Spinning Food: How food industry front groups and covert communications are shaping the story of food

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Taking their cues from the tobacco industry, the world’s largest pesticide, seed and food companies companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on stealth PR tactics to push coordinated messages promoting GMOs, attacking organic food production, and defending pesticides and the routine use of antibiotics — messages that are making their way into the pages of our largest media outlets.

The 2015 report Spinning Food: How food industry front groups and covert communications are shaping the story of foodby Kari Hamerschlag (Friends of the Earth), Anna Lappé (Real Food Media) and Stacy Malkan (U.S. Right to Know, shows how corporations work to preserve their markets and advance policy agendas to favor industrial agriculture and chemical additives in our food using a variety of stealth tactics including:

  • deploying front groups that lie to the public;
  • attacking journalists and scientists and moms who feed their kids organic food;
  • grooming third-party allies that pose as independent sources;
  • producing advertising disguised as editorial content;
  • and using other covert social media tactics to influence public opinion and sway policymakers — without most people realizing the story is being shaped behind the scenes to promote corporate interests.

This report aims to shed light on how the industrial food and agriculture sector is trying to defuse concerns about the real risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and undermine public confidence in the benefits of organic food and diversified, ecological production systems. We hope this report helps reporters, policymakers, opinion leaders and the public bring increased scrutiny to the food industry’s messages and messengers. By revealing key groups and tactics used by industry, we also hope that it will help generate more balanced and accurate reporting on our food system.

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