At U.S. Right to Know, we expose what the food industry doesn’t want you to know.

And we think it’s time to can the false advertising. So, on April 9th, we asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop allowing Coke and Pepsi to use the term “diet” for Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, because they likely cause weight gain, not weight loss.

That might just take the “fizz” out of diet soda sales.

Call us old-fashioned, but we think that if a product is labeled diet, it should actually help you to lose weight – and it most certainly should not make you gain weight

And we don’t want any other kind of artificially sweetened false advertising to bubble up. That’s why we also asked FTC and FDA to investigate all other food products containing artificial sweeteners using the term diet or implying weight loss, to determine whether those products are falsely advertised, branded and labeled.

Diet Coke is sweetened with aspartame, and Diet Pepsi with aspartame and acesulfame potatssium.

There are many reasons to be especially concerned about aspartame. Why? In addition to links to weight gain, aspartame has been linked to cancer, cardiovascular disease, higher rates of mortality, brain damage and shortened pregnancies, among many other things.

Hopefully, one of these days, the FDA will pull aspartame from the market. But until they do so, at a minimum, FDA and FTC should tell Coca-Cola and PepsiCo that they can’t use the word “diet” to advertise, brand or label their artificially sweetened sodas.

Is “Diet” Soda a Fraud? We Asked FTC to Investigate

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News Release
For Immediate Release: Thursday, April 9, 2015
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

“Diet” Soda Fraud? Consumer Group Asks FTC, FDA to Investigate Coke, Pepsi for False Advertising

Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi Use the Term “Diet,” But Studies Link Artificial Sweeteners to Weight Gain

Consumer advocacy group U.S. Right to Know today requested the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (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. Federal law prohibits false advertising, branding and labeling of food products, and FDA regulations permit the use of the term “diet” for soft drink brands or labels only when it is not false or misleading.

“Lots of scientific evidence suggests that artificial sweeteners are linked to weight gain, not weight loss,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know. “So how can Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi be advertised as ‘diet’ products?”

Both Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi are sweetened with artificial sweeteners. Diet Coke is sweetened with aspartame, and Diet Pepsi with aspartame and acesulfame potassium.

U.S. Right to Know also asked the FTC and FDA to investigate all other companies that manufacture products containing artificial sweeteners that are advertised, branded or labeled as “diet” or as weight loss aids, to determine whether they are falsely advertised, branded or labeled.

“Obviously, products labeled ‘diet’ shouldn’t cause weight gain,” Ruskin said.

Examples of scientific studies suggesting links between artificial sweeteners and weight gain include:

  • A 2013 Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism review article finds “accumulating evidence suggests that frequent consumers of these sugar substitutes may also be at increased risk of excessive weight gain, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” and that “frequent consumption of high-intensity sweeteners may have the counterintuitive effect of inducing metabolic derangements.”
  • A 2014 study published in Nature found that “consumption of commonly used NAS [non-caloric artificial sweetener] formulations drives the development of glucose intolerance through induction of compositional and functional alterations to the intestinal microbiota….our results link NAS consumption, dysbiosis and metabolic abnormalities….Our findings suggest that NAS may have directly contributed to enhancing the exact epidemic that they themselves were intended to fight.”

Texts of the U.S. Right to Know requests to FTC and FDA are available at:
FTC: https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/FTC-artificial-sweetener-letter.pdf
FDA: https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/FDA-artificial-sweetener-petition.pdf

UPDATE Sept. 2015: FTC declines to probe whether ads for ‘diet’ soda are deceptive, McClatchy story.

Text of the FTC and FDA’s responses to our requests are available at:
FTC: https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FTC-response-diet-soda.pdf
FDA: https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/FDA-response-diet-soda.pdf

U.S. Right to Know is a new nonprofit food organization that investigates and reports on what food companies don’t want us to know about our food. For more information, please see our website at usrtk.org.

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American Federation of Teachers Partnership with Coca-Cola is Bad for Schools, Teachers and Children

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 31, 2015
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

American Federation of Teachers Partnership with Coca-Cola is Bad for Schools, Teachers and Children

On March 23rd, the American Federation of Teachers signed a partnership agreement with the Coca-Cola Company that will undermine the authority of teachers nationwide, said U.S. Right to Know, a consumer group.

Following is the statement of Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know, in response to the AFT-Coca-Cola Co. partnership agreement.

“The Coca-Cola Company preys on American children.  It is responsible in part for the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes that afflicts our nation’s children.”

“It is not the proper role of the American Federation of Teachers to partner with child predators, such as Coca-Cola.”

“By partnering with a child predator, the AFT’s agreement will undermine the moral authority of teachers nationwide.”

“That is a regrettable outcome for teachers, schools, and especially our children, who deserve so much better from their teachers.”

U.S. Right to Know is a new nonprofit food organization that investigates and reports on what food companies don’t want us to know about our food. For more information, please see our website at usrtk.org.

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USRTK Calls for Investigation of Monsanto Cover Up, Harassment of USDA Scientists

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Monday, March 30th, 2015
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

USRTK Calls for Investigation of Monsanto Cover Up, Harassment of USDA Scientists

U.S. Right to Know sent letters today to the chairs and ranking members of the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees, and to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, requesting an investigation of a possible cover up for Monsanto, and whether USDA scientists are being harassed when their work runs counter to the interests of the agrichemical industry.

The letters are in reaction to a March 27 Reuters article that, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, “some scientists working for the federal government are finding their research restricted or censored when it conflicts with agribusiness industry interests….at least 10 USDA scientists have been investigated or faced other consequences arising from research that called into question the safety of certain agricultural chemicals….Research into glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, and neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been linked to honey bee and monarch butterfly endangerment, face particular scrutiny…”

“If true, this is a major scandal at USDA. It is not the proper role of the USDA to engage in a cover up for Monsanto or other agrichemical companies,” wrote Gary Ruskin, executive director of consumer advocacy group U.S. Right to Know. “It is intolerable that the agribusiness and agrichemical should be able to interfere with USDA scientists and their work. Those scientists work for the public, not Monsanto nor the agrichemical industry. They must be fully insulated from the political pressure of the agribusiness and agrichemical industries. It is crucial to the public interest that they do their work without industry harassment or obstruction. The integrity of the USDA is at stake.”

The letters urged the House and Senate Agriculture Committees and the USDA Inspector General to conduct full and thorough investigations into corporate interference with USDA scientists, to publicly release any evidence of industry interference with USDA scientists, and to ensure that such interference never happens again.

In January, U.S. Right to Know released a report – titled Seedy Business — on the chemical and food industry’s $100 million campaign to keep consumers in the dark about genetically engineered food: how they manipulated the media, public opinion, science and politics.

U.S. Right to Know is a new nonprofit food organization that investigates and reports on what food companies don’t want us to know about our food. For more information, please see our website at usrtk.org.

See today’s letters from U.S. Right to Know.

See the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility’s news release, “USDA Urged to Shield Its Scientists from Harassment.”

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Who’s Behind the Attacks on U.S. Right to Know?

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There have been a couple of recent attacks on U.S. Right to Know, so I thought it might be useful to sketch out who is behind them.

A March 9 article in the Guardian criticized us for sending Freedom of Information Act requests to uncover the connections between taxpayer-paid professors and the genetically engineered food industry’s PR machine. All three of the article’s authors are former presidents of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. But the article failed to disclose their financial ties.

The first author, Nina Federoff is identified as “an Evan Pugh Professor at Penn State University” but omits that she works at OFW Law, which is a powerhouse food and agribusiness lobbying firm. OFW Law is registered as lobbying for the Council for Biotechnology Information and Syngenta.

We requested correspondence from both Syngenta and CBI — whose members include “BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto Company and Syngenta” —  so we can understand why Ms. Federoff might wish to defend them without disclosing who her firm’s clients are.

The second author, Peter Raven, is identified as Director Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, which is so intertwined with Monsanto that it even has a Monsanto Center and a Monsanto Hall. The Peter H. Raven Library is on the Fourth Floor of the Monsanto Center. A 2012 news release states that, “Monsanto Company and Monsanto Fund have been among the most generous benefactors of the Missouri Botanical Garden over the past 40-plus years, contributing about $10 million for numerous key capital, science and education projects during that period.”

The third author, Phillip Sharp, works at the David H. Koch Institute at MIT — yes, the same David Koch of the Koch Brothers. In their article, the authors liken us to climate change deniers. For someone connected to the Koch Institute to link us with climate change deniers is beyond ironic. Dr. Sharp also has close ties to the biotech industry, as co-founder of the company Biogen.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is acting like the American Association for the Advancement of Monsanto. That, truly, is a loss for science, and for us all.

Also, the Cornell Alliance for Science has been attacking U.S. Right to Know and organizing a petition against our FOIA requests regarding the agrichemical industry PR and political campaigns to defend GMOs.

The Cornell Alliance for Science began last year with a “$5.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” the world’s largest foundation, which is a promoter of and investor in the agrichemical industry. The CEO of the Gates Foundation, Sue Desmond-Hellman, worked for fourteen years at the biotech company Genentech.

The Cornell Alliance for Science says that their “goal” is to “depolarize the GMO debate,” but attacking our consumer group is an odd way to “depolarize” the debate over the health and environmental effects of genetically engineered food and crops.

Obama Administration Proposes Ridiculous Anti-Consumer Plan for GMO Labeling

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News Release

For Immediate Release:  Thursday, February 26, 2015
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

Obama Admin. Proposes Ridiculous Anti-Consumer Plan for GMO Labeling

Despite polls showing overwhelming support for labeling for genetically engineered foods, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack proposed yesterday that consumers should use their smartphones to scan bar codes on food packages to find out whether their food contains GMOs.

Vlisack’s idea is sure to cheer the food industry, while denying Americans the right to know what is in our food.

“Why not just enforce our right to know what is in our food? Why does the Obama administration stand up for Big Food and not consumers?” asked Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know. “Is the Obama administration is in the pocket of Big Food? It sure acts that way.”

“A fancy smart phone and a pricy data plan should not be prerequisites for knowing if your food has been genetically engineered,” Ruskin said.

In 2007, as a presidential candidate, then-Senator Obama promised mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. He said: ““Here’s what I’ll do as president … We’ll let folks know if their food has been genetically modified, because Americans should know what they’re buying,” Obama has yet to keep his promise.

In 2001, then-Governor Vilsack was named Governor of the Year for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

A January 24 statement published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe — signed by 300 scientists, physicians and scholars — that asserts there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.

U.S. Right to Know is a new nonprofit food organization that investigates and reports on what food companies don’t want us to know about our food. For more information, please see our website at usrtk.org.

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Jack Abramoff’s Old Law Firm Now Lobbying Against GMO Labeling

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Food company CEO’s worried about losing the trust of the American publicnot to mention huge market shares – might want to take note: their trade association has taken another tone-deaf step into the abyss by hiring a the law firm of a famous felon to do their dirty work.

Yesterday, Politico reported that the Grocery Manufacturers Association has retained the law firm K&L Gates to lobby against GMO labeling.

K&L Gates was formed in a 2007 merger between Kirkpatrick & Lockhart and Preston Gates – which was Jack Abramoff’s law firm from 1994 to 2000.

Jack Abramoff, as we know, was sentenced to four years in prison for political corruption, and ended up as the poster child for corruption in Washington.

Incidentally, the Senate investigation of Abramoff uncovered that he targeted me personally, because of my work as a public health advocate for American children. I ran a campaign against one of Abramoff’s clients — Channel One — which compelled 8 million kids to watch two minutes of ads in school each day, including ads for junk food and soda pop.

What can we expect from the GMA now?

The Grocery Manufacturers Association represents many consumer-facing companies that are trying to convince us that junk food is just fine for our kids and we don’t need to know everything that’s in it, such as GMOs. It wants to convince us that GMOs are safe.

In these efforts, it makes little sense for the GMA and the agrichemical industry to run campaigns replete with deceptions and dirty tricks, to engage in an apparent massive political money laundering scheme, to retain Russia’s PR firm to conduct their public relations, to falsely deny that their products are banned in the European Union, and to have some of the most disreputable front groups and corporate shills act as their public face.

Hiring Jack Abramoff’s old law firm isn’t going to help either.

Pro-GMO Activist Frets That GMOs May “soon go the way of DDT”

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The following email is from Mischa Popoff, a pro-GMO, anti-organic activist at the Heartland Institute, which is notorious for its defense of tobacco and denial of climate change.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this email is the last line, where Popoff worries that GMOs may “soon go the way of DDT.”

It’s a telling and unusual statement of the fragility of the GMO industry.

———

From: Mischa Popoff [mailto:mischa@polyphase.us]
Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2015 11:05 AM
To:  [email addresses deleted]
Subject: Silencing Public Scientists

As I was saying to Channapatna just this morning upon hearing that we’re all guilty of something just because we support GMOs, the time is nigh to respond forcefully to anti-GMO organic activists.

It’s troubling, to say the least, that the Organic Consumers Association donated $47,500 to Gary Ruskin’s U.S. Right to Know group to harass pro-GMO academics. But what’s most troubling is that Keith Kloor only mentions the OCA in passing, and leaves the larger organic movement out of his coverage. Kevin Folta meanwhile makes no mention whatsoever of the organic movement.

Why do we keep trying to cautiously defend ourselves and our science against organic activists? When are we going to go on the offensive?

Ruskin will carry on this nuisance campaign until he gets what he needs… something… anything that he can use against us. It’s a witch hunt. But in response, Folta and Kloor play along with the charade. They might as well pretend there are no Russian forces in The Ukraine right now.

We should respond. Otherwise GMOs will soon go the way of DDT.

Mischa Popoff
Greenville TX USA
903-456-1368
GMO labelling? No thanks
Let me know what you think
isitorganic.ca and polyphase.us

Media Reports That GMO Science Is Settled Are Flat-Out Wrong

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Friday, February 20, 2015
For More Information Contact: Stacy Malkan, Stacy@usrtk.org

Media Reports That GMO Science Is Settled Are Flat-Out Wrong

In the wake of prominent media reports about supposed scientific agreement on the safety of genetically engineered food, including a cover story in National Geographic that equates concerns about GMOs with climate change denial, U.S. Right to Know is calling on media to accurately report that the science on GMOs is contradictory, unsettled, and has been largely controlled by corporations that profit from GMO seeds and the pesticides that go with them.

“Unfortunately, many members of the media, and even some scientists, have been snookered by PR firms about a supposed scientific consensus on GMOs that doesn’t exist,” said Stacy Malkan, media director of U.S. Right to Know.

Seedy Business, a recent report by U.S. Right to Know, outlines how agrichemical firms have spent more than $100 million since 2012 on political and PR campaigns to shift the media narrative on GMOs. In a video removed from the Internet, the public relations firm Ketchum bragged about doubling positive media coverage on GMOs.

For an accurate picture of the science, U.S. Right to Know urged journalists to read a January 24 statement published in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe — signed by 300 scientists, physicians and scholars — that asserts there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs.

The claim of scientific consensus on GMOs frequently repeated in the media is “an artificial construct that has been falsely perpetuated,” the peer-reviewed statement said.

Entitled “No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety,” the statement does not take a position on whether GMOs are unsafe or safe. Rather, it cites a concerted effort by GMO seed developers and some scientists, commentators and journalists to construct the claim that there is a “scientific consensus” on GMO safety, and that debate on the topic is “over.”

That claim “…is misleading and misrepresents or outright ignores the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of scientific opinions among scientists on this issue,” according to the statement.

The statement raises the following points in objection to the consensus of safety claim:

There is no consensus in the science. A comprehensive review of peer-reviewed GMO animal feeding studies found roughly an equal number of research groups raising concerns about genetically engineered foods and those suggesting GMOs were as safe and nutritious as conventional foods. The review also found that most studies finding GMOs foods the same as conventional foods were performed by biotechnology companies or their associates.

There are no epidemiological studies investigating potential health effects of GMO food on human health. With no epidemiological studies, claims that “trillions of GMO meals” have been eaten with no ill effects have no scientific basis. Without such studies, which have been used to determine the effects of factors from fats to smoking, it is not possible to know whether GMOs are causing harm such as increases in known diseases, especially over the long term.

GMO studies are frequently mischaracterized as showing safety. For example, the EU Research Project, which has been internationally cited as providing evidence of GMO safety, was not designed to test safety and provides no reliable evidence of safety. Another example is the false claim that “hundreds of studies” listed on the biotechnology website Biofortified demonstrate GMO safety; in fact, many of the studies on that list do not address safety concerns at all, and several of the studies raise serious concerns.

International agreements show widespread recognition of risks posed by GMO foods and crops. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and UN’s Codex Alimentarius share a precautionary approach to GMO crops and foods, in that they agree that genetic engineering differs from conventional breeding and that safety assessments should be required before GM organisms are used in food or released into the environment.

Claims that government and scientific organizations endorse safety are often exaggerated or inaccurate. For example, an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada said it is “scientifically unjustifiable” to presume that GM foods are safe without rigorous scientific testing. A report by the British Medical Association concluded that “many unanswered questions remain” about the long-term effects of GMOs on human health and the environment, and that “safety concerns cannot, as yet, be dismissed completely on the basis of information currently available.” Moreoever, the positions of some prominent scientific organizations have been misrepresented or opposed by members, further highlighting the lack of consensus among scientists.

There is no consensus on environmental impacts of GMOs, and many concerns have been raised about increased herbicide use, potential health impacts and the rapid spread of herbicide-resistant weeds.

The joint statement concludes, “…the totality of scientific research outcomes in the field of GM crop safety is nuanced; complex; often contradictory or inconclusive; confounded by researchers’ choices, assumptions, and funding sources; and, in general, has raised more questions than it has currently answered.”

Decisions on whether to continue and expand GMO crops should “…be supported by strong scientific evidence…obtained in a manner that is honest, ethical, rigorous, independent, transparent, and sufficiently diversified to compensate for bias,” rather than based on “misleading and misrepresentative claims by an internal circle of likeminded stakeholders that a ‘scientific consensus’ exists on GMO safety.”

See journal statement, “No scientific consensus on GMO safety,” Environmental Sciences Europe, January 24, 2015, http://www.enveurope.com/content/pdf/s12302-014-0034-1.pdf

An Open Letter to Professor Kevin Folta on FOIA Requests

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Dear Professor Folta:

Yesterday there was some news coverage and commentary about our use of the state Freedom of Information Acts to obtain the correspondence of professors who wrote for the agrichemical industry’s PR website, GMO Answers. We’re glad to have a public conversation about this topic with the professors involved. We believe that transparency and open dialogue are fundamental values by which we must operate in a democratic society and a truly free market. To that end, I thought it would be useful to explain why we FOIA.

Since 2012, the food and agrichemical industries have spent at least $103 million dollars on a massive PR and political campaign to deceive the public about genetically engineered foods. As the public relations firm Ketchum bragged in a recent video, “positive media coverage had doubled” on GMOs following this PR campaign, and it has put agrichemical industry spin front and center in the debate over GMOs. The purpose of this PR campaign is to repel grassroots efforts to win GMO labels that are already required in 64 countries, and to extend the profit stream from GMOs, and the pesticides that go with them, for as long as possible – not to foster an authentic public dialogue about GMOs.

This anti-consumer campaign has been dirty in more ways than one. It has been packed with numerous deceptions and well-documented efforts to trick voters. In connection with such efforts, the Washington State Attorney General is suing the Grocery Manufacturers Association for the largest instance of campaign money laundering in the history of the state.

At U.S. Right to Know, we believe the food and agrichemical industries must have a lot to hide, because they spend so much money trying to hide it. We try to expose what they’re hiding.

As part of our effort, we made the state FOIA requests to obtain the correspondence of professors who wrote for the agrichemical industry’s PR website, GMO Answers.

These professors are public employees. They are paid by the taxpayers to work for the public good; their university affiliations give them the status of “independent” experts, and they are often quoted in the media as independent experts. But when these professors are closely coordinating with agrichemical corporations and their slick PR firms to shape the public dialogue in ways that foster private gain for corporations, or when they act as the public face for industry PR, we have the right to know what they did and how they did it.

Through the FOIA requests, we are attempting to understand the work these professors did for Ketchum, (as well as agrichemical companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, DuPont and Dow; trade groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Council for Biotechnology Information; other PR firms like Fleishman Hillard and Ogilvy & Mather, and the political firm Winner & Mandabach) on the GMO Answers website which was created as a PR tool for the agrichemical companies.

There are reasons to be concerned about GMO Answers. The website was created by and is run by the public relations firm Ketchum, which also represents Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Ketchum is linked to an espionage effort conducted years ago against nonprofit organizations concerned with GMOs, including the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth. Ketchum also targeted Greenpeace with espionage.

The professors whose documents we requested are using the prestige of our public universities to burnish the image of an industry that has repeatedly hidden from consumers and workers the truth about the dangers of their products and operations. Entire books have been written documenting their reprehensible conduct. Public relations on behalf of private corporations is not academic work. It is not work for the public good. It is the use of public funds for private gain.

Federal and state Freedom of Information Acts exist, in part, to uncover such potential misuse of public funds for private ends.

We are also interested in failures of scientific integrity. To use one obvious example, one of the professors whose records we requested closely mirrored industry talking points in an op-ed he wrote against GMO labeling for the Woodland Daily-Democrat. Did that professor write the op-ed himself? Or was it written by a PR firm hired by the agrichemical industry?

Repeating industry talking points is not integrity in science; in fact, it is the opposite.

We believe that transparency and openness are good remedies for the lack of integrity in science.

We are glad to live in America, where the tools of the FOIA are open to all citizens. And so our work is guided by the ideals of James Madison: “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Sincerely,

Gary Ruskin
Executive Director
U.S. Right to Know