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The University of Florida will re-allocate a donation intended to improve the public’s understanding of science after public threats to the researcher. The Monsanto Company donated $25,000 to support the Talking Biotech program, a science communication effort that provided on-campus workshops to train scientists about how to engage the public on agricultural biotechnology. The university will reallocate the funds to the campus food pantry.
The program is run by Kevin Folta, professor and chairman of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Horticultural Sciences Department, and a recognized leader in bringing science to the public. Since Monsanto’s donation to the program became widely visible in a recent Nature article, Folta has experienced baseless, damaging allegations and received comments that could be construed as threats.
“I’m teaching a science that opponents of ag biotech (GMO) do not want taught,” Folta said, “Everything I teach comes from a scientific consensus… and sometimes it does not mesh with the beliefs promoted by… activists advocating a single perspective, and those who profit from manufacturing food fear.”
Folta has no relationship with Monsanto in research or teaching. The funds allowed UF to cover costs associated with the outreach program when Folta volunteers his time to promote science communication.
The decision to reallocate the funds came when his home address and other personal information appeared among comments on Facebook. Obscene, inflammatory posts also appeared on Craigslist, presumably with the intent to incite local violent action.
Folta does not know the future of the program as some of the donation has already been spent on outreach. He says he’ll fill in those costs personally, and IFAS has also offered to assist. ”We’ll return the funds and make this happen another way.”
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