Emails and other documents obtained by the consumer group U.S. Right to Know suggest that Monsanto, the leading chemical and genetically modified seed producer, worked clandestinely with a University of Illinois professor to promote the company’s controversial products, some of which have been linked to cancer.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, USRTK acquired emails between Monsanto executives and Bruce Chassy, former University of Illinois professor “on projects to promote GMO crops,” USRTK said in a statement.
“The emails disclose that Monsanto, the leading developer of GMOs, was making financial contributions to the university for Chassy’s use over the same period that Monsanto or Monsanto-affiliated public relations operatives were providing Chassy pro-GMO content and/or editing for presentations, papers and videos.”
According to the organization, the emails also point to funds used to help Chassy establish a nonprofit organization and website called Academics Review, which USRTK says was a front to “criticize individuals, organizations and others who raise questions about the health or environmental risks of GMOs.”
“Professors shouldn’t be able to lobby or do PR for agrichemical companies while representing themselves as independent, and they should have to disclose any money they receive from those companies,” Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know said in a statement.
“Congress should expand the Physician Payments Sunshine Act to require disclosure of payments from food and agrichemical companies to professors and universities.”
USRTK points to a series of articles co-authored by Chassy that took aim at GMO labeling efforts without disclosing his ties to one of the leading manufacturers of genetically engineered crops.
Chassy wasn’t the only academic who U.S. Right to Know says received funding and support from Monsanto. The organization also named University of Florida professor Kevin Folta, who reportedly told Monsanto he would write “whatever you like.”
“These revelations regarding the connections are very important,” George Kimbrell, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, told U.S. Right to Know. “The basic disclosure that some academics and other ‘neutral’ commentators in the public sphere are actually paid operatives/working directly with the chemical industry rightly alarms the public, as they are being misled.”
Monsanto has been outspoken in its efforts to quash GMO labeling, spending millions of dollars to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in several states. And after the World Health Organization recently labeled glyphosate, the main ingredient in the GMO-companion herbicide, Roundup, as a probable carcinogen, Monsanto sued the state of California in order to prevent putting glyphosate on its Prop 65 list. The list would require the manufacturer to clearly label its product as containing cancer-causing ingredients.
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