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A well-respected researcher in plant genomics and the director of the University of Florida horticultural sciences department, Kevin Folta has built a reputation as a credible explainer of biotechnology. He is frequently invited to attend conferences and participate in panels discussing the pros and cons of GMOs.
But his outspokenness and his ties to the biotech industry have put Folta in the eye of the GMO storm.
U.S. Right to Know, a non-profit anti-GMO group that seeks mandatory labeling of all GM foods, has released a batch of emails that indicate a close relationship between Folta and the biotech industry, including a $25,000 grant for a biotech communications project and providing content for an industry website.
“The curtain has been lifted and the truth has been revealed,” said Gary Ruskin, co-founder and co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “His credibility is shot for good.” Founded in 2014, U.S. Right to Know is backed primarily by the Organic Consumers Association, a public interest group founded in 1998 in response to USDA regulations on organic food.
Folta said being compensated for travel and setting up a fund to help finance Talking Biotech hasn’t changed his position on the science. “If you compare how I answered questions before and after that funding, it’s identical,” he said. “The facts didn’t change and my desire to communicate facts didn’t change.”
Bottom line, Folta said, is nobody has refuted his answers or his presentations. “Nobody has questioned anything I’ve ever said,” Folta said. “Nobody has questioned my research. What they’ve done is gone after me because I do it.”
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