Mimicking Climategate, anti-GMO activists fund legal attack on biotech academics

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The fierce public relations war over genetically modified food has a new front. A nonprofit group opposed to GM products filed a flurry of freedom of information requests late last month with at least four U.S. universities, asking administrators to turn over any correspondence between a dozen academic researchers and a handful of agricultural companies, trade groups and PR firms.

The scientists—many of whom have publicly supported agricultural biotechnologies—are debating how best to respond, and at least one university has already rejected the request.

ag letter excerpt

“It seems like a fishing expedition to me,” says geneticist Alison Van Eenennaam of the University of California (UC), Davis, one of six UC researchers targeted by the requests. “I am very worried [the correspondence] is going to be used to sully the reputations of scientists.” The tactic is familiar in another controversial area, climate science, where researchers have faced an avalanche of document requests from climate change skeptics.

The group, U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) of Oakland, California [whose founders led the failed campaign in California to pass a GMO labeling law], says … It has targeted only researchers who have written articles posted on GMO Answers, a website backed by food and biotechnology firms, says Executive Director Gary Ruskin.

USRTK is … “especially looking to learn how these faculty members have been appropriated into the PR machine for the chemical-agro industry.” USRTK’s website says its sole major donor is the Organic Consumers Association, a nonprofit group based in Finland, Minnesota, which has donated $47,500. [Editors’s note: Read GLP’s profile of the Organic Consumers Association]

Read full, original storyAgricultural researchers rattled by demands for documents from group opposed to GM foods

  • Brian Sandle

    How can we get around dissemination bias? One problem is the difference between glyphosate, as used in safety testing, and what is published, and glyphosate with adjuvants, the normal use. “This is not the first time Roundup has received criticism for its suspected danger(s). Because glyphosate in Roundup targets the shikimate pathway in bacteria, fungi, algae, parasites, and plants (inhibiting the
    biosynthesis of amino acids), it works as an extremely effective
    herbicide. Yet its manufacturers claim that the chemical concoction is
    harmless to other organisms (specifically us), as humans don’t have this shikimate pathway.

    But Dr. Seneff disagrees in their stating, claiming that
    gut bacteria in the human gut does have this pathway, and is crucial to retain because it helps supply the body with essential amino acids. If the beneficial bacteria is killed of by Roundup, pathogens may grow and interfere with the body’s ability to synthesize amino acids (including the amino acid methionine, which leads to shortages in critical neurotransmitters and folate), and chelate (remove) important minerals like iron, cobalt, and manganese. These are only some of adverse effects.”

    Read More: http://www.trueactivist.com/half-of-all-children-will-be-autistic-by-2050-according-to-mit-scientist/?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=mam&utm_campaign=mam

    • Brian, you are quoting a junk science site, not a legitimate research organization. Seneff did no original research. She’s a computer scientist who published he work in a 9th rate pay for play journal because no legitimate journal would accept. Ask any legitimate epidemiologist or chemical expert; what she wrote is pure gibberish. If you want science on glyphoste, visit the European Union’s site, or that of the EPA, Canadian authorities, Australian authorities, etc. You go to activist junk sites and you can activist junk “analysis.”

      • Brian Sandle

        The Australian authorities, such as FSANZ tend to quote the “Cancer Council” as authority. The Cancer Council is a fund raising organisation which raises about 2.5 times as much as it spends on fund raising depending on which Australian state. It also spends money on accommodation, other administration and a bit on research, but little compared to the Australian total.

        Can you point me to an article on glyphosate plus adjuvants?

    • Wackes Seppi

      « Dr » Seneff’s list of
      accusations – don’t be fooled by the more diplomatic language –
      against glyphosate is loooong…

      Inflammatory bowel disease, obesity,
      Alzheimer’s, autism, anorexia, dementia, depression, Parkinson’s,
      reproductive issues, liver diseases, cancer. And also anxiety,
      schizophrenia, ADHD, anaemia, overdose suicides, sleeping
      disorders…

      The suspense as to the next disorder is
      unbearable. Whether « discovered » by « Dr » Seneff
      or by any other anti-GM and/or anti-pesticide propagandist.

      Frankly, what should any reasonable
      person think when confronted with such a long and diverse list?

      On top of this, her « correlations
      equals causation (perhaps diplomatically watered down to a
      suspicion » are hilarious. An excellent example is her graph
      on suicides by overdose, correlated with glyphosate applied to corn
      and soy (basically, pounds per acre… yes, the dose): she presents
      the death rates from 1979 to 1980, but ignores them completely. Of
      course, they disprove her theories.

      Seneff may be a Dr, but the use of that
      title is abusive when she operates outside her field of competence.

      • agscienceliterate

        I’m gonna sue Monsanto for the fact that I forgot to pay my taxes this year. I’m sure there’s some connection. Right, Dr. S? How about a link between my dirty house and gmos? How about a link that just last week I almost ran out of gas in my car, and gmos? Correlation, ya know …

      • JohnDoe

        Stop eating cheese and sleeping with bed sheets!

        Per capita consumption of cheese correlates with people who die because they got tangled in their bedsheets (r=0.947) http://www.tylervigen.com/

        http://i.imgur.com/NUo37me.png

      • a_real_scientist

        I’ve heard that breaks are involved in almost every single car accident. Perhaps if we all remove our breaks, then there will be no more car accidents?

  • Wackes Seppi

    I hope all universities will turn that request down.

    Looks like MaCarthysm is back…

    • dogctor

      Are you comparing chemical corporations to communism?

      Wow!! Misplaced hyperbole much?

      Dow, Monsanto et al are your martyrs?

      If they aren’t conspiring with the billion dollar entrenched chemical corps to do business on their behalf, instead of the public universities who employ them- representing public interests–they need to release the information.

      Sunshine is a great disinfectant. The more public relation corporately advised excuses you come up with the more of a stench the public will smell.

  • Billiard

    Wonder why they don’t comply? If they have nothing to hide then complying is very easy. Its very interesting to read how authors from this site always use terms like “junk science” against accredited scientists who are studying GMOs and glyphosate. The authors should also be known as folks who have no scientific background other than reading articles from industry and claiming themselves to be experts…their false identity is quite amusing!!!!

    • JohnDoe

      If you have nothing to hide, you should be okay with the government listening to your phone calls and reading your e-mails. Are you doing something wrong?

      Researchers need to have the freedom to do research without someone combing through their emails to play ‘gotcha’. It will be exactly like Climategate – some people’s words will be taken out of context (eg: the “trick” in Climategate), and so forth. They already publish their data in papers, what more do you want? If you want to see the data itself, unsullied by graphs, e-mail the corresponding authors to learn more. Scientists love to talk about what their doing. It’s their passion in life – no one gets into academic research because of the great hours and excellent pay.

      • a_real_scientist

        Well said, and may I add that add researchers they also have intellectual property to protect.

        • JohnDoe

          Yep, I know what that’s like. If I’m discussing ideas with a collaborator or my boss, I certainly wouldn’t want my competition to be able to read that privileged information and scoop me on my ideas. I was only touching on a few of the many issues of delving into people’s personal communication in the sciences while mocking the bad argument of “nothing to hide”.

  • Arthur Doucette

    This is for the Florida requests:

    In evaluating whether a record is made or received in connection
    with the official business of an agency, “the determining factor
    is the nature of the record, not its physical location.” Thus, the
    Florida Supreme Court found that personal e-mails between
    government employees on government-owned computers which
    were not made or received in the course of official business did
    not constitute public records.15
    Similarly, the mere fact that an e-mail is sent from a private e-mail
    account using a personal computer is not the determining factor
    as to whether it is a public record; it is whether the e-mail was
    prepared in connection with official agency business and intended
    to perpetuate, communicate or formalize knowledge of some
    kind.

    Also according to the statute: s. 119.07(4)(d), F.S., authorizes a custodian to
    charge, in addition to the cost of duplication, a reasonable service
    charge for the cost of the extensive use of information technology
    resources or of personnel, if such extensive use is required
    because of the nature or volume of public records to be inspected
    or copied.

    On the other hand, it also states: an agency is not authorized to impose conditions or limit access to public records based on a suspicion that the request may be for an improper purpose.255

    Similarly, “the fact that a person seeking access to public records
    wishes to use them in a commercial enterprise does not alter his
    or her rights under Florida’s public records law.”257

    http://myfloridalegal.com/webfiles.nsf/WF/RMAS-9H6K6F/$file/2014LEGuide.pdf

    It would appear that they have to turn over the emails IF they were part of official business. They would not have to turn over a personal email not related to official business just because it was addressed to someone at one of those companies, but they can charge a reasonable fee for the effort required.

  • thefermiparadox

    shameful. I really despise these people. The irony is the anti-gmo’ers talk so much shit about climate deniers and are radical enviro’s who do more harm to the Earth than help it.

  • Natural Nurture

    Saying that GMO is the same as natural mutation from thousands of years of evolution is wrong. No Tomatoes have ever mated fish. No wheat has ever mated with a fish. This is nonsense. It is like saying an automobiles hereditary lines are equine. A train is not really an iron horse. So lets talk sense.

    The one truth about GMO is that is repeated over and over— is that never has there been anything tested more than GMO. THAT IS TRUE. But thousands of 90 day studies [short term] are not going to tell us much about long term health. Tumours grow over time…as in the French 6 year study. The industry has a record of fact fudging and needs to come surgically clean. The e-coli and manure flinging at Organics is more devious and bad nasty.

    The truth— manure is not put on a field until it has been gathered and piled for months which composts it…that is why it steams in the middle of winter. Composting by its nature heats to a point of sterilizing manure and converting it to prime fertilizer…which REALLY [unlike GMO hybridization mentioned] has been used with safe success for thousands of years….it is not e-coli infested feces.

    The Millions Monsanto et al paid in false advertising to defeat GMO labelling could feed a whole lot of hungry people.

    JUST GIVE THE WORLD THE TRUTH and let us decide for ourselves, with labelling. Let supply and demand dictate as it always has, what has value.

    • Chad White

      It amazes me how ‘mutation breeding’ flies over the heads of GE opponents. You can explain it to them in hopes they can answer a question with honesty, but IME they never allow themselves to understand it. This sort of willful ignorance pervades the anti gmo movement like a cognitive delusion.
      I realize why they would want to bury their heads in the sand when it comes to mutation breeding….. Because it undermines their entire ideology. But after raising the arguments relating to mutation breeding literally hundreds of times, I am still amazed at how deceptive they have to be, to themselves. What is so amazing is that they do not even know how dishonest they are being.

      What about Mutagenesis ?

      http://www.science20.com/kevin_folta/atomic_gardening_ultimate_frankenfoods-91836
      http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-frankenfood-paradox.html

    • Good4U

      If you think composted manure is “sterile” (your terminology) then you should eat it. Eat all the composted manure you want. You are already full of manure, so a little more won’t do you any harm. Let us know how you are doing in a day or two.

      • Natural Nurture

        I am sure you more than most would know about the taste of manure from hiding you head up your alimentary canal.

        For your edification and delectation…the compost naturally heats significantly enough to sterilize any pathogens, my friend.
        In your case it would not be any GOOD4U as your alimentary canal is full of HOT AIR which will never compost a DEADHEAD.

        Take care and be thoughtful of what you do with your head.
        Stay away from compost piles…remember it kills pathogens.

        • Good4U

          Apparently it doesn’t kill pathogens, since you are still alive after taking my recommendation and eating it for a couple of days before you responded. You need a little longer “cook” time in the pile.

  • Natural Nurture

    I think if you read it correctly you will see the doctor is talking about the suicides in India from the farmers who were illiterate and didn’t understand the game that Monsanta was playing with them and their livelihood, their families and their existence. With no way to support their families and feeling like idiots because they got himself into this mess by trusting in and by being duped by Monsanto and Monsanto’s marketing…they spent their last dollars on the promise of bigger yields…and not knowing the seeds could not be saved…so they drank the glyphosate. The suicides are in the thousands… many, many, thousands!!

    I believe their science is bad and I know their ethics are disgusting.

    They have certainly earned the elithet of “The most evil corporation on the planet”. If they continue it will soon read that on their toomb stone.