American Council on Science and Health is a corporate front group

Print Email Share Tweet LinkedIn WhatsApp Reddit Telegram

The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) describes itself as a “pro-science consumer advocacy organization” and media outlets often quote the group as an independent science source; however, documents described in this fact sheet establish that ACSH is corporate front group that solicits money from tobacco, chemical, cosmetic, pharmaceutical companies and trade groups in exchange for conducting product-defense campaigns. The group does not disclose its funding.

Key documents reveal hidden corporate funding

Monsanto funded ACSH in 2015 and asked the group to help defend glyphosate from cancer concerns, according to emails released via discovery in the Roundup cancer trials.

Leaked financial documents from 2012 establish that ACSH solicited money from tobacco, chemical, plastic and cosmetic corporations in exchange for product defense work.

Emails from 2009 show that ACSH solicited $100,000 from Syngenta (on top of its regular funding) to write a paper and book about Syngenta’s pesticide atrazine. ACSH later released a book defending atrazine by Jon Entine, founder of the Genetic Literacy Project, which receives funding from Bayer.

Syngenta and Monsanto have been regular contributors to ACSH over the years, the emails show.

An analysis of Monsanto documents finds that ACSH played a key role in attacking scientists and journalists as part of Monsanto and Bayer’s efforts to defend glyphosate and GMOs.

Science denier Henry I. Miller joins ACSH writing staff

Five years after a Monsanto ghostwriting scandal prompted Forbes to delete dozens of his articles, Henry I. Miller, MD, joined the “full time writing staff” of ACSH. Miller, a former FDA official and founding director of the FDA Office of Biotechnology, has a long history of science denial and providing product-defense services for corporations. For more information, read our fact sheet about Henry I. Miller.

ACSH works ‘hard to prove our worth’ to Monsanto

According to internal emails, Monsanto agreed to fund ACSH in 2015 and asked the group to help defend glyphosate from cancer concerns raised by the International Agency for Research (IARC). ACSH agreed to do so, and later attacked the IARC report as a “scientific fraud.”

The emails illuminate how ACSH relied on corporate funding, and its efforts to please its funders. The group’s former acting director Gil Ross (who spent time in jail for Medicaid fraud prior to working for ACSH) wrote to a Monsanto executive, “it does get frustrating at times when we feel as though we can’t count on the unrestricted support of a company like Monsanto — whose products and technologies are constantly vilified by activist groups but heralded by ACSH. Each and every day, we work hard to prove our worth to companies such as Monsanto…”


The emails further reveal that Monsanto executives paid ACSH despite their discomfort with the group. Daniel Goldstein, Monsanto’s senior science lead, championed ACSH to his colleagues: “I can assure you I am not all starry-eyed about ASCH- they have PLENTY of warts- but: You WILL NOT GET A BETTER VALUE FOR YOUR DOLLAR than ACSH” (emphasis in original).

Goldstein also sent his colleagues links to 53 ACSH posts, a pesticide review, two books and a pamphlet promoting Monsanto products that he described as “EXTREMELY USEFUL”.

Key player in Monsanto’s propaganda network

ACSH is one of the “well known propaganda websites” that played a key role in attacking the scientists who raised cancer concerns, according to an award-winning investigation by Le Monde.

In May 2017, plaintiffs’ attorneys suing Monsanto over Roundup links to cancer 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.”

Emails obtained by U.S. Right to Know highlight another example of how ACSH plays a product-defense role for companies. The emails reveal that Monsanto initially chose ACSH to publish a series of papers to promote GMOs that were assigned to professors by Monsanto, then “merchandized” by a PR firm engaged to promote them. Monsanto’s 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 by the Genetic Literacy Project with no disclosure of Monsanto’s role.

Leaked ACSH financial documents

A 2012 financial summary for ACSH, leaked by an employee and reported by Mother Jones, revealed that ACSH received funding from a large number of corporations and industry groups with a direct financial stake in the science messaging the group promotes. “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,” Mother Jones reported.

The document further exposed that ACSH solicits corporate donations for quid-pro-quo campaigns to defend the products of its funders. For example, the document describes:

  • Plans to solicit funds from food companies for a messaging campaign to oppose GMO labeling;
  • Plans to pitch the Vinyl Institute which “previously supported [ACSH’s] chlorine and health report”;
  • Plans to solicit funds from the cosmetics industry to counter “reformulation pressures” from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics;
  • Efforts to court tobacco and e-cigarette companies for product-defense campaigns.

Funding details revealed in the document: Donors to ACSH in the second half of 2012 included Chevron, Coca-Cola, Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, Bayer Cropscience, Procter and Gamble, Syngenta, 3M, McDonald’s, and tobacco conglomerate Altria. The two largest donors listed in the documents were tobacco companies Reynolds American and Phillip Morris International.

ACSH also pursued funding from Pepsi, Monsanto, British American Tobacco, DowAgro, ExxonMobil Foundation, Philip Morris International, the Koch family-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Dow-linked Gerstacker Foundation, Bradley Foundation and Searle Freedom Trust.

Syngenta funding and atrazine defense

In 2011, ACSH published a book about “chemophobia” written by Jon Entine. The book defended atrazine, a pesticide manufactured by Syngenta, which was funding ACSH at the time.

Entine went on to become the executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project (which receives funding from Bayer). In a Mother Jones article about Entine, reporter Tom Philpott described the circumstances leading up to Entine’s book.

Philpott’s reporting is based on documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, which reveal Syngenta’s efforts to get third-party allies to defend 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.

A year and a half later, ACSH published Entine’s book, and promoted it with similar language, describing Entine’s project as “a new book and companion friendly, abbreviated position paper.” Entine denied any relationship with Syngenta and told Philpott he had “no idea” Syngenta was funding ACSH.

ACSH personnel

Henry I. Miller, MD, joined ACSH’s staff as a full time writer in January 2023. Miller has a long history of arguing against public health protections and taking positions outside the scientific mainstream: he has claimed nicotine “is not particularly bad for you” and that low levels of radiation may be beneficial to health. He was dropped by Forbes, his main writing platform, in 2017 after the New York Times reported that Miller had published an article under his own name in Forbes that had been ghostwritten by Monsanto. Miller was also a member of the “scientific advisory board” of the George C. Marshall Institute, known for its fossil-fuel industry funded denials of climate science.

ACSH’s longtime Medical/Executive Director Gilbert Ross, MD was convicted in a scheme to defraud the Medicaid system prior to joining ACSH. Court documents detail Dr. Ross’ multiple fraud convictions and sentencing. See 2005 article in Mother Jones: Paging Dr. Ross. The judge who sustained Dr. Ross’ exclusion from Medicaid for 10 years found Ross to be a “highly untrustworthy individual” (see additional references and court document).

In June 2015, Hank Campbell took over ACSH leadership from acting president Dr. Ross. Campbell worked for software development companies before starting the website Science 2.0 in 2006. In his 2012 book about 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.” Campbell left ACSH in December 2018. For more, see our fact sheet: Hank Campbell’s maze of Monsanto-loving science blogs.

Campbell’s book co-author, Alex Berezow, was vice president of scientific affairs at ACSH until 2021. He was a founding editor of Real Clear Science and served on the USA Today editorial board of contributors during his ACSH years, despite complaints by public health groups that the paper was elevating a corporate front group without disclosing corporate ties. Berezow is now the editor of Big Think.

Leaders and advisors: tobacco ties and climate science denial

The ACSH board of trustees includes Fred L. Smith Jr., founder of the Competitive Enterprises Institute, a leading promoter of climate science denial that has received millions of dollars from Exxon Mobile and dark money funding vehicle Donors Trust. Smith and CEI also have a history of fighting against tobacco regulations and soliciting money from the tobacco industry, according to documents from the UCSF Truth Tobacco Industry Documents archive.

James Enstrom and Geoffrey Kabat, two epidemiologists who took money from tobacco companies and wrote studies defending tobacco products, also have ACSH ties. Dr. Enstrom was a longtime member of the ACSH board of trustees. He resigned in 2022 due to disagreements detailed in this email correspondence with ACSH President Thom Golab. Dr. Kabat, a board member of the Bayer-funded Genetic Literacy Project, serves on the ACSH’s health board of scientific advisors.

Enstrom and Kabat have “long standing financial and other working relationships with the tobacco industry” that they did not always disclose, according to a paper in BMJ Tobacco Control. In a widely cited 2003 paper in BMJ, Kabat and Enstrom concluded that secondhand smoke does not increase the risk of lung cancer and heart disease. The study was sponsored in part by the Center for Indoor Air Research (CIAR), a tobacco industry group. Although that funding was disclosed, the analysis in BMJ Tobacco Control found that the disclosures “did not provide the reader with a full picture of the tobacco industry’s involvement with the study authors.”

Enstrom countered these claims in a 2007 article arguing that his funding and competing interests were clearly and accurately described and that tobacco industry funding did not impact his research. “To date, no impropriety, bias or omission has been identified in the review process and no error in the results has been identified in the paper,” Enstrom said.

Emails from 2014 feature Dr. Enstrom discussing with famous climate science denier Fred Singer ideas to attack and discredit two scientists who were involved in the film Merchants of Doubt, “and whether to try to stop the release of the film with a lawsuit.” See coverage by DeSmog blog, Tobacco Gun for Hire James Enstrom, Willie Soon and the Climate Deniers Attack on Merchants of Doubt (March 2015).

For more about Dr. Kabat, see our Geoffrey Kabat fact sheet.

Incorrect statements about science

The American Council on Science and Health has made many inaccurate statements in its work to defend corporate products. Some examples:

  • “There is no evidence that exposure to secondhand smoke involves heart attacks or cardiac arrest.” Winston-Salem Journal, 2012
  • “…there is no scientific consensus concerning global warming.” ACSH, 1998
  • Fracking “doesn’t pollute water or air.” Daily Caller, 2013
  • “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
  • “There is no evidence that BPA in consumer products of any type, including cash register receipts, are harmful to health.” ACSH, 2012
  • Mercury “in conventional seafood causes no harm in humans.” ACSH, 2010.

Recent ACSH messaging continues in the same theme, denying harm from products important to the profits of chemical, tobacco and other industries and fund ACSH, and personally attacking scientists, journalists and others who raise concerns.

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

USA Today gives ACSH a platform

USA Today for years published columns by ACSH staffers Hank Campbell and Alex Berezow 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 to ACSH, “a corporate-funded group with a long history of promoting corporate agendas that are at odds with mainstream science.”

The letter documents examples where ACSH worked to undermine climate science, and deny the health threats associated with second-hand smoke, fracking, pesticides and industrial chemicals – all without disclosing their corporate funding.

USA Today editorial page editor Bill Sternberg refused to stop publishing ACSH columns and the paper failed to notify its readers about ACSH’s funding from corporations. Berezow left ACSH in 2021 and is no longer listed on USA Today’s website as an editorial board contributor.

Articles about ACSH

Le Monde: Monsanto Papers, Part 2: Reaping a bitter harvest: In order to save glyphosate, the Monsanto corporation has undertaken an effort to destroy the United Nations’ cancer agency by any means possible

Mother Jones: Leaked documents reveal secret finances of a pro industry science group

Greenpeace: The American Council on Science and Health is a Koch Industries climate denial front group

U.S. Right to Know reporting on ACSH: Merchant of Poison report based on Monsanto documents; Hank Campbell’s Maze of Monsanto-loving Science Blogs

For more information about front groups the pesticide industry relies on, see our post: Tracking the pesticide industry propaganda network

To top