ILSI Wields Stealthy Influence for Food, Agrichemical Industries

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The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that claims to “provide science that improves human health and well-being and safeguards the environment,” according to its website. ILSI is funded by the food and agrichemical industries, according to internal documents published by U.S. Right to Know.

New revelations by U.S. Right to Know show just how far the influence of ILSI and its top operatives extends.

According to reporting by Carey Gillam of U.S. Right to Know, ILSI’s founder, Alex Malaspina, was able to ask for and receive regular input and guidance from a top official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to address actions by the World Health Organization that were hurting the food and beverage industry.

The emails, obtained via state Freedom of Information Act requests, reveal that Dr. Barbara Bowman, director of a CDC division charged with preventing heart disease and stroke, tried to help Malaspina find inroads to influence WHO officials to back off anti-sugar talk.

Bowman suggested people and groups for Malaspina to talk to, and solicited his comments on some CDC summaries of reports, the emails show.

In addition to founding ILSI, Malaspina is a former Coke vice president and a long-time Coke scientific and regulatory affairs leader.

The company has gone to great lengths to try to shift blame for obesity away from sugary drinks. For more on Coke’s obesity spin campaign, see the New York Times and Associated Press.

Coca-Cola has kept close ties with ILSI ever since it was founded by Malaspina.  In 2015, ILSI’s president was Rhona Applebaum, Coke’s Chief Health and Science Officer. Applebaum retired from Coke in November 2015 after revelations that the company funded an anti-obesity front group to spin the obesity story.

ILSI glyphosate controversy

In May 2016, ILSI came under scrutiny after revelations that the chair of ILSI’s board of trustees, Alan Boobis, was at the same time the chairman of a UN panel that found Monsanto’s herbicide glyphosate unlikely to pose a cancer risk through diet.

ILSI has received at least $500,000 in donations from Monsanto, in addition to significant contributions from other chemical industry sources. Monsanto draws roughly a third of its $15 billion annual revenues from its Roundup branded glyphosate-based herbicide products.

The story and corporate funding of ILSI was first reported by Carey Gillam for U.S. Right to Know. The Guardian, Die Zeit, ARD, RT and Horticulture Week have also covered the conflict of interest involving ILSI and the glyphosate review by the UN’s Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues.

Also see:

UCSD Hires Coke-Funded Researcher, San Diego Union-Tribune

What is Going on at the CDC?  Health Agency Ethics Need Scrutiny, The Hill

More Coca-Cola Ties Seen Inside U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Huffington Post

CDC Official Exits Agency After Coca-Cola Connections Come to Light, Huffington Post

Beverage Industry Finds Friend Inside U.S. Health Agency, Huffington Post 

Conflict of Interest Concerns Cloud Glyphosate Review, U.S. Right to Know

UN/WHO Panel in Conflict of Interest Row over Glyphosate Cancer Risk, The Guardian 

International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) 2012 major donor list