Kevin Folta responds to questions about funding of his biotech outreach efforts

In addition to my job as a researcher and a department chair, I run the Talking Biotech science communication program designed to help students, faculty and staff become conversant in how to talk about, and teach, biotechnology concepts. It has evolved into an effective and in-demand program.

The program and its funding were discussed in Nature on August 6, 2015, by Keith Kloor, and I felt additional clarification might be helpful. I’ve found support from several corporate entities, including Monsanto.  They provided funds for 12 of my outreach talks and sponsored a larger multi-speaker workshop. Monsanto had no control of content, no suggestions on what we’d teach, but funded facilities charges, lunch, and speakers’ travel. That stuff is expensive. But Monsanto does not, and never has, funded my research in any way.

Who else funds my outreach work?   When I give talks I do not accept an honorarium.  I feel that it is my job to provide talks free of charge, as a public scientist. When I do speak, I request that an appropriate donation be made to my outreach program. This account contains kind donations from the US Pork Board, an LED company, Manitoba Canola Growers, Mosaic Co, and others.

My outreach program slides are online at http://www.slideshare.net/kevinfolta/presentations. You can  see that they are 100 percent supported by scientific evidence. This is about teaching scientists how to talk about science. While it will be spun by many to be some source of undue collusion, the content is factual, based on evidence, and in line with scientific consensus. One hundred percent of funds go to defray travel costs, buy a tray of subs for the students, and pay fees for facility rental.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Contributions, Funding and Outreach

  • Larkin Curtis Hannah

    Keep up the excellent work Kevin. All this really means is you are winning. And the anti-science groups are running scared.

    • C.A. Cooper

      LOL, just using the word anti-science is going to convince people? Not anymore pal, the public is learning how to find the truth for themselves, and it’s damning for Monsanto. Dr. Anthony Samsel is an expert in this area, and in this interview, he reveals a number of glyphosate’s adverse effects.

      http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/07/05/glyphosate-cancer.aspx

      • Larkin Curtis Hannah

        Please direct me to peer-reviewed data published by Samsel in a recognized journal showing that what he said is true and why I should not believe the critical mass of published, peer-reviewed data making the opposite argument. Interviews are not peer-reviewed publications.

      • Larkin Curtis Hannah

        As you prepare your list of peer-reviewed publications coming from Mr Samsel, you might want to read: http://monsantoblog.com/2013/04/30/the-curious-case-of-the-paper-that-isnt/

        • C.A. Cooper

          OK, I read the lies and coverups. What’s the point? By the way, who do you work for?

          • Larkin Curtis Hannah

            Interestingly, you ask what I do. Below is a detailed description. In return, please provide like information for you.
            First, I am a professor of Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Florida. We focus on genes that become rate limiting in corn under hot conditions and engineer them to make their products more heat stable. These are important in maintaining or enhancing yield under more adverse weather conditions.

            Second, I am a member of a family with a large farming operation in Indiana. I am an active participant. We feed transgenic feeds, use glyphosate and farrow and feed out 13,000 hogs per year. Our hogs ate non-GMO feeds before 1996 and now eat totally GMO feeds. Yields and meat dress-out have never been better, in contrast to what would be expected if glyphosate makes animals sick.

            I do not work for Monsanto.

            Now, your turn.

          • gmoeater

            Larkin, he sits in the basement reading Food Boob and Mercola articles, and harassing farmers and scientists. Stick to your guns!

          • Larkin Curtis Hannah

            You might note that this guy has not responded with the name of the organic group he works for.

          • gmoeater

            Larkin, I doubt he has the chops to be hired to work for an organic organization and get paid for it …. actually, I was thinking that this guy, and many others of his ilk posting ignorant nonsense on this site, are an embarrassment to the organic lobby. He couldn’t even get Mercola to buy him a cup of coffee, I’m thinking.

          • Larkin Curtis Hannah

            And how is that publication list for Samsel coming?

          • Drakar2007

            He’s too busy crying shill and then turning around and posting articles by Mercola to do that, I suppose.

      • gmoeater

        You actually are quoting mercola? Seriously??
        hahahahahahahaha! What a joke! Look up who funds Mercola. Follow the moola. Sheesh. Wise up.

  • Drakar2007

    Meanwhile, the fearmongering propaganda group “GMO-Free USA” has gone on the offensive as of this morning, posting a meme which is basically thinly-veiled slander, directly attacking Dr. Folta.

    They keep a pretty tightly-controlled echo chamber on their facebook page, through liberal usage of the BanHammer and downplaying all opposing comments as “trolls”, so I’m not actually sure how best to counter such tactics. Several people have suggested that it’s time for Dr. Folta to go on the offensive and sue for slander.

    • Drakar2007

      (sorry about the full-sized meme graphic; I was merely trying to link the facebook post. but hopefully this will enrage some people who may not have otherwise become involved?)

      • C.A. Cooper

        Drakar the science proving glyphosate’s link to cancer is extremely clear. Why would you defend the use of a known carcinogen in food supplies?

        http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/07/05/glyphosate-cancer.aspx

        • Drakar2007

          > extremely clear

          > mercola.com

          Sorry, you refute yourself within the space of one comment. The effects of glyphosate have been extremely well-studied by legitimate, peer-reviewed scientists (a subset that does not include Mercola), and the science is clear that the effect on humans is extremely small if anything. Like, less toxic and less carcinogenic than Caffeine, sunlight, potatoes, etc.

          • Karen Cawley Keever

            Drakar2007 I disagree with your assessment of glyphosate, but the issue here is this article. He only claims to cite evidence, there is no evidence in his presentation. He cites no studies and presents no evidence. It is pro GMO propaganda unbacked by science for which he has accepted funding from Monsanto.

        • Drakar2007

          Also, of course, you’re moving the goalposts by even bringing up Glyphosate – the issue at hand is Kevin Folta and the personal attacks against him by Anti GMO activists. This has nothing directly to do with Glyphosate.

  • Massive Kegals

    Keep up the great work, Kevin. By 2017, you may be able to get $30,000 from Monsanto.

  • C.A. Cooper
  • Karen Cawley Keever

    “My outreach program slides are online at http://www.slideshare.net/kevinfolta/presentations. You can see that they are 100 percent supported by scientific evidence.” There is no scientific evidence in this presentation. It is a sales pitch for GMO’s, not evidence. It is strictly PR BS.

    • Pondercat

      They are hardly 100% supported. They are largely propaganda and coaching in hopes if altering public opinion.

  • Pondercat

    GMO food 101: read the whole thing, I’m not pro-GMO.
    A. Bt corn use probably reduces application of certain kinds of pesticide use in USA. True, (some kinds seem to be increasing.)
    B. Herbicide resistant GMO crops has led to increased herbicide use. True. Even pro-GMO entities like USDA concede this.
    C. The concern with GMO crops are twofold:
    1.) Increase use of herbicides like glyphosate is seen as problem (see the literature that documents adverse health effects associated with it), and perhaps emergence of super weeds that are resistant and invasive.
    2.) GMO ingested food seems to have unintended consequences (like bt emitting corn and leaky gut, allergies and such). It was said the bt producing would not survive digestion. This was questioned by independent experts when industry smugly assured not possible: Experts have been proven correct.

    Increased yields or profits due to use of herbicide resistant GE seeds is largely myth. There is evidence that Bt engineered traits may increase profits if pests are a problem for the farm area.

    IMO, the increased use of herbicides (glyphosate) is reason enough to avoid GMO crops for kiddos. I am convinced by the science and reports I read that Bt crop ingestion is a super foolish thing to do at this time.

    References? Everywhere! from Google to PubMed as you prefer.
    Suggested search terms: GMO leaky gut. GMO allergy. GMO herbicide use. Health effects glyphosate. Bt corn digestion.
    Know science of science debates (tobacco science to avoid repeating history). Learn Who is behind many GMO-skeptic / hypocritical junk-science web sites. Other ways corporate money can buy message control? Try this search: beeologics bought by Monsanto.

    • The story on herbicide resistant GMO crops is far more nuanced that you make it out to be. First, herbicide resistant crops are just a fraction of all GMO crops, and will be a decreasing faction going forward. Bt crops (about half of all GM crops) dramatically reduce the use of dangerous insecticide usage…by as much as 95% in India and 93% in the US. Insecticides are far more dangerous to human and environmental health than herbicides, which are comparatively mild.

      All pesticides have health potential consequences, including organic pesticides which are heavily used in agriculture. So to say one particular chemical, such as glyphosate, has health related issues is meaningless. The real question is: do they post genuine RISKS to either farmers or consumers. In the case of glyphosate, the answer is a clear “no”. Even the recent IARC hazard study detailed no known risks to consumers as used. It was a hazard study and extrapolated on exposure to workers, but not even as used. Glyphosate is far less of a potential problem than almost any known chemical used in farming, and that includes almost every organic one. So comparatively speaking, it’s perfectly safe. If you applied the criteria you are suggesting to organic chemicals, that industry would be shut down.

      As for overall herbicide use, it trended downward significantly after GMO crops were introduced. There has been some weed resistance development, but as for comparison, it’s far less than with conventionally bred weed resistant products, such as sunflower an some canola. Moreover, weed resistance is leveling off, and new products are on the market that should lessen the issue. Is weed resistance a concern? Sure, but it is for all of ag. As for overall herbicide use, famers, health officials and ecologists are far less concerned about volume increases than EIQ–the environmental impact, which is a toxicity measure. Spreading higher volume but lower toxicity is not a huge issue–and that’s the current situation.

      As for your “myth” that GMOs increase yields, you are just wrong. Independent meta-studies (looking at hundreds of independent studies) are definitive:
      Pesticide use down 37%, yields up 22%, profits rise 68%
      https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/11/05/gmo-meta-study-pesticide-use-down-37-yields-up-22-profits-rise-68/

      I know your concerns are genuine but you are clearly drawing your views from activist websites. If you stick to the independent science, a far clearer and balanced picture emerges of these controversies.

      • Pondercat

        1. You can’t legitimately cite your genetic literacy as an objective aggregator of scientific consensus.
        2. As you say, “It is nuanced.” One key nuance is history; bioengineering advocates have repeatedly proclaimed the safety is clear when it hadn’t been. Critical thinkers have been correct (bt producing toxin won’t survive digestion is just one example). It is so very “nuanced” (due to one side being organized and led by Well Funded industry in an orchestrated campaign to make it seem so very nuanced). It’s too “nuanced” (it’s been made confusing)….
        3. If anyone reading this IS really interested in science- do your own search. Try the search terms I previously noted.

        • What silly response…you did not even click through the link, which went to an independent meta-study by two independent German researchers crunching the numbers of 145+ independent studies. You cite activist sites when there is overwhelming science.

          As for the consensus of GMO safety, that’s 244 independent global agencies; there are ZERO that contest GMO safety. That’s a surer consensus than on the issue of global warming. You can deny that if you want, but it’s like denying vaccine safety or evolution. Note that there is biological pathway or mechanistic theory to even suggest that bioengineering could be harmful per se; there is overwhelming evidence that it is safer than random conventional breeding and mutagenesis, both of which produce organic foods and other conventional foods.

          As for organized and well funded, the only group that fits that description is the organic/natural products/anti-science group…which in the US represents $290 billion. The seed industry is about $35 billion. 90% of seed industry funds goes to overhead and R&D. The entire marketing effort of the organic/natural products world, with a few exceptions, is organized and orchestrated on demonizing mainstream agriculture. Yes, this is a David/Goliath story but you have your characters mixed up.

          Yes, people should do research–and immediately eliminate all stories in activist websites and all “studies” on pay for play journals–and posts like yours who when challenge shout” “search the web” rather than cite actual peer reviewed science analysis by the top 244 mainstream global science organization, including the top science organization of EVERY major industrial organization in the world.

          I’ll stick to the views of the European Commission, the German Academy,the Royal Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science–you can believe IhateGMOs.org. Go for it.

          • Karen Cawley Keever

            GMO’s are banned in Germany and many foreign countries. Folta provides no evidence or cites any studies. It is all PR.

          • Karen, Germany is one of the largest importers of GMO feed in Europe, so they are definitely not “banned” in Germany. As for studies, 244 of the world’s top independent agencies, including the German Academy of Science have concluded based on their studies and more than 1500+ independent studies that GMO foods are as safe or safer (and certainly more sustainable) than organic or conventional varieties: https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2015/06/16/240-global-science-organizations-affirm-consensus-for-gmo-food-and-crop-safety/

            Note there is not even ONE major independent science organization in the world–anywhere–that has concluded that GMOs pose any unusual harm. And Europe, by the way, is the largest importer of GMO grain in the world. So much for a ban.

          • Karen Cawley Keever

            Jon where does the statement that Germany is the largest importer of GMO feed come from? GMO’s are banned all over Europe. The following is just one article of many, “A few years ago, there were sixteen countries that had total or partial bans on GMOs. Now there are at least twenty-six, including Switzerland, Australia, Austria, China, India, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Italy, Mexico and Russia. Significant restrictions on GMOs exist in about sixty other countries.” http://www.thenation.com/article/twenty-six-countries-ban-gmos-why-wont-us/ And for every study you provide claiming the safety of GMO’s I can produce probably two warning of dangers.

          • Karen, that’s the problem when you read activist/junk science sites. I advise you to stick to real news sites. You are confusing bans on growing of GMO crops–only a few countries in Europe ban growing– from consuming them. Growing bans are all political designed to protect perceived local or regional markets and have nothing to do with perceived safety issues.

            There is no ban on consumption for humans anywhere in Europe and Europe is one of the world’s larges importers of GMO food products, mostly for feed. Europe imports a substantial portion of its animal feed, and a large part of the world’s supply is GM.

            Around 30 million tons of grain–about 72% of Europe’s needs– are imported per year into Europe from third countries, including 13 million tons of soybeans, 22 million tons of soymeal, 2,5 million tons of maize, 2 million tons of oilseed rape and 0.1 million tons of cotton.

            European animal farmers rely on soybeans imports for animal feed. Europe imports most of the soybeans it uses, and those imports are mostly GM from North and South America. In fact in April of this year, the European Commission authorized/approved 17 NEW varieties for consumption and import to Europe. (http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4843_en.htm)

            The EU currently authorizes the importation of 48 genetically-modified crops.

            Needless to say, there is no “ban”.

          • Karen Cawley Keever

            Jon this comment right here tells me where you are going with this, “You most likely deny evolution, think women are inferior to men, believe in chemtrails, believe vaccines are harmful, maintain fluoridated water is dangerous–believe it or not there are “studies” that “confirm” those views too. That’s called junk science.” I find it humorous how science becomes “junk science” when it nullifies what is being claimed. Regardless of studies that claim fluoridation is not harmful, it is most definitely harmful, and if you did any independent researchyou wouldn’t even question it. You can
            start by researching the findings of neuroscientists Grandjean and Lundgren at
            Harvard.

            Agencies have claimed that there is no danger in GMO’s?The problem with agencies is called “captured.” They have been infiltrated by the very companiesthey regulate. This is a known phenomenon. My definition of “junk science” is different than yours. If you are relying on government agencies to protect you, you are in for a letdown. The WHO has determined that glyphosates used in Round Up are harmful to all things living. So where you get that they are
            not harmful, is beyond me. Ethiopia was
            denied humanitarian aid by the U.S. unless they accepted GMO seeds. This tells me they didn’t want them. Foreign countries are turning our feed away because it is GMO. Non GMO soy no longer exists. It has been modified out of existence.

            I have no idea who Seralini and Jeffrey Smith are, but needless to say you provide no
            cites/sources for your claims. The one
            cite you provide is the same site that posted this article. The name says it all, “Genic Literacy Project.” You can allow them to educate you, but I choose to research for myself. Perhaps you cannot find any sources, because it is not true. Back to the original point, and that is that this article is pro-GMO propaganda. There is no evidence here, nor is there any evidence in the attached resentation. Claiming something is evidence does not make
            it evidence.

            “Yes, people should do research–and immediately eliminate all stories in activist websites and all “studies” on pay for play journals–and posts like yours who when challenge shout” “search the web” rather than cite actual peer reviewed science analysis by the top 244 mainstream global science organization, including the top science organization of EVERY major industrial organization in the world.” Isn’t that what you just did here. This is a play to pay journal. In case you missed it, I just challenged you and you provided nothing more than parroting what this site claims. You provide no sources what-so-ever. I might not have provided a peer review study, but I provided one of many articles on the internet that support my
            position. You provided nothing but smoke and mirrors and an attempt to deflect
            with negative comments directed at me instead of the issue under discussion.

          • Karen Cawley Keever

            Jon here is a link to a very interesting article regarding the safety of GMO’s written by Dr. Latham who holds a Masters degree in Crop Genetics and a PhD in Virology. http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/growing-doubt-scientist-s-experience-gmos

          • As for studies of potential harm, sure you can produce junk studies. But there is not one study produced in one peer reviewed study published in a mainstream journal claiming harm whose results have been replicated. NOT ONE. On the other hand, there are about two thousand independent studies, many of them which have reproduced results, that show no harm. There is not one–NOT ONE–independent science organization that claims any dangers to GMOs, while 244 of the world’s top science and oversight agencies have declared GMOs as safe. So you can continue to embrace junk science or not. You most likely deny evolution, think women are inferior to men, believe in chemtrails, believe vaccines are harmful, maintain fluoridated water is dangerous–believe it or not there are “studies” that “confirm” those views too. That’s called junk science. I will throw in with the German Academy of Science, the Royal Academy of Science, the National Academy of Science, the African Academies of Science, the European Commission, the World Health Organization and 240 others. You can believe in Seralini and Jeffrey Smith. They are all yours.

  • Pondercat

    They are hardly 100% supported. This is from the presentations in question. They are largely propaganda, almost like what agribusiness itself would like to say to farmers, if only they could come off as objective, disinterested experts. I looked at the ones targeted to farmers. It looks like a lot of organizational efforts and propaganda.

  • not monsanto

    Selling out. Shame on you. People are getting sick and dying from these poisons. Karma is coming.