Henry I. Miller’s long history of science denial and product defense

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Henry I. Miller, MD, a former FDA official and founding director of the FDA Office of Biotechnology, has written many articles arguing against public health protections and taking positions outside the scientific mainstream. In January 2023, he joined the “full-time writing staff” of the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), a group funded by oil, chemical and tobacco companies to defend their products. Internal emails show that both Miller and ACSH have worked with pesticide corporations to promote and defend pesticide products and attack industry critics, without disclosing corporate ties.

Dr Miller has claimed nicotine “is not particularly bad for you,” he wrote that low levels of radiation from a nuclear power plant malfunction may have benefitted people’s health, and he has called for the re-introduction of the persistent toxic insecticide DDT that was banned in 1972 (and is still detected in the body fat of women, according to a Harvard study).

Miller is among the most prolific and best-known promoters of genetically engineered foods (GMOs), making claims that these products are safe and necessary in articles he penned for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Forbes and other outlets. He does not disclose his ties to the companies whose products he promotes. In one example, the New York Times reported that Miller published an article in Forbes under his own name that had been ghostwritten by Monsanto. Forbes deleted all columns authored or co-authored by Miller in the wake of these revelations.

Monsanto ghostwriting / dropped by Forbes

The New York Times reported in August 2017: “Documents show that Henry I. Miller asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes’s website in 2015. Forbes removed the story from its website on Wednesday and said that it ended its relationship with Mr. Miller amid the revelations.”

The emails between Miller and Monsanto’s Eric Sachs show how corporations and writers sometimes work together to promote corporate talking points in ways that are not disclosed to editors or the public.

In the emails, Sachs asked Miller to write about the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report that named glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Miller replied, “I would be if I could start from a high-quality draft.” Sachs provided a “still quite rough” draft as “a good start for your magic.” The draft appeared a few days later, largely unchanged, in a Forbes column under Miller’s name.

According to Retraction Watch, Forbes deleted Miller’s work because the glyphosate column violated Forbes’ rules that contributors declare any potential conflicts of interest and publish only their original writing. “When it came to our attention that Mr. Miller violated these terms, we removed all of his posts from Forbes.com and ended our relationship with him,” said Mia Carbonell, senior VP of global communications at Forbes.

Miller had written dozens of articles for Forbes, many of them promoting and defending GMOs and pesticides and attacking the organic industry. Forbes also removed articles co-bylined by Miller and other chemical industry allies, including Julie Kelly, Kavin Senapathy and Bruce Chassy.

Project Syndicate added the following Editor’s Note to the top of articles written by Miller (and later deleted his columns entirely): “Legitimate objections have been raised about the independence and integrity of the commentaries that Henry Miller has written for Project Syndicate and other outlets; in particular that Monsanto, rather than Miller, drafted some of them. Readers should be aware of this potential conflict of interest, which, had it been known at the time Miller’s commentaries were accepted, would have constituted grounds for rejecting them.”

Monsanto PR document: “Engage Henry Miller”

A Monsanto PR document, describes the company’s plans to “protect the reputation” of Roundup by discrediting the IARC cancer agency in the wake of its report naming glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, names Miller as a key ally the company counted on.

Page 2 of the plan describes the first external deliverable: “Engage Henry Miller” to “inoculate/ establish public perspective on IARC.” Documents reported by the New York Times show that a Monsanto executive asked Miller to write about the cancer report and provided him with a draft that Miller posted largely unchanged under his own name in Forbes.

Read more about Monsanto’s PR campaign to discredit IARC.

Miller’s product-defense roles

In 2018, Miller left his perch of two decades as a fellow at the Hoover Institute for unknown reasons. The Hoover Institution has received funding from corporations and industry groups, including Exxon Mobil and the American Chemistry Council, a trade group for the chemical industry. It also receives funding from right-wing foundations, including Sarah Scaife Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Charles Koch Foundation, Donors Trust and other leading funders of climate science denial that push deregulation across the economy.

Miller then became a senior fellow with the Pacific Research Institute, another think tank funded by right-wing foundations and a group Greenpeace identifies as a “Koch funded climate denial front group.” In 2023, Miller joined the “full time writing staff” of the American Council for Science and Health, a group that, according to its own documents, receives corporate funding (that it does not publicly disclose) to carry out product-defense campaigns.

Miller’s modus operandi can be seen in a 1998 “Work Plan Promoting Sound Science in Health, Environmental and Biotechnology Policy,” in which he pitched his corporate PR services. The document, posted in the UCSF Tobacco Industry Documents Library, described Miller’s fees for writing articles ($5,000-$15,000) and proposed an expanded “science and risk communication” program to include arranging speeches, improving web presence and publishing a book.

Anti-labeling campaign ad pulled off air

In 2012, Miller appeared in a television ad opposing a consumer right-to-know ballot initiative that would have required labeling for genetically engineered foods. The ad featured Miller standing in “an ornately vaulted campus walkway” at Stanford University and wrongly identified him as affiliated with Stanford, according to the Los Angeles Times. Miller worked at the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank located on the Stanford campus, and his use of “the Stanford ID on the screen appeared to violate the university’s policy against use of the Stanford name by consultants,” the Times reported. Stanford also, “doesn’t take any positions on candidates or ballot measures, and we do not allow political filming on campus,” a spokesperson said. The ad was pulled off the air.

The anti-labeling campaign was funded by Monsanto and other pesticide and food corporations.

Friend and trustee of corporate front group ACSH

Miller was a “friend and longtime trustee ” of the American Council on Science and Health, and he has also been described as a “director” of that group. ACSH is a corporate front group that pitches its services to corporations for product defense. Miller and ACSH both played a key roll in Monsanto’s campaign to defend glyphosate after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) listed glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in 2015. As of 2023, Miller is on staff with ACSH as a writer.

Defending the tobacco industry

A 1994 APCO Associates PR strategy memo to help Phillip Morris organize a global campaign to fight tobacco regulations lists Henry Miller as “a key supporter.”

In 2012, Miller wrote that “nicotine … is not particularly bad for you in the amounts delivered by cigarettes or smokeless products.”

Denying climate change

Miller was a member of the “scientific advisory board” of the now-defunct George C. Marshall Institute, famous for its oil and gas industry-funded denials of climate change.

Claiming nuclear radiation exposure may be “good for you”

In 2011, after the Japanese tsunami and radiation leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power plants, Miller argued in Forbes that “those … who were exposed to low levels of radiation could have actually benefitted from it.” He asked in Project Syndicate, “Can radiation be good for you?”

Defending the pesticide and plastics industries

Miller defended the use of widely-criticized neonicotinoid pesticides and claimed in the Wall Street Journal that “the reality is that honeybee populations are not declining.”

Miller has repeatedly argued for the re-introduction of DDT, a toxic pesticide banned in the United States since 1972, which has been linked to pre-term birth and fertility impairment in women.

Miller defended the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA), which is banned in Europe and Canada for use in baby bottles.

Attacking the organic industry

Miller’s has written numerous attacks on the organic industry, including “The Colossal Hoax of Organic Agriculture” (Forbes), “Organic Farming is Not Sustainable”(Wall Street Journal) and “The Dirty Truth About Organic Produce”( Newsweek). Newsweek has refused to disclose Miller’s conflicts of interest; a 2018 Newsweek article by Miller attacking the organic industry was surrounded by Bayer ads.

Miller’s rhetoric about the organic industry, like many of his scientific claims, is far outside of mainstream science and common sense. In May 2017, Miller claimed, “Organic agriculture is to the environment what cigarette smoking is to human health.”

Miller’s prolific pro-industry writings

Note: Gregory Conko promotes GMOs for the industry-funded Competitive Enterprises Institute. Bruce Chassy for years received undisclosed funds from Monsanto to promote GMOs. Jay Byrne is Monsanto’s former communications director and runs a PR firm with pesticide industry clients.

Miller’s articles deleted from Forbes include several attacks on organic agriculture and GMO promotions he co-wrote with Kavin Senapathy and Julie Kelly:

  • Henry I. Miller and Julie Kelly, How Organic Agriculture Evolved from Marketing Tool to Evil Empire,” Forbes (12.2.15)
  • Henry I. Miller and Julie Kelly, Federal Subsidies to Organic Agriculture Should be Plowed Under, Forbes (7.12.17)
  • Henry I. Miller and Julie Kelly, Government Favors and Subsidies to Organic Agriculture: Follow the Money. Forbes (9.23.15)
  • Henry I. Miller and Kavin Senapathy, GMOs and Junk Science. Forbes (9.24.15)
  • Henry I. Miller and Kavin Senapathy. The Dirt on Earth Day: Chemophobia Masquerading as Environmentalism. Forbes (4.20.15)
  • Henry I. Miller and Kavin Senapathy, Beware the Attack of the Green Blob. Forbes (2.26.15)

Articles about Miller

Some GMO Cheerleaders Also Deny Climate Change – Mother Jones

Pro-Science GMO and Chemical Boosters Funded by Climate Deniers – The Ecologist

DDT and Malaria: Setting the Record Straight – Pesticide Action Network

TV Ad Against Food Labeling Initiative is Pulled – Los Angeles Times

Stanford Ad Demands Anti-Prop 37 Ad Be Changed – Palo Alto News

More details about pesticide industry propaganda

U.S. Right to Know has compiled a series of fact sheets about writers and PR groups that work with pesticide companies to manufacture doubt about science and argue against health protections.
Why Forbes Deleted Some Kavin Senapathy Articles
Julie Kelly Cooks up Propaganda for the Chemical Industry
The American Council on Science and Health is a Corporate Front Group

Jon Entine of Genetic Literacy Project: PR front for Monsanto and Bayer
Trevor Butterworth / Sense About Science Spins Science for Industry
Does Science Media Centre Push Corporate Views of Science?

Read more about our findings in the Merchants of Poison report.

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