Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The organic industry has employed repugnant PR tactics

By Stephan Neidenbach -
Edited by Nandu Nandini

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, Joseph Mercola, Nutiva, and Eden Organic are multi-million dollar corporate entities that are known for their attacks against critics. They are also large contributors to the Organic Consumer's Association, who funded the "attack NGO" US Right To Know (US RTK).

Writing for Examiner, James Cooper recounted the story of US RTK’s unusually forceful attacks against Kevin Folta, a professor of Plant Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Florida (as well as the hideously nefarious class Fruit For Fun and Profit). In his spare time Folta runs an outreach program on the subject of biotechnology, and was a very vocal critic online of the anti-GMO movement. In response, US RTK launched a multi-pronged effort to, in the words of Dr. David Gorski (surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute), “discredit Folta.” Among other tactics the oraganic PR machine deployed against Folta, Cooper reports that:

"...the personal attacks on Folta had gotten completely out of hand, all claiming he was a lying Monsanto shill and the like. To see how bad it became, take a look at Mike Adam’s Natural News post calling him “the most discredited scientist in America,” and a “discredited Monsanto puppet.’ Mike Adams is, of course, not a scientist nor even a reporter. His Natural News site is recognized as a collection of completely made up conspiracies and other fantasies.
About this time, an advertisement appeared in the Gainesville Craigslist repeating these accusations and calling him “a lying Monsanto puppet.” It also published his home address, which made Folta fear for his young family."

In its efforts to intimidate unbiased journalists, US RTK also investigated the journalists Keith Kloor, Amy Harmon, and Tamar Haspel. Kloor compared US RTK to another anti-science movement, "The tactic is familiar in another controversial area, climate science, where researchers have faced an avalanche of document requests from climate change skeptics."

Brainwashing children

In 2015, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill, a large textbook publisher, revised a 6th grade textbook, to deliver organic industry PR to children. A massive campaign by many of the industry's astro-turf groups led to many calls to their customer service number. If this had been young earth creationists calling to encourage a false balance on the topic of evolution, there would have been a huge media outrage. But because the organic industry has such a strong hold over the mainstream media, nothing was said or done.

Attacking and intimidating scientists

The organic industry and its PR minions have a history of harsh and career-threatening attacks against their scientific critics, including Kevin Folta, Shelley McGuire, Bruce ChassySir David Baulcombe, Professor Jonathan Jones, Lord Sainsbury, Professor Jim Dunwell, Anthony TrewavasChris Leaver, Martina Newell-McGloughlin, Val Giddings, Martina Newell-McGloughlin, Erio Barale-Thomas, Marc Fellous, Bill Nye, and even Neil deGrasse Tyson.

How do these attacks affect what is known about the public perception of biotechnology? No one really knows. But given this history, any scientist who publishes findings that are contrary to the interests of the organic industry can reasonably expect a sharp attack, or perhaps even a career-ending one. Of course there are scientists who are courageous enough to publish despite such prospects. But surely worries about how the industry might respond, and its effects on career prospects, has a deterrent effect on scientists’ initiation and publication of research that is adverse to the organic industry.


  1. Thank you for this, Stephan. It also seems the minions that are sold on the Organic Industry stories are as rabid and dogmatic as the come. The links between these sites - Natural News, Mercola, MAM, etc - in that they repeat each other's stories, seems to increase their credibility amongst the devoted. It really seems to be a case of 'say it often enough, it will become the truth'.

  2. I'm also thinking of Calestous Juma who was jumped on by USRTK. Dr. Juma has never failed to support agriculture, especially in his native Africa, but was condemned for the high crime and misdemeanor of exchanging emails with Monsanto about publishing articles in favour of biotech.