Bought Pro-GMO Research, Bees and Sulfoxaflor Update

Right2Know

Alexis Baden-Mayer/Flickr

US Right to Know, a non-profit organization, caused a stir when it obtained, through state Freedom of Information Requests, when it received in response to its request to 43 public university faculty and staff” So far nine Universities have responded but, as seen by articles from the NYTimes, the Ecologist and others, the group’s FOIA request has dealt yet another PR blow to the Big Food industry.  “These emails reveal how Monsanto and its partners use so-called “independent” third-party scientists and professors to deliver their PR messaging.”

The NYTimes furthered the investigation of US Right to Know and found that “[t]he emails provide a rare view into the strategy and tactics of a lobbying campaign that has transformed ivory tower elites into powerful players.” The article reveals uncomfortable ties between certain academics and BigAg. For example, a public relations firm hired by the biotechnology industry provided to a professor, on several occasions, “draft answers, [to use on a pro-GMO website] which [the professor] then used nearly verbatim, a step that he now says was a mistake.”

Presumably for “balance” the NYTimes article stated that the organic industry similarly recruits scientists to speak on its behalf but readily admits that “[the organic industry's] spending on lobbying and public relations amounts to a tiny fraction of that of biosciences companies.”

The NYTimes Article is Criticized For Hiding Collusion

Jonathan Latham, PhD, of the Independent Science News, wrote that the real story is in the emails which the NYTimes posted on the side of its main article but spend insufficient time discussing in the body of the article. “The real scoop was not the perfidy and deceit of a handful of individual professors. Buried in the emails is proof positive of active collusion between the agribusiness and chemical industries, numerous and often prominent academics, PR companies, and key administrators of land grant universities for the purpose of promoting GMOs and pesticides. In particular, nowhere does the Times note that one of the chief colluders was none other than the President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).”

U.S. Appeals Court Voids EPA’s Approval of Dow’s Insecticide Containing Sulfoxaflor

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the EPA’s work in approving Dow’s sulfoxaflor (brand name Transform and Closer) when it cancelled the insecticide’s registration. Sulfoxaflor is a neonicotinoid subclass. According to NYTimes, the Court held that the “E.P.A. relied on ‘flawed and limited data’ to approve the unconditional registration of sulfoxaflor, and that approval was not supported by ‘substantial evidence.’”  Furthermore, “the court said that ‘given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the E.P.A.’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it.’”

According to EarthJustice, which represented plaintiffs’ that sued the EPA the decision means that “sulfoxaflor may not be used in the U.S. unless, and until, EPA obtains the necessary information regarding impacts to honeybees and re-approves the insecticide in accordance with law.”

Tom Philpott at MotherJones also reported on the story. He observed that in the case of sulfoxaflor “the agency didn’t try very hard to get that information. In January 2013, because of major gaps in research on the new chemical’s effect on bees, the EPA decided to grant sulfoxaflor ‘conditional registration’ and ordered Dow to provide more research. And then a few months later, the agency granted sulfoxaflor unconditional  registration — even though ‘the record reveals that Dow never completed the requested additional studies,’ the court opinion states.”