Drew Kershen, professor emeritus at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, is a close ally of the agrichemical industry. He argues for deregulation of genetically engineered plants and animals and against transparency. Kershen has played a key role in agrichemical industry-funded promotional efforts and front groups that lobby for industry interests. Kershen does not disclose funding sources.
Agrichemical industry ties and front group leadership
Genetic Literacy Project / Science Literacy Project
Kershen is a board member of Genetic Literacy Project, a front group that partners with Monsanto to do public relations for genetically engineered foods and pesticides, and does not accurately disclose its funding. Documents reveal that the Genetic Literacy Project:
- is an “industry partner” according to a confidential Monsanto PR document that describes plans to try to discredit the cancer scientists of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer;
- is a “propaganda site” and a key player in Monsanto’s lobbying network, according to an investigation in Le Monde;
- published a series of pro-GMO academic papers that were assigned and promoted by Monsanto with no disclosure about the corporation’s role;
- partnered with Academics Review to run the Biotech Literacy Project boot camp conferences that were not honest about industry funding, according to reporting in The Progressive.
Kershen is also a board member of the Science Literacy Project, the 501(c)(3) parent organization of the Genetic Literacy Project. Both are directed by Jon Entine, a longtime PR ally of the chemical industry.
According to 2015 tax records, Jon Entine and the Science Literacy Project assumed control of the Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), a group formerly affiliated with the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) and the Genetic Literacy Project. Operations for STATS were folded into Sense About Science USA, which shares the same address of record with Science Literacy Project.
The founders of STATS, CMPA and Sense About Science did public relations work for the tobacco industry and these groups are not independent arbiters of science, according to a 2016 investigation in The Intercept.
Secretary of Academics Review Front Group
Kershen was the secretary of the board of directors of Academics Review, according to its 2016 tax records. Academics Review claimed to be an independent group, but documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know revealed it was a front group set up with the help of Monsanto to attack critics of the agrichemical industry while appearing to be independent.
Kershen was a reviewer for a 2014 report by Academics Review that tried to discredit the organic industry; the press release for the report claimed that it was work of independent academics with no conflicts of interest.
Tax records show that the primary funder of Academics Review was the Council for Biotechnology Information, a nonprofit organization funded and run by BASF, Bayer, DowDuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta. CBI gave a total of $600,000 to Academics Review in 2014 and 2015-2016.
Why Forbes Deleted Some Drew Kershen Articles
Kershen co-authored several articles that were deleted by Forbes and Project Syndicate after his co-author, Henry Miller, was caught using a column ghostwritten by Monsanto as his own work in Forbes. The New York Times revealed the ghostwriting scandal in 2017.
Kershen and Miller also co-wrote articles for Slate, National Review, the Hoover Institution and the American Council on Science and Health (an industry-funded front group) arguing against labeling and regulating genetically engineered foods, attacking industry critics, and claiming “the world’s poor are suffering and dying unnecessarily” due to the “gratuitous regulation demanded by activists.”
Kershen is an “ambassador expert” for GMO Answers, a marketing and PR website for genetically engineered foods that is funded by the big agrichemical companies via the Council for Biotechnology Information, and run by the public relations firm Ketchum.
Intervened in Transparency Lawsuit to Suppress Public Disclosure
Several documents reported in this fact sheet, which exposed undisclosed ties between corporations and front groups, were first obtained via Freedom of Information requests by U.S. Right to Know. Kershen has intervened in lawsuits to try to stop further disclosure, as the Freedom of the Press Foundation reported in February 2018.
For more information about food industry front groups, see the USRTK investigations page.