Julie Kelly Cooks Up Propaganda for the Agrichemical Industry

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Connect the dots on the chemical and junk food industries’ PR campaigns to manufacture doubt about science, promote risky products and dismantle environmental health protections. Also in this series: 
Jon Entine: The Chemical Industry’s Master Messenger
Why You Can’t Trust Henry I. Miller
Why You Can’t Trust the American Council on Science and Health
Trevor Butterworth Spins Science for Industry 

Julie Kelly is a food writer and cooking instructor who emerged in 2015 as a fierce advocate for the agrichemical industry, criticizing organic food, GMO labeling and science that raises concerns about pesticides. Her writing on these topics has appeared in the National Review, The Hill, Huffington Post, the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. She does not disclose her funding sources.

Julie Kelly’s husband, John Kelly Jr., is a lobbyist for the agribusiness giant ADM, among other corporate clients including Blackstone and CVS; and government clients including DuPage County where Julie Kelly formerly worked as a policy consultant to county board chairman Dan Cronin.

Julie Kelly’s writings since 2015 have followed typical tobacco-industry style PR tactics deployed by the chemical industry — manufacturing doubt about science; attacking academics, reporters and transparency advocates; and calling for deregulation of polluting industries.

Kelly’s work includes:

Casting doubt on the science of climate change in the National Review

Calling on Congress to defund the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm, in The Hill.

  • IARC has “been accused of stonewalling conflicts of interest and using shoddy science to promote a politically motivated agenda,” Kelly wrote.
  • IARC has noted publicly that it and its scientists have faced intimidation tactics, including broad subpoenas by Monsanto lawyers, as well as a “pattern of consistent but misleading reports about the IARC Monographs Programme in some sections of the media, beginning after glyphosate was classified as probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Attacking organic agriculture as an “evil empire,” in Forbes. In an article co-written with Henry I. Miller, Kelly argues:

  • “Like the buggy-whip manufacturers who ridiculed and reviled the horseless carriage, the organic industry is on the wrong side of history.”
  • “Organic products are expensive and offer no benefits, but devotion to them has become a kind of cult.”
  • The article contains blatant errors, for example, claiming that University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta “turned over almost 5,000 emails,” in response to pubic records requests, “only one of which showed any connection with Monsanto.” In fact, the New York Times posted 174 pages of Folta’s emails showing many interactions with Monsanto and Ketchum, the agrichemical industry’s PR firm.

Making inaccurate statements about GMOs, claiming they lead to lower pesticide use and create huge advantages for farmers; in fact, GMOs have led to higher overall herbicide use due to herbicide-tolerant GMO crops and farmers have experienced many problems.

Kelly co-authors articles with Henry I. Miller, a Hoover Institution fellow and former FDA official who has a long history of promoting junk science and flawed policy, and manufacturing doubt about the risks of dangerous products such as tobacco, pesticides and nuclear radiation. Together Kelly and Miller have:

  • Argued that organic farms are “an affront to the environment.”
  • Promoted DDT as an effective pesticide that should not have been banned, and argued that “green zealots” and “ignorant ideological activists” could ruin the food supply by pressuring EPA to ban Monsanto’s glyphosate.
  • Described the Trump Administration as likely to usher in an era of “greater governmental transparency and accountability, and a more level playing field” that could be a huge boon to the GMO industry.

The Hoover Institution, which promotes Kelly’s work, has a mission to “limit government intrusion into the lives of individuals.” Its top funder is the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which was identified in a 2013 Drexel University study as among “the largest and most consistent funders of organizations orchestrating climate change denial” and a foundation that promotes “ultra-free-market ideas in many realms.”