U.S. Right To Know FOIAs Profs Who Wrote for GMO PR Website

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, February 11, 2015
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

U.S. Right To Know FOIAs Profs Who Wrote for GMO PR Website

U.S. Right to Know filed state public records requests two weeks ago for correspondence and emails to and from professors at public universities who wrote for the agrichemical industry’s PR website, GMO Answers [or its campaign against GMO labeling in California. Amended 2/13]  The GMO Answers website was created by Ketchum, a public relations agency that also represents Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

The state Freedom of Information Act requests are an effort to understand the dynamics between the agrichemical industry’s PR efforts, and the public university faculty who sometimes are its public face.

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

According to investigative reporting by James Ridgeway of Mother Jones, in 2000, Ketchum was linked to an espionage effort against nonprofit organizations concerned with GMOs, including the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth. In a related scandal, Ketchum also targeted Greenpeace with espionage.

In a video recently removed from the Internet, Ketchum bragged about its success in spinning the media to get positive coverage of GMOs, and admitted, “we closely monitor the conversation” on social media accounts of GMO skeptics.

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.

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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2/13/15
We also sent FOIA requests to obtain the correspondence of professors who aided the No on 37 campaign against labeling of genetically engineered food in California, including:
(1) A professor who penned an op-ed that closely paralleled the wording of No on 37 talking points; and,
(2) Two professors who wrote a paper that was “undertaken with partial funding support from No on 37,” and released two months before election day.
For more information about the many deceptions of the No on 37 campaign, see, for example:
* Front Groups Against Prop 37: Foes of Honest Labeling Pose as Fake Cops and Phony Democrats to Trick Voters
Documented Deceptions of No on 37 Campaign

Russia’s PR Firm Boasted of Doubling Positive Media Coverage on GMOs, Snooping on Citizens

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News Release

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, February 10, 2015
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

[*Update: Ketchum PR announced in March 2015 that it ended its partnership with Russia for undisclosed reasons. The Russia account was actually spun off  to fellow Omnicom property GPlus, Adweek reported. In its DOJ filing, Ketchum reported terminating its relationship with the Russian Federation on Jan. 1, 2016.]

 Russia’s PR Firm Boasted of Doubling Positive Media Coverage on GMOs, Snooping on Citizens

In a video, recently removed from the Internet, the public relations firm Ketchum bragged about its success in spinning the media to get positive coverage of GMOs, and admitted “we closely monitor the conversation” on social media accounts of GMO skeptics. Ketchum is Russia’s PR firm in the United States.

In the video, Ketchum boasts about how, following its work, “positive media coverage has doubled” on GMOs, and “we’re now on the first page of [Google] search results.”

“This video lays out the GMO industry’s PR playbook, and how the media fell for it,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know, a new nonprofit food research organization. “Ketchum also reveals their creepy snooping on Americans who are concerned about the health and environmental effects of GMOs.”

Ketchum is a fascinating PR firm.  In addition to advocating for GMOs, they are also Russia’s PR firm*.  “Most Americans don’t trust Ketchum when they speak for Russia and President Putin, so why should we trust them when they speak for GMOs?” Ruskin asked.

Ketchum’s defense of GMOs appears to be longstanding; in 2000, according to an email uncovered by Mother Jones, they were apparently involved in an espionage effort against nonprofit organizations concerned with GMOs, including the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth.

The Ketchum video bragging about their GMO spin success was posted on the Clio award website after Ketchum was named to the 2014 Clio Award shortlist for “Public Relations: Crisis & Issue Management” for its website “GMO Answers.” However, the video was recently removed after U.S. Right to Know called attention to it.

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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The GMO Industry Doesn’t Want You to See This Video

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In this video, the GMO industry’s main PR firm, Ketchum, brags about how it spun the media on GMO issues, and how it snoops on the social media accounts of people concerned about GMOs.

The video was just taken down after we called attention to it, probably because it’s embarrassing to Ketchum and the agrichemical industry.  But we’ve put it up again, so that you can see it.

Ketchum is a fascinating PR firm.  In addition to advocating for GMOs, they are also Russia’s PR firm*.  We Americans don’t trust them when they speak for Russia and President Putin, so why should we trust them when they speak for GMOs?

Ketchum was also apparently involved in an espionage effort against nonprofit organizations concerned with GMOs.

Please do spread the word about this video.  Thanks!

*[Update: Ketchum PR announced in March 2015 that it ended its partnership with Russia for undisclosed reasons. The Russia account was actually spun off  to fellow Omnicom property GPlus, as Patrick Coffee reported in Adweek. Ketchum’s service to Russia provides “two perfect examples of why the public at large distrusts the PR industry,” Coffee wrote. In its DOJ filing, Ketchum reported terminating its relationship with the Russian Federation on Jan. 1, 2016.]

The Junk Food Industry Loved FDA’s Margaret Hamburg

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Margaret Hamburg, Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, announced yesterday that she would soon leave her post.

Here’s one easy way to tell that she was a greater friend to the junk food industry than to consumers:

Pamela Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, told Food Business News “I commend Dr. Hamburg for her years of dedicated service as F.D.A. Commissioner…Under her leadership, the agency successfully ushered in the most sweeping set of reforms to our nation’s food safety system in a generation through the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (F.S.M.A.). She was an activist commissioner in the best sense of the term: personally engaged in the important issues and always seeking the views of all stakeholders.”

That’s high praise from the leading trade association of the junk food industry.

International Dairy Foods Association – key facts

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Summary

International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) represents dairy manufacturers, processors, and marketers

Petitioned to add artificial sweeteners to milk without special notation on package

Consumers Union sharply critical of petition to add sweeteners to milk without labeling

* Close ally of the sweetener and candy manufacturers

Calls ice cream a “nutritious” snack for kids…

… but opposed more fruits/vegetables in Women & Infant Children nutrition program

Opposed FDA changes to recommended daily nutrients since dairy could seem less healthy

Spent more than $1.5 million annually in lobbying from 2011-2013

Spent over $60,000 to send members of Congress and staff to tropical destinations

IDFA Petitioned to Put Artificial Sweeteners in Milk without Additional Labeling

In 2013, the IDFA petitioned the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the use of artificial sweeteners in milk without additional labeling requirements.

According to the FDA, the petition calls for FDA to change the “standard of identity” for milk. A standard of identity is the federal requirement that determines what ingredients some food products must (or may) contain to be marketed under certain names.

The petition asks the FDA “to amend the standard of identity for flavored milk and 17 other dairy products (including nonfat dry milk, heavy cream, eggnog, half-and-half and sour cream) so that non-nutritive sweeteners are among the standard ingredients. The products would then not require any additional description on the label.”

“If we granted the petition, a carton of chocolate milk made with non-nutritive sweeteners would simply say ‘chocolate milk,’ the same as a carton made with nutritive sweeteners, such as sugar,” said Felicia Billingslea, director of FDA’s Food Labeling and Standards staff. “You would need to read the ingredient list, which is typically on the back or the side of the product, in order to tell the difference between the two.” [Food & Drug Administration]

The Food & Drug Administration provides the following visual representation of how the change would impact labeling:

ucm347940

[Food & Drug Administration]

Consumers Union: IDFA Proposal “Would Decrease, Not Increase, Fair Dealing In The Interest of Consumers”

The Consumers Union opposes IDFA’s petition and issued comments critical of the plan.

“We urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reject the IDFA/NMPF petition, because we believe the proposed changes will not “promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers,” as claimed by the proponents, but instead could have just the opposite effect,” Consumers Union wrote to the Food and Drug Administration.

“We think this does not ‘promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers’ as claimed in the petition. Indeed, we believe the petition is misleading in that regard, and that the proposed change would decrease, not increase, fair dealing in the interest of consumers. [Consumers Union comments of IDFA petition, 5/21/13]

Chicago Tribune: Petition “Has Caused an Uproar Among Some Parents, Consumer Activists and Physicians”

According to the Chicago Tribune, “The request has caused an uproar among some parents, consumer activists and physicians, who see it as little more than a ploy to sell more milk by confusing consumers about what’s in the product.”

“The critics particularly object to the idea of marketing the milk to children as part of the federal school lunch program because, they believe, children are not likely to read ingredient lists. They also cite doubts — including those of government-commissioned medical committees — about whether artificial sweeteners are safe for developing bodies,” the Tribune reported. [Chicago Tribune, 5/9/13]

Green Bay Gazette: IDFA Proposal “Distorts Reality”

A 2013 editorial in the Green Bay Gazette criticized the IDFA plan to use artificial sweeteners in milk without additional labeling.

The proposal would “make it less apparent whether artificial ingredients have been added to your regular or flavored milk,” the Gazette wrote.

“In other words, nowhere on the label of the milk carton will it say “reduced calorie” or “reduced sugar” or words that would let you know they’ve been artificially sweetened. So you might grab a jug of regular milk only later to realize it tastes sweet or your chocolate milk tastes differently. Then when you examine the ingredients you see that it has been artificially sweetened. (At that time let’s hope that you’re not allergic to such artificial additives.)…
“… This idea is wrong on many counts. Let’s put aside the safety of artificial sweeteners. Promoting consumption of milk with an artificial sweetener without putting that on the label distorts reality, plus we question the effectiveness of serving kids (or adults) artificially sweetened drinks in a fight against obesity…”

“… If the dairy industry believes in artificially sweetening milk, then it should believe in labeling its products as such.” [Green Bay Gazette, 4/9/13]

IDFA is Closely Tied to the Sweeteners and Candy Industry

The International Dairy Foods Association is a close ally of the sweeteners industry.

Member of the Coalition for Sugar Reform

The IDFA is a member of the so-called “Coalition for Sugar Reform,” a front group that lobbies for candy makers who want access to cheap sugar from overseas. [Coalition for Sugar Reform; Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/20/13]

Co-Hosts International Sweetener Colloquium

In 2014, the IDFA was a co-host of the International Sweetener Colloquium at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California. The Sweetener Colloquium is one of the premier events of the sweeteners industry. [IDFA.org]

The IDFA will once again co-host the Sweetener Colloquium in 2015, this time at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando in Orlando, Florida. [Supermarketnews.com]

IDFA Says That Ice Cream is a “Nutritious” Snack for Kids…

In 2013, the IDFA commended the U.S. Department of Agriculture for its “Smart Snacks in Schools” foods standards that included ice cream as options.

“We applaud USDA for highlighting the importance of dairy in children’s diets and taking the necessary steps to help kids meet the dietary recommendations for milk and dairy products,” said Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president. “Milk, yogurt, cheese, dairy snacks and ice cream are all options that are nutritious and tasty snacks for kids.” [IDFA press release, 6/27/13]

… But Opposed Changes to Add More Fruits and Vegetables to Women and Infant Children (WIC) Nutrition Program

In December 2002, then-IDFA CEO E. Linwood Tipton vowed that his organization would oppose adding more fruits and vegetables to the Women and Infant Children (WIC) program if that meant fewer dairy products in the program.

“In July, for instance, the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee that [Sen. Herb] Kohl chairs demanded the USDA immediately publish revised food specifications consistent with ‘the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid.’ But that was before the dairy industry, a powerful constituency in Kohl’s home state, started to worry that a government effort to combat obesity in Americans might lead the Agriculture Department and Congress to replace some dairy products with fruits and vegetables in federal nutrition programs. Simply adding fruits and vegetables to the WIC program probably would not have touched off the current lobbying battle. But Congress is unlikely to increase funds for the program, so adding new foods would mean cutting money for dairy. E. Linwood Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, wrote [Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Ann] Veneman on Sept. 6 that the organization ‘will vigorously oppose WIC food packages that detrimentally affect the rightfully prominent role of dairy products in the package, unless USDA grounds its new policies in sound science that fully supports the revisions.’” [CQ Weekly, 12/13/02]

IDFA Opposed Adjusting Recommended Daily Values of Nutrients Because They Could Make Dairy Products Appear Less Healthy

In July 2014, the IDFA submitted a comment to the Food and Drug Administration, which was considering rule changes regarding recommended daily values of nutrients, claiming that such changes would make dairy products appear less nutritious.

“Changes to nutrients that are required to be declared or to the daily values and corresponding percent Daily Values declared, can make a food appear to have a lower nutritive value, even if no changes have been made to the product. This may be particularly true for foods and beverages such as dairy products that are naturally nutrient-rich, or that may not be able to modify nutrient levels to accommodate newly proposed Daily Values because of specific provisions in the standards of identity.” [IDFA comment on proposed FDA rule, Docket No. FDA-2012-N-1210, regulations.gov, submitted 7/31/14]

Spent More Than $1.5 Million Annually Lobbying Congress

According to OpenSecrets.org, IDFA spent more than $1.5 million annually lobbying Congress between 2011 and 2013.

In 2011, IDFA spent, $1,515,000 on lobbying, which increased to $1,616,000 in 2012, and $1,730,000 in 2013. In most other years, IDFA’s lobbying spending was typically close to $500,000 annually. [Center for Responsive Politics, opensecrets.org, accessed 12/21/14]

Spent More Than $60,000 Sending Members of Congress and Staff to Warm-Weather Destinations

According to federal travel records maintained by Legistorm, from 2000 to 2014 the IDFA spent $64,216 sending 35 members of Congress or their staff on trips to conferences, with nearly every trip going to a warm-weather destination like Florida or southern California during the winter months. [Legistorm.com, accessed 12/21/14]

U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance – key facts

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Summary

* Funders include Monsanto and DuPont

* Small farmers criticized use of mandatory marketing fees to promote “Big Ag”

* Other partners include BASF, Dow

USFRA is represented by PR giant Ketchum

Ketchum’s clients include the Russian Federation

Ketchum’s work for the Russian Federation include pushing propaganda for Putin, aiding in a campaign to have Putin named Time Magazine’s 2007 “Person of the Year”

* LA Times: USFRA-funded documentary “lobbyist propaganda”

Funders Include Monsanto, DuPont

As of 2011, USFRA was to have an $11 million annual budget.

The funding would come partly from mandatory marketing fees the Department of Agriculture helps collect from farmers, and from corporations like Monsanto and DuPont, each of which committed to an annual contribution of $500,000. [New York Times, 9/27/11] 

Organization Now Claims Budget is “Less than $12 Million,” But Plans to Expand

USFRA says that its current budget “is less than $12 million,” but “Over time, we expect our program budget to grow as more affiliates and industry partners join our movement.” [http://www.fooddialogues.com/content/faqs]

Organization Claims a Third of Funding Comes from Industry Partners

According to USFRA, 32 percent of its funding comes from its industry partners.

“68 percent of our funding is coming from farmer- and rancher-led affiliates,” the group claims. [http://www.fooddialogues.com/content/faqs]

Partners Include BASF, Dow, Merck and Others

USFRA’s “Premier Partner Advisory Group” includes both DuPont and Monsanto, while its “Industry Partner Council” includes BASF, Cargill, Dow AgroSciences, Elanco Animal Health, Merck Animal Health, Syngenta and Zoetis. [http://www.fooddialogues.com/content/affiliates-board-participants-and-industry-partners]

Small Farmers Upset Mandatory Marketing Fees Used to Promote “Big Ag”

 In a January 2014 article, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that smaller farmers were complaining about the use of mandatory marketing fees, or checkoffs, to fund USFRA, claiming that they had to “fork over money to support activities and advertising that benefit agribusiness, but not necessarily those with small and mid-size operations.”

The article noted that USFRA’s affiliates and partners “are just the kinds of groups that are normally associated with Big Ag,” and that the articles on the USFRA tend to support industrial agriculture, including supporting the benefits of genetically modified crops.

But this caused anger from smaller farmers, including Mike Callicrate, a Colorado rancher who said he found it “very offensive” that USFRA was receiving mandatory marketing fees.

“The whole purpose of those checkoffs being made available to [USFRA] is to promote industrial agriculture that is driving the family farm right out of business,” Callicrate said. [Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/29/14]

PR Giant Ketchum Represents USFRA

In 2011, USFRA announced that PR giant Ketchum would serve as its primary communications agency. [Agri-Pulse, 3/24/11]

Russian Government Among Ketchum’s Clients, Helping Putin Generate Propaganda

Since 2006, Ketchum has served as the PR firm for the Russian Federation, helping the Russian government to place opinion pieces in American news sources, including the New York Times, the Huffington Post and MSNBC.

One of the op-ed columns, which appeared in the New York Times, was published under the byline of Vladimir Putin. [ProPublica, 9/12/13; New York Times, 8/31/14]

The New York Times reported in 2014 that “The company still works with Mr. Putin’s closest advisers, according to current and former employees of Ketchum.

The Times reported that Ketchum “said it worked with Time magazine to have Mr. Putin named the magazine’s Person of the Year in 2007.” [New York Times, 8/31/14]

Ketchum Represented Russian Government-Controlled Energy Company Gazprom

Until recently, Ketchum served as the PR firm for the Russian government-controlled energy company, Gazprom. [New York Times, 8/31/14]

Ketchum Worked for Dow Chemical

Ketchum has worked for (and may continue to work for) Dow Chemical. [DC Court Records]

Other Ketchum Clients Include Drug Companies, Chemical Companies, Food Producers

    • Clorox Company
    • Frito-Lay
    • Hershey’s
    • Pfizer
    • Procter & Gamble
    • Wendy’s International

[O’Dwyer’s Public Relations Firm Database]

LA Times: USFRA-Funded Documentary “Lobbyist Propaganda”

In May 2014, the Los Angeles Times published a review of the documentary Farmland, that was made with the “generous support” of USFRA.

The Times review claimed the film “often comes off like lobbyist propaganda,” and a “puff piece.” While the documentary contains farmers who both support and oppose organic farming technique, the film “does not supply statistics or unaffiliated experts to substantiate or dispute any of the farmers’ claims and provide a broader perspective.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/1/14]

RWJF Goes Soft on Marketing to Kids

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American children are suffering from and epidemic of marketing- and food-related diseases, such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Today, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released its recommendations on marketing to children. Alas, they read like a kindergarten teacher wagging a finger at a wayward kid. They propose only voluntary measures. This is not a way to get tough with the food industry.

The food industry likes voluntary measures, because they are ineffective.

With “advocacy” like this, no wonder our children are in trouble.

The marketing of junk food to children should be illegal. Parents and children deserve the right to be let alone. There is no reason why corporations should have more rights than parents to influence our own children.

Our nation’s children need us to stand up for them. They need us to stand up to the commercial speech doctrine, and to say that children are more important than the first amendment rights of corporations.

Seedy Business: What Big Food is Hiding with its GMO PR Campaign

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For Immediate Release: Tuesday, January 20, 2015
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (415) 944-7350

Download report at http://usrtk.org/seedybusiness.pdf

Download report at http://usrtk.org/seedybusiness.pdf

U.S. Right to Know – a new nonprofit organization — released a new report today on Big Food’s PR campaign to defend GMOs: how it manipulated the media, public opinion and politics with sleazy tactics, bought science and PR spin.

Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them. The purpose of this campaign is to deceive the public, to deflect efforts to win the right to know what is in our food via labeling that is already required in 64 countries, and ultimately, to extend their profit stream for as long as possible.

This campaign has greatly influenced how U.S. media covers GMOs. The industry’s PR firm, Ketchum, even boasted that “positive media coverage has doubled” on GMOs.

The report outlines fifteen things that Big Food is hiding with its artful PR campaign on GMOs.

#1: The agrichemical companies have a history of concealing health risks from the public. Time and again, the companies that produce GMOs have hidden from consumers and workers the truth about the dangers of their products and operations. So how can we trust them to tell us the truth about their GMOs?

#2: The FDA does not test whether GMOs are safe. It merely reviews information submitted by the agrichemical companies.

#3: Our nation’s lax policy on GMOs is the work of former Vice President Dan Quayle’s anti-regulatory crusade. It was designed and delivered as a political favor to Monsanto.

#4: What the agrichemical and tobacco industries have in common: PR firms, operatives, tactics. The agrichemical industry’s recent PR campaign is similar in some ways to the most infamous industry PR campaign ever – the tobacco industry’s effort to evade responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.

#5: Russia’s PR firm runs the agrichemical industry’s big PR salvo on GMOs. We don’t trust the PR firm Ketchum when it spins for Russia and President Putin. Why should we trust its spin on GMOs?

#6: The agrichemical industry’s key front groups and shills aren’t trustworthy. Many of the industry’s leading advocates have records of defending the indefensible, or other scandals and conduct that inspires no confidence.

#7: The agrichemical companies have employed repugnant PR tactics. These tactics include attacks on scientists and journalists, and brainwashing children.

#8: The agrichemical companies have a potent, sleazy political machine. They have allies in high places, and employ their power vigorously – and sometimes corruptly — to protect and expand their markets and their profits from GMOs.

#9: Half of the Big Six agrichemical firms can’t even grow their GMOs in their own home countries. Because of the health and environmental risks of GMOs, citizens of Germany and Switzerland won’t allow farming of BASF, Bayer and Syngenta’s GMO seeds.

#10: Monsanto supported GMO labeling in the UK but opposes it in the USA. Although Monsanto is based in St. Louis, Missouri, Monsanto believes that British citizens deserve stronger consumer rights than Americans do.

#11: The pesticide treadmill breeds profits, so it will likely intensify. It is in the financial interest of the agrichemical companies to promote the evolution and spread of the most pestilential superweeds and superpests, because these will spur the sale of the greatest quantities of the most expensive pesticides.

#12: GMO science is for sale. Science can be swayed, bought or biased by the agrichemical industry in many ways, such as suppressing adverse findings, harming the careers of scientists who produce such findings, controlling the funding that shapes what research is conducted, the lack of independent U.S.-based testing of health and environmental risks of GMOs, and tainting scientific reviews of GMOs by conflicts of interest.

#13: There are nearly no consumer benefits of GMOs. The GMOs that Americans eat are not healthier, safer or more nutritious than conventional foods. They do not look better, nor do they taste better. By any measure that consumers actually care about, they are not in any way an improvement. Profits from GMOs accrue to the agrichemical companies, while health risks are borne by consumers.

#14: The FDA and food companies have been wrong before: they have assured us of the safety of products that were not safe. Many drugs and food additives that the FDA allowed on the market have subsequently been banned because they were toxic or dangerous.

#15: A few other things the agrichemical industry doesn’t want you to know about them: crimes, scandals and other wrongdoing. The agrichemical industry’s six major firms — Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer and BASF — have been involved in so many reprehensible activities that documenting them would require at least an entire book.

U.S. Right to Know is a new nonprofit food organization. We expose what food companies don’t want us to know about our food. We stand up for the right to know what’s in our food. We bring accountability to Big Food and its compliant politicians. For more information, please see our website at usrtk.org.

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Calorie Control Council (CCC) – key facts

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Summary

Calorie Control Council is a trade group for manufacturers of artificial sweeteners

The CCC has “a penchant for stealthy public relations tactics”

* CCC is run by a public relations company, “functions more like an industry front group than a trade association”

 * The PR firm that runs CCC represents asbestos manufacturers, oil companies, Monsanto, fireworks manufacturers and others

Conducts own health studies, erased reference to studies into “mutagenicity,” “carcinogenicity” from website

 * CCC uses intimidation tactics against academic researchers

Defended International Dairy Foods Association petition to put artificial sweeteners in milk without additional labeling

Downplayed study that correlated diet soda consumption with premature birth

Led petition to remove saccharin from FDA list of carcinogens

Calorie Control Council is a Trade Group for Manufacturers of Artificial Sweeteners

According to its website, the Calorie Control Council represents manufacturers and suppliers of low and reduced calorie foods and beverages.

“The Calorie Control Council, established in 1966, is an international association representing the low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage industry. Today it represents manufacturers and suppliers of low- and reduced-calorie foods and beverages, including manufacturers and suppliers of more than two dozen different alternative sweeteners, fibers and other low-calorie, dietary ingredients.” [Calorie Control Council website, caloriecontrol.org, accessed 12/19/14]

CCC Has a “Penchant for Stealthy Public Relations Tactics”

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the Calorie Control Council is “a lesser-known industry group with an innocuous-sounding name, a long history and a penchant for stealthy public relations tactics.” [Center for Public Integrity, 8/6/14]

CCC Run by a PR Firm, “More Like an Industry Front Group than a Trade Association”

According to the Center for Public Integrity, the CCC “is run by an account executive with a global management and public relations firm, represents the low- and reduced-calorie food and beverage industry. But it functions more like an industry front group than a trade association.” [Center for Public Integrity, 8/6/14]

President of CCC is Haley Stevens, an Account Executive at PR Firm

Haley Stevens is the president of the Calorie Control Council. [Calorie Control Council web site]

Stevens is actually an account executive for the PR firm the Kellen Company. [Kellen Company web site]

Stevens is Also the Face of Other Front Groups Represented by Kellen

In addition to her duties as an account executive for the Kellen Company and president of the Calorie Control Council, Stevens also serves as the Executive Director of the International Food Additives Council, a Kellen Company client. [Foodadditives.org, Kellen Webinar]

Stevens has previously served – and may continue to serve – as a “Scientific Affairs Specialist” for the International Formula Council, another Kellen Client. [Kellen Company web site; New York Daily News, 9/26/11]

Kellen Group Represents Other Clients, Front Groups

In addition to the Calorie Control Council, the International Food Additives Council and the International Formula Council, the Kellen Group and its subsidiary, Kellen Adams, work for a number of other businesses, organizations and front groups, including:

  • The American Pyrotechnics Association: The American Pyrotechnics Association works to prevent bans on dangerous fireworks. [Kellen Company web site]

CCC Conducts “Scientific” Studies into Low-Calorie Foods…

According to its website, CCC does its own scientific research on low and reduced calorie foods.

“As part of this objective, careful attention to scientific research has been a cornerstone of the Council since its founding. The Council has sponsored numerous studies on low- and reduced-calorie ingredients, foods and beverages—including investigations of ingredient safety, consumer usage and public opinion.” [Calorie Control Council website, caloriecontrol.org, accessed 12/19/14]

…But Removes References to Studies into “Mutagenicity, Carcinogenicity” of Low-Calorie Foods from its Website

In September 2009, the Calorie Control Council edited its page to remove references to its studies on “mutagenicity” and “carcinogenicity” of low-calorie foods.

“As part of this objective, careful attention to scientific research has been a cornerstone of the Council since its founding. The Council has sponsored numerous studies on low-calorie ingredients, foods and beverages—including investigations in the areas of mutagenicity, carcinogenicity, metabolism, consumer usage and public opinion.” [Calorie Control Council website via archive.org, 8/20/09 vs. 9/21/09]

Uses Intimidation Tactics against Researchers Who Identify Health Risks Associated with Artificial Sweeteners

In 2013, Purdue University researcher Susan Swithers published a review article showing adverse health impacts on people frequently consuming artificial sweeteners, including an increased risk of excessive weight gain, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease.

The Calorie Control Council sent a letter to Purdue demanding that the university stop “promoting biased science.”

“The intimidation tactics, going to somebody’s employer, it just seems to go beyond the realm of what’s reasonable,” says Swithers. [Center for Public Integrity, 8/6/14]

CCC Downplays Health Risks of Aspartame and Artificial Sweeteners…

“But a spokeswoman for the low-calorie sweetener industry was highly critical of the research, noting that the study involved just 27 rats. “I think studies like this are a disservice to the consumer because they oversimplify the causes of obesity,” registered dietitian Beth Hubrich of the Calorie Control Council tells WebMD. “It is true that there has been an increase in the use of low-calorie sweeteners at the same time that we have seen an increase in obesity, but there has also been an increase in the use of cell phones and nobody is suggesting that they are causing obesity.” [CBS News, 2/11/08]

… While 2005 Study Saw Link Between Aspartame and Cancer in Rats

In 2005, a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showed a link between aspartame and cancer in lab rats.

“A study in rats links the popular artificial sweetener aspartame to a wide range of cancers, but industry officials charge that the research is badly flawed. Aspartame is found in the low-calorie sweetener Equal and in many other sugar-free products under the brand name NutraSweet. It is the second best-selling nonsugar sweetener in the world. Researchers in Italy concluded that rats exposed to varying doses of aspartame throughout their lives developed leukemias, lymphomas, and several other cancers in a dose-dependent manner. The study appears in the Nov. 17 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which is published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” [WebMD Health News, 11/18/05]

Downplayed Result of Study Showing Diet Soda Consumption Contributed to Premature Birth

In July 2010, Calorie Control Council Executive Director Beth Hubrich downplayed the results of a new study showing a link between diet soda consumption and premature birth, saying that the results could “unduly alarm” pregnant women.

“New research suggests that drinking lots of artificially sweetened beverages may be linked with an increased risk of premature births. … In a statement, the Calorie Control Council, a lobbying group for companies that make and distribute low-calorie foods, called the study “misleading.’ “This study may unduly alarm pregnant women. While this study is counter to the weight of the scientific evidence demonstrating that low-calorie sweeteners are safe for use in pregnancy, research has shown that overweight and obesity can negatively affect pregnancy outcomes,” Beth Hubrich, a dietitian with the council, said in the statement. “Further, low-calorie sweeteners can help pregnant women enjoy the taste of sweets without excess calories, leaving room for nutritious foods and beverages without excess weight gain – something that has been shown to be harmful to both the mother and developing baby.” [Reuters, 7/23/10]

Supports Using Artificial Sweeteners in Milk without Additional Labeling

In 2013, the Calorie Control Council defended a 2009 petition by the International Dairy Foods Association to allow the use of artificial sweeteners in milk without additional labeling requirements beyond including the sweetener in the list of ingredients.

“Recently, the Doctor Oz show aired a segment about the use of low calorie sweeteners in flavored milk and other dairy products and made several unfounded allegations. The segment centered on a petition put forth to the FDA back in 2009 by the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) asking for permission to provide reduced-sugar alternatives to flavored dairy products, such as chocolate milk, without an added label claim such as “reduced calorie” or “no sugar added.” It is important to note that products using a low-calorie sweetener will still be labeled as such in the ingredients list.” [Calorie Control Council press release, 4/1/13]

CCC Led Petition in 2003 to Remove Saccharin from List of Carcinogens

In 2003, the Calorie Control Council led a food industry petition seeking removal of saccharin from the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of carcinogens, a request that was granted in 2010.

“EPA has finalized its rule removing saccharin — a common artificial sweetener found in diet soft drinks, chewing gum and juice — and its salts from the agency’s list of hazardous substances. With the Dec. 14 announcement, EPA is granting a seven-year-old industry petition that argued scientific data suggests the food additive is not as harmful as once was thought. EPA had previously included saccharin on its list of hazardous substances and wastes when the lists were created in 1980 because the Food & Drug Administration had previously concluded the additive was a potential human carcinogen, the industry group Calorie Control Council (CCC) wrote in its 2003 petition.” [Superfund Report, 12/27/10]

CCC Pushed for Overturning of Ban on Cyclamate Sweetener in 1980s

In 1984, Forbes reported that the Calorie Control Council was working to overturn a 1969 ban on the artificial sweetener cyclamate.

“And then there is cyclamate, which may not give Searle even three years of room. Since 1969, when the FDA banned cyclamate because it allegedly caused cancer in mice and rats, one of the cyclamate manufacturers, Abbott Laboratories, and an industry group called the Calorie Control Council have been campaigning to reverse the decision. In 1980 the FDA again rejected Abbott’s claims. But last April the FDA’s cancer assessment committee finally changed course, requesting that the National Academy of Sciences conduct an in-depth review. The way now seems open for cyclamate to reenter the marketplace by late 1985.” [Forbes, 8/27/84]

Hillary Clinton’s Two Missteps

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As the 2016 campaign shapes up, it’s interesting to watch the candidates for clues about their food politics. Thus far, Hillary Clinton has made two missteps.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Clinton’s team has hired Wendy Clark, a senior vice president at Coca-Cola. As our nation struggles with an epidemic of obesity, type 2 diabetes and other food-related diseases, we don’t need a Coke executive whispering in the ear of the presumptive Democratic favorite.  And Coca-Cola has given more than $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.

Speeches matter too. On June 25, 2014, Clinton gave the keynote address to the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and essentially endorsed genetically engineered crops. She told the biotech crowd: “I stand in favor of using seeds and products that have a proven track record, you say, and are scientifically provable [sic] to continue to try to make the case to those who are skeptical.”

Thus far, the tea leaves suggest that Ready For Hillary also means Ready for Monsanto and for the Obesity Lobby.