New Documents Uncover Monsanto’s Secret Role in Illinois Professor Bruce Chassy’s Academics Review Website
The consumer group U.S. Right to Know today called for improved transparency and public disclosure of industry funding for and coordination with public university professors.
Email communications obtained by U.S. Right to Know through state Freedom of Information Act requests show extensive collaboration between agrichemical industry giant Monsanto Co. and former University of Illinois food science Professor Bruce Chassy on projects to promote GMO crops. The emails disclose that Monsanto, the leading developer of GMOs, was making financial contributions to the university for Chassy’s use over the same period that Monsanto or Monsanto-affiliated public relations operatives were providing Chassy pro-GMO content and/or editing for presentations, papers and videos.
The emails also reveal that Monsanto and a public relations operative helped Chassy set up a nonprofit group and website called Academics Review to criticize individuals, organizations and others who raise questions about the health or environmental risks of GMOs.
U.S. Right to Know calls on Congress to require disclosure of food and agrichemical industry payments to universities and professors, just as pharmaceutical and medical device companies are required to disclose payments to physicians and teaching hospitals under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act.
“Professors shouldn’t be able to lobby or do PR for agrichemical companies while representing themselves as independent, and they should have to disclose any money they receive from those companies,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “Congress should expand the Physician Payments Sunshine Act to require disclosure of payments from food and agrichemical companies to professors and universities.”
Other documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know show similar collaboration with other U.S. academics, including University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta. Folta received an unrestricted $25,000 grant from Monsanto and told Monsanto he would “write whatever you like.”
Read Carey Gillam’s article on the Bruce Chassy emails, “Following an Email Trail: How a Public University Professor Collaborated on a Corporate PR Campaign.”
U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit organization that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy. We promote the free market principle of transparency – in the marketplace and in politics – as crucial to building a better, healthier food system.