ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

dubious LINKS!

more on the industrial alignment 
of independent science and public service

Scientists regularly 'asked to fix results for backer'
report in Daily Telegraph, Monday 14 February 2000 on the impact of sponsorship on impartiality
"ONE in three scientists working for Government quangos or newly privatised laboratories says he has been asked to adjust his conclusions to suit his sponsor."

Research into the funding of 10 papers on the alleged blood clotting risk of the third generation contraceptive pills found those funded by the pharmaceutical industry had discovered no risk, whereas those with other sources of funding claimed there was, he said.

Recent American research had also discovered links between studies which found passive smokin was not dangerous and the tobacco industry. "These competing interests are very important," said Dr Smith [editor of the British Medical Journal]. "It has quite a profound influence on the conclusions and we deceive ourselves if we think science is wholly impartial."

LANCET: Corrupt Science-Business interface
This is about a $2 million concerted campaign to halt or undermine a scientific study on the dangers of passive smoking, targeting researchers, the media and government.

"All policymakers must be vigilant to the possibility of research data being manipulated by corporate bodies and of scientific colleagues being seduced by the material charms of industry. Trust is no defence against an aggressively deceptive corporate sector."
THE LANCET, April 2000 - commentary and Guardian article:,2763,156849,00.html

'Sound science' movement part of sophisticated public relations campaign

In a further study of the issue Dr Stanton Glantz, the principal author of the Lancet piece above, and Dr Elisa Ong conclude:

"Public health professionals need to be aware that the 'sound science' movement is not an indigenous effort from within the profession to improve the quality of scientific discourse, but reflects sophisticated public relations campaigns controlled by industry executives and lawyers whose aim is to manipulate the standards of scientific proof to serve the corporate interests of their clients."
America Journal of Public Health, November 2001

Corrupt Science-Business interface - multiple links

The wider problem:

* evidence of the falsification of data to suit commercial objectives,2763,194211,00.html

* evidence of misrepresentation of research to the public and the media to suit commercial objectives

* evidence of scientists' self-censorship and of the direct suppression of dissenting scientists

* evidence of pressure to suppress publication of unfavourable research evidence

* evidence of pressure on journalists to under-report unfavourable research evidence

* evidence of heavy corporate influence over research funding, research agendas, and top-level appointments

* evidence of suppression of unfavourable research evidence into product safety

* evidence that the withholding of unfavourable research evidence into product performance may have led to thousands of deaths

The politics of GM food: risk, science & public trust, a report by social scientists funded through the UK Government's Economic and Social Research Council's Global Environmental Change Programme, asks some very pertinent questions about the role of science and scientists in the GM dabate.

Among its findings:

the public are not stupid and ignorant about their approach to risks but have a sophisticated grasp of the main issues,

science cannot provide definitive answers about the safety of GM foods as  "definitive answers do not and cannot
exist in the face of uncertainty and 'ignorance' about new technologies", and

a simple reliance on "sound science" is therefore itself unscientific

a much more independent and participatory style of making decisions is needed

According to the report, public mistrust arises partly because the way the issue is being handled by governments and corporations breaches the fundamental trust between the public and the powers that be. Public concerns include how decisions are made and who makes them in whose interests.

The report notes that "scientists are often under real pressures to reach conclusions that can inform commercial and political decisions" when no such conclusions can be reached.

Another problem is that standard risk assessment techniques are inadequate.

o The Politics Of GM Food: Risk, Science And Public Trust is available from Alister Scott, GECP Office, Mantell Building, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RF (price 10 pounds).

Available on the web at

Several interesting papers by University of Guelph based agronomist E. Ann Clark can be found at

These include one on science and ethics <> in which Ann Clark writes:

"For agricultural researchers, the progressive withdrawal, in real terms, of government research funding (Figure 1) is bad enough. But when scarce funding is coupled with the obligation to seek industrial matching or leverage just to apply for much of both government and NSERC funding ..., the implications for society and the environment - and indeed, for the survival of the university as an institution - may be dire indeed.

...The example of Guelph suggests that industrial research of a largely proprietary nature is controlling an increasingly large proportion of the research conducted at publicly funded universities. As stated by Smith (1997):

 "What corporations desire is a form of socialism in which an exceedingly small level of investment allows them to leverage a vast amount of public funds, thereby displacing the financial risks associated with basic research to the public. But this is a perverse form of socialism, combining the socialization of risks, the privatization of rewards, and the imposition of profound social costs. The more university research is integrated into this perverse socialism, the more pressure will be put on the university as a place of rational inquiry."

....The need for authoritative and independent analysis, free of conflicts of interest, is redoubled when a technology with potentially far-reaching effects on society and the environment is liberated from government oversight. Where do citizens turn for objective information?

...History has shown that meaningful assessment of cost as well as benefit issues is unlikely when technology assessment is provided by proponents
who have a clear vested interest in the adoption of the technology.

Excerpts from a speech by Ann Clark Genetically Engineered Crops: A Luddite's View,  - the full text can be seen at:

"....Insider Trading? It is difficult to envision how government decisions can be made impartially and objectively - with societal and environmental interests in the forefront - when people in positions of high authority frequently have such strong ties to industry. A brief listing of key people who have migrated between the biotech industry and the USDA, the FDA, or the EPA in recent years would include Linda Fisher (EPA to Monsanto); Val Giddings (USDA to BIO), Terrence Harvey (FDA to Monsanto), Margaret Miller (Monsanto to FDA), Keith Reding (USDA to Monsanto), Michael Taylor (lawyer representing Monsanto to USDA), and Sally Van Wert (USDA to AgrEvo). These are not bench scientists, but people with key, governmental regulatory positions, often over the very products they are/were involved with in industry. In depth discussion of the forces which have influenced the agricultural policymaking process in the US and in the US vs. UK may be found in Wargo (1996) and Wright (1994), respectively.

Concluding Remarks

Contrary to the vision being promoted by those with a vested interest in GE technology, sound science published in the top scientific journals by respected senior scientists is challenging the value, and exposing the risk, of GE crops. Because of the close relationship between the various sectors promoting this technology, it is essential that private citizens, entrepreneurs, and organizations take a leading role in informing themselves and the public about the true benefits and risks of GE technology. It is essential that public funding for agricultural research be directed to address the real problems facing agriculture today - devising sustainable, environmentally sound, and profitable methods of crop production - rather than to promoting chemical-dependent cropping to enhance the bottom line of a few corporations. Rigorous cost:benefit analyses must encompass the societal and environmental dimensions for those who will have to live with the results - not just the short-term economics which appear to have guided decision-making to date."

The Professor Who Can Read Your Mind by Karen Charman in PR Watch Vol. 6, No. 4 / Fourth Quarter 1999


Tom Hoban is a man with a mission: to convince people to embrace genetically engineered food... Industry promoters widely regard Hoban as the pre-eminent expert in consumer attitudes on gene-altered food, and he is listed in several industry source guides for journalists. Over the last ten years, he has conducted a number of government- and industry-funded surveys, which he says consistently show "two-thirds to three-quarters of U.S. consumers are positive about food biotechnology." Considering the controversy swirling around biotech food overseas and the likelihood that it will erupt on these shores, such a finding must be comforting to industry. His data, however, is questionable.

Hoban says he helped design the questions in a much-touted consumer survey conducted for the International Food Information Council (IFIC) but carried out by the Republican political and polling firm, the Wirthlin Group. The survey was first done in March 1997 and then repeated in February 1999, ostensibly so that a trend could be established. Besides trumpeting strong support for genetically engineered food, the nine-question survey indicates that consumer awareness of biotech food is low. It also claims there is little support for labeling biotech foods.

The problem with the survey, however, is that the questions it asked are loaded with language designed to bias the answers. Examples include:

"How likely would you be to buy a variety of produce, like tomatoes or potatoes, if it had been modified by biotechnology to taste better or fresher?"

"How likely would you be to buy a variety of produce . . . if it had been modified by biotechnology to be protected from insect damage and required fewer pesticide applications?"

"Biotechnology has also been used to enhance plants that yield foods like cooking oils. . . . Would this have a positive effect, a negative effect, or no effect on your purchase decision?"

"Some critics . . . say that any food produced through biotechnology should be labeled even if the food has the same safety and nutritional content as other foods. However, others, including the FDA, believe such a labeling requirement has no scientific basis, and would be costly and confusing to consumers. Are you more likely to agree with the labeling position of the FDA or with its critics?"

James Beniger, a communications professor at the University of Southern California and past president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research, reviewed the IFIC survey and said it is so biased with leading questions favoring positive responses that any results are meaningless. UCLA communications professor Michael Suman agreed, adding that the questions "only talk about the food tasting better, being fresher, protecting food from insect damage, reducing saturated fat and providing benefits. It's like saying 'Here's biotechnology, it does these great things for you, do you like it?'" The results might be different, Suman offers, if it contained questions biased in the other direction such as: "Some people contend that some foods produced from biotechnology cause higher rates of cancer. If that is so, what effect would that have on your buying decision?"

The "revolving door" - the industrial alignment of public service and regulatory authorities (see also Ann Clark's comments above) taken from the Edmonds Institute:

David W. Beier . . .former head of Government Affairs for Genentech, Inc., . . .now chief domestic policy advisor to Al Gore, Vice President of the United States.

Linda J. Fisher . . .former Assistant Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Pollution Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, . . .now Vice President of Government and Public Affairs for Monsanto Corporation.

Michael A. Friedman, M.D. . . former acting commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Department of Health and Human Services . . .now senior vice-president for clinical affairs at G. D. Searle & Co., a pharmaceutical division of Monsanto Corporation.

L. Val Giddings . . . former biotechnology regulator and (biosafety) negotiator at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA/APHIS),
. . .now Vice President for Food & Agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

Marcia Hale . . . former assistant to the President of the United States and director for intergovernmental affairs, . . .now Director of International Government Affairs for Monsanto Corporation.

Michael (Mickey) Kantor. . . former Secretary of the United States Department of Commerce and former Trade Representative of the United
States, . . .now member of the board of directors of Monsanto Corporation.

Josh King . . . former director of production for White House events, . . . now director of global communication in the Washington, D.C. office of Monsanto Corporation.

Terry Medley . . . former administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of
Agriculture, former chair and vice-chair of the United States Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Council, former member of the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) food advisory committee, . . . and now Director of Regulatory and External Affairs of Dupont Corporation's Agricultural Enterprise.

Margaret Miller . . . former chemical laboratory supervisor for Monsanto, . . .now Deputy Director of Human Food Safety and Consultative Services, New Animal Drug Evaluation Office, Center for Veterinary Medicine in the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).*

Michael Phillips . . . recently with the National Academy of Science Board on Agriculture . . . now head of regulatory affairs for the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

William D. Ruckelshaus . . . former chief administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), . . .now (and for the
past 12 years) a member of the board of directors of Monsanto Corporation.

Michael Taylor . . . former legal advisor to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Bureau of Medical Devices and Bureau of
Foods, later executive assistant to the Commissioner of the FDA, . . . still later a partner at the law firm of King & Spaulding where he supervised a nine-lawyer group whose clients included Monsanto Agricultural Company, . . . still later Deputy Commissioner for Policy at the United States Food and Drug Administration, . . . and later with the law firm of King & Spaulding. . . . now head of the Washington, D.C.
office of Monsanto Corporation.*

Lidia Watrud . . . former microbial biotechnology researcher at Monsanto Corporation in St. Louis, Missouri, . . .now with the United States
Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Effects Laboratory, Western Ecology Division.

Jack Watson. . .former chief of staff to the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter, . . .now a staff lawyer with Monsanto Corporation in Washington, D.C.

Clayton K. Yeutter . . . former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, former U.S. Trade Representative (who led the U.S. team in
negotiating the U.S. Canada Free Trade Agreement and helped launch the Uruguay Round of the GATT negotiations), now a member of the board of
directors of Mycogen Corporation, whose majority owner is Dow AgroSciences, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company.

Larry Zeph . . . former biologist in the Office of Prevention, Pesticides, and Toxic Substances, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, . . . now Regulatory Science Manager at Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

*Margaret Miller, Michael Taylor, and Suzanne Sechen (an FDA "primary reviewer for all rbST and other dairy drug production applications" )
were the subjects of a U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation in 1994 for their role in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's approval of Posilac, Monsanto Corporation's formulation of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbST or rBGH). The GAO Office found "no conflicting financial interests with respect to the drug's approval" and only "one minor deviation from now superseded FDA regulations". (Quotations are from the 1994 GAO report).

Revolving doors and FDA regulatory scandals - Ecologist article (Sept/Oct 98)


Professor B: index