by Marion Nestle
Sep 6 2015

Another exposé of industry-funded scientists: this time, GMOs and organics

Today’s New York Times has another front-page (and on the inside, full-page) story on the food industry’s financial relationships with academic scientists.

The article describes how Monsanto funded scientists to lobby for GMOs in Washington (I will say more about this in a subsequent post).

But, as is clear from this report, the organic industry is doing much the same.

The Times based the story on e-mails it collected through open records law requests (the equivalent of Freedom of Information Act requests for federal documents).

And surprise!  I turn up in Charles Benbrook’s.  I learned this from checking Twitter yesterday.


I’m only on the B-list for influencing public opinion?  Alas.

It seems that Charles Benbrook, a strong proponent of organics (as am I), was working with (for?) the Organic Valley Cooperative on a public relations campaign to promote his organics-funded study demonstrating that organic milk has a healthier fatty acid profile than conventional milk.

I vaguely remember him contacting me about the study, but I didn’t write anything about it.  It appeared to be an industry-funded study with results favoring the sponsor’s interests—much as, in this case, I sympathize with those interests.

A few months later, I did write write about another conflicted organic study:

The study is not independently funded….This study is another example of how the outcome of sponsored research invariably favors the sponsor’s interests.  The paper says “the  [Sheepdrove] Trust  had  no  influence  on  the  design  and management of the  research  project  and  the  preparation  of publications  from the project,” but that’s exactly what studies funded by Coca-Cola say.  It’s an amazing coincidence how the results of sponsored studies almost invariably favor the sponsor’s interests.  And that’s true of results I like just as it is of results that I don’t like.

Benbrook has been criticized recently for not fully disclosing his ties to the organic industry.  Even if he had, disclosure is not enough.

The bottom line: Conflicted studies are conflicted, no matter who pays for them.

Documents: Charles Benbrook

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  • TZ

    No you are wrong and when I post the evidence you continue to pontificate you are right! You are WRONG Arthur…

  • TZ

    “Correlation and Causation

    Much of scientific evidence is based upon a correlation of variables – they tend to occur together. Scientists are careful to point out that correlation does not necessarily mean causation. The assumption that A causes B simply because A correlates with B is a logical fallacy – it is not a legitimate form of argument. However, sometimes people commit the opposite fallacy – dismissing correlation entirely, as if it does not imply causation. This would dismiss a large swath of important scientific evidence.

    For example, the tobacco industry abused this fallacy to argue that simply because smoking correlates with lung cancer that does not mean that smoking causes lung cancer. The simple correlation is not enough to arrive at a conclusion of causation, but multiple correlations all triangulating on the conclusion that smoking causes lung cancer, combined with biological plausibility, does. ” pro GMO website too boot…lol

  • Arthur Doucette

    But you don’t have multiple forms of correlation, nor do you have any biological plausibility. What you have instead is many studies showing that GMOs cause no harm at all.

  • Arthur Doucette

    No TZ.
    I posted sources that showed you were wrong.

  • TZ

    Wow….Arthur you are a trip! I have more than proven my argument…you will continue to deny the undeniable …I know, how about you post another reference that supports my argument, that is always fun 😉

  • Arthur Doucette


    You of course have access to information that is being ignored by the regulatory agencies in the US, Canada, EU, Japan, China, Brazil, India, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.

    But YOU are CONVINCED you are right.

    You may be the STUPIDEST person I’ve ever debated.

    Clearly you suffer from this:

  • TZ

    Really Arthur? Wikipedia? This is not a source!

  • Arthur Doucette
  • mem_somerville

    There are new documents that show Benbrook and his team on the organic milk study got $120,000 to push that one study out to the media. That’s the most fascinating strategy for a single paper I ever heard of.

    See the mail “Now Task” and open the attachment. They talk about their high-powered media strategy. It’s phenomenal, really.