Audio: Will FOIA request have ‘chilling effect’ on GMO science communication?


On the SGU this week we interviewed Kevin Folta, who is a biotechnology scientist at the University of Florida.

Kevin is a science communicator. He does outreach to help the public understand his science, the science of plant genetics, which includes genetic modification. He is publicly funded and so all of his funding sources are fully disclosed. He has no funding from industry, no conflicts of interest.

However, because he is an outspoken critic of unscientific anti-GMO propaganda he has been targeted by the anti-GMO crowd. Their latest strategy is to go on a fishing expedition using freedom of information act (FOIA) requests. The anti-GMO lobby, of course, is not monolithic, and this is one group who is undertaking this approach – US Right to Know (funded by the Organic Consumers Association). They have issued FOIA requests to obtain all the e-mails of 14 senior biotech scientists.

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They have absolutely no particular reason to suspect that any of these scientists have hidden connections to the biotech industry, that they are shills, or that their science-advocacy is in any way compromised. This appears to be a pure blind hunt for anything they can use to create the impression that there is a conflict of interest.

I fear that the greatest outcome from the FOIA science 14 episode is that scientists generally will pull back from the public sphere. That is the opposite of what should happen. We need to engage all the more vigorously.

Read full, original article: FOIA Requests to Biotech Scientists

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