Public Interest Groups to USA Today: Ditch Corporate Front Group Science Columns

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The following letter was sentby more than two dozen health, environmental, labor and public interest groups to the editors of USA Today expressing concerns that the paper has been publishing science columns by members of the American Council on Science and Health, without identifying that group as a corporatefront groupwith a history of spinning science for corporate benefactors.For more information, see our fact sheet on the corporate funding of the American Council on Science and Health.

Updates: As of June 2019, ACSH’s Vice President of Scientific CommunicationsAlex Berezow was still listed as a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today Opinion, with no disclosure of Berezow’s leadership staff position at ACSH. Sometime later the paper did include Berezow’s ACSH employment in his profile. In June 2022, Berezow’s name was removed from the USA Today Opinion Board of Contributors (and he is no longer at ACSH). Berezow still describes himself as a “contributor” to USA Today in his Twitter bio.

February 9, 2017

DearPatty Michalski, Editor in Chief, USA Today:

We are writing to express our concern that USA Today continues to publish columns written by members of theAmericanCouncilonScienceandHealth(ACSH), a corporate-funded group with a long history of promoting corporate agendas that are at odds with mainstreamscience. USA Today should not be helping this group promote its false identity as a credible, independent source onscience. Your readers deserve accurate information about what and whom this group represents, as they reflect on the content of the columns.

These are no idle allegations. Many of the undersignedhealth, environmental, labor and public interest groups have been tracking ACSH’s work over the years. We have documented instances in which the grouphas worked to undermine climate changescience, and deny thehealththreats associated with various products, including second-hand smoke, fracking, pesticides and industrial chemicals – all without being transparent about its corporate backers.

We note that financial documents obtained by Mother Jones show that ACSH has received funding from tobacco, chemical, pharmaceutical and oil corporations. Public interest groups have reported that ACSH received funding from the Koch Foundations between 2005-2011, and released internal documents showing that ACSH solicited $100,000 from Syngenta in 2009 to write favorably about its product atrazine – a donation that was to be “separate and distinct from general operating support Syngenta has been so generously providing over the years.”

At a time when the public is questioning the legitimacy of the news media, we believe it is vital for publications such as USA Today to follow the highest standards of journalistic ethics and serve the public with as much truth and transparency as possible.

We respectfully ask you to refrain from publishing further columns authored by members of the American CouncilonScienceandHealth, or at the very least require that the individuals identify the organization accurately as a corporate-funded advocacy group.

Alaska Community Action on Toxics
Beyond Toxics
Breast Cancer Action
Breast Cancer Fund
Californians for Pesticide Reform
Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Food Safety
Citizens’ Environmental Coalition
Clean and Healthy New York
Empire State Consumer Project
Farmworker Association of Florida
Friends of the Earth – US
Healthy Building Network
HealthCare Without Harm
Learning Disabilities Association of Maine
Made Safe
Organic Consumers Association
Pesticide Action Network North America
Real Food Media
The 5 Gyres Institute
US Right to Know
Vermont Public Interest Research Group
Women’s Voices for the Earth
Ann Blake, PhD, Environmental & PublicHealthConsulting
Josh Freeman, MD (Emeritus Chair of Family Medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine)
Matthew Anderson, MD (Associate Professor, Dept. of Family and Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center)
Martin Donohoe, MD, FACP (Adjunct Faculty, School of CommunityHealth, Portland State University; Board of Advisors, OregonPhysicians for Social Responsibility)

(identification purposes only)

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