Why is there so much deceitful science published these days? Mainstream articles regularly assure people that glyphosate, vaccines and fluoride are safe, and that soft drinks and other junk food are not linked to obesity.
The answer is that virtually every major industry uses front groups and paid, corrupt researchers to spout their propaganda and package it like real science. Big Tech often abets this industry spin so that if you search for subjects like “vaccines” or “glyphosate” your results will be exactly what industry wants you to see.
I’ve previously exposed the true agenda of front groups such as the International Food Additives Council, the Coalition Against Costly Food Labeling Proposition, the Alliance to Feed the Future, the Genetic Literacy Project, GMO Answers, the American Council for Science and Health, the Center for Consumer Freedom and others.
These groups often give themselves names that no one would consider opposing, like Oregonians for Food and Shelter1 or CommonGround2 — unless you knew their industry backing.
The oil and gas industry, biotech and Big Food are not the only industries pushing “science” and “research” that conclude their products are not harmful. Big Pharma extensively uses front groups to get expensive and dangerous drugs in your medicine chest.
Billing themselves as real patients, these groups despicably coerce the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve new drugs and insurers to cover them through exuding their alleged suffering without the drugs. One such pharma front group is the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) — and there are many more.
Front Groups Defeated Prop 37 and a Soft Drink Tax
As many remember, front groups and paid, corrupt researchers defeated Prop 37 in 2012, a California ballot measure that would have required labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and prevented them from being called “natural.”3
Monsanto, Nestle, Hormel, Pepsico, Cargill, the trade group Grocery Manufacturers Association and other food giants also formed groups against the proposition.4 Here is a press release titled “Academic Community Oppose Ballot Measure Mandating Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods,” which pretends to speak for the scientific community when it is actually a paid message from industry:5
“Leading scientists and academics today issued a statement in response to the qualification of a measure on California’s November ballot that would require mandatory labels of food grown or produced using genetic engineering.
Like the overwhelming majority of scientific and medical experts and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these scientists believe that foods made with the benefit of modern biotechnology are safe and that labeling them as ‘genetically engineered’ would mislead consumers by creating the false impression that foods containing GE ingredients are less safe than foods made without the benefit of biotechnology.”
Central to the food giants’ success was a “study“ that seemed to show the proposition would greatly raise food prices.6 “Do you really believe the pesticide and junk food companies would spend $ 46 million trying to save you money?” asked Ocean Robbins of Food Revolution Network.
Similar front groups and “experts” were used to oppose Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on large soft drinks in 2014. New Yorkers for Beverage Choices,7 a faux grassroots group created by the American Beverage Association, defeated the measure. It was richly funded by industry, according to The New York Times:8
“After Mr. Bloomberg announced his plan in May 2012, the industry poured millions of dollars into an ad campaign that framed the proposal as infringing on consumer freedom. The industry later retained the law firm of Latham & Watkins to challenge the limits in court.”
Four common arguments that front groups and their corrupt experts use in resisting regulation of harmful products are:
- Costs will go up
- Freedom of choice is under attack
- Regulation will “confuse” consumers
- There is no difference between natural and harmful food products.
Front Groups Defended Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone
Front groups and “experts” also sought to defeat opposition to Monsanto’s GMO recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) Posilac, which was the first GMO product used on American farms.9 Monsanto sold Posilac to Eli Lilly/Elanco in 2008.10
Cows injected with rBGH, aka rBST or recombinant bovine somatotropin, produce 5 to 15 additional pounds of milk daily,11 making it lucrative for Eli Lilly/Elanco and dairy farmers. To sell a public that did not want to eat GMOs, front groups and paid researchers were quickly assembled including American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology (AFACT).12
A “study” conducted at Cornell University, and picked up by media outlets, proclaimed that giving cows rBGH was downright “green.”13 It said the cows”have a higher milk efficiency, which in turn lowers their carbon footprints … fewer cows are required to produce the same amount of milk.” The lead author of the study, Judith Capper, took the claims even further and said:
” … the study found that if rbST was used on a population of 1 million cows, the carbon footprint would be equivalent to taking 400,000 cars off the road or planting 300 million trees.”
Who were the study authors and what interest did they have in making that profound statement? Their connections tell the tale: Besides Capper, Cornell animal science professor Dale E. Bauman and former Cornell researcher Euridice Castaneda-Gutierrez, Monsanto helped frame this “study” through company employee Roger A. Cady.14
Interestingly, today Capper is a livestock sustainability consultant who keeps a blog defending and promoting industry-generated foods and industrial methods of producing them.15
Bauman is world-known as someone who works with Monsanto and who worked on the “Milk Is Milk” campaign, which argued that cows injected with Monsanto’s rBGH is identical to milk from untreated cows — despite scientific evidence that shows that’s not true.16 While Bauman’s insistance that milk from cows treated with rBGH is identical to natural milk, the American Cancer Society disagreed.17
“Of greater concern is the fact that milk from rBGH-treated cows has higher levels of IGF-1, a hormone that normally helps some types of cells to grow. Several studies have found that IGF-1 levels at the high end of the normal range may influence the development of certain tumors.
Some early studies found a relationship between blood levels of IGF-1 and the development of prostate, breast, colorectal, and other cancers, but later studies have failed to confirm these reports or have found weaker relationships.”
The other study authors also continue to promote the industry: Castaneda-Guitierrez went on from her Cornell study to work for processed food giant and manufacturer Nestle for 12 years;18 Cady still works for both Monsanto, as technical products manager, and for Elanco, as senior technical consultant-marketing adviser.19
Despite their efforts to back rBGH milk, while still legal in the U.S., demand for rBGH-created milk decreased so dramatically that most grocery chains dropped it and20 Eli Lilly/Elanco unloaded the GMO product in 2018.21
A New Book Addresses the Deceitful Science
David Michaels, Ph.D., served as assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from 2009 to 2017.22
Since returning to his position as professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, he has written a soon-to-be-published book that exposes the corporate science racket that results in the deceitful findings that are so common today.
“The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception,” to be available in 2020, looks at the bogus studies, think-tank policy documents and other manufactured science that date back to the tobacco industry’s well-known deceit and now infect government, public policy, nutrition science and even professional sports.23
Science-for-hire explains the ongoing epidemics of opioid addiction, obesity, climate change and even sports concussions which continue unabated despite their toll on public health, says “The Triumph of Doubt.” According to Oxford University Press reviewer David Michaels, the book also reveals how:
” … corporations manipulate science not just to defend dangerous products and activities, but also to market them as safe … and how corporations ‘work the referees’ in the regulatory process to ensure their products are not labeled as cancer-causing — even when they are.”
The book also looks at how Big Industry deliberately undermines scientific consensus to plant doubt about the dangers of tobacco, asbestos, lead, silica, pesticides, fossil fuels, food and drug products and more has long been the successful tactic of industry, writes Michaels.24
It doesn’t take much to figure out just from book reviews, then, that the bottom-line goal is to help industry persist with its marketing of life- and healt-destroying products by convincing the government and the public that the science is unclear and inconclusive, therefore making regulation seem unjustified.25
Not only that, in addition to the blatant scientific falsehoods disseminated by “bought” scientists, industry spin masters retaliate against those courageous enough to be whistleblowers.
How the Science of Deception Can Be Curtailed
“Science” concocted for no other reason than to keep selling harmful products can be curtailed through some commonsense measures, Michaels writes in Bloomberg Opinion:26
“First, corporations shouldn’t be allowed to sequester important scientific findings about the harms of their products. Stiff penalties could be applied when case reports of disease or the results of health-effects studies are not made public. The few corporations that get caught hiding data, like DuPont and 3M did, eventually pay large amounts to settle claims. But this is too late for people made sick or whose environment was damaged.
Second, the public shouldn’t believe the results of studies done by product- defense consulting firms. After all, their business model is to provide clients with the ammunition to sway public opinion, slow regulation and defeat court claims. If they did otherwise, they would never be hired again.”
While industry can still pay for research, it should no longer be able to control all aspects to the published research as it does now, Michaels adds:
“For the most part, corporations have been reluctant to fund research over which they have no control. We badly need a new model for production of the evidence necessary to protect the public. When government agencies consider potentially harmful exposures and activities, from vaping to opioids to glyphosate to payday loans, they should insist the regulated industries provide data produced by unconflicted scientists.
In this paradigm, the firms responsible for the potential harm would be required to pay for the research, but the studies would be conducted by scientists without conflicts of interest.”
Since professors trade on the university reputations, universities should ban professors from putting their names and academic affiliations on research in which they did not control or publish the findings, but industry sponsors did.27 Conflicts of interest should appear on university websites and be reported to the public. “The failure of academics to disclose financial conflicts should be treated as a violation of academic integrity,” Michaels says.