FOIA: For $100,000 Charles Benbrook offered to ‘ramrod’ ‘independent’ anti-GMO research for Australian activists

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The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. 

Exposure of a private email trail has revealed one of Western Australia organic farmer Steve Marsh’s biggest backers sought to fund “scientific” research to present in a “strategic court room” as evidence of genetically modified (GM) crops being unsafe, to help demand a moratorium.

Emails obtained under a recent US-based Freedom of Information request show the proposal in an exchange between WA organic food entrepreneur Georg Kailis and US agricultural research professor Dr Charles “Chuck” Benbrook.

The emails were posted last week, with dozens of other documented exchanges, on MuckRock —a repository website used for sharing government documents between journalists and other interested groups. They are available here. The New York Times had previously released a trove of Benbrook’s emails secured in a FOIA request,

[The Genetic Literacy Project has a profile of Benbrook’s background and research history posted here]

Benbrook is credited with publishing a 2012 study suggesting GMOs had caused increased pesticide use in crop production due to glyphosate resistant weeds but the research methodology was attacked by critics.

He has also been shown to have received funding from large organic businesses like Whole Foods to conduct research during his WSU post, highlighting the benefits of organic farming and foods but has denied any conflict of interest.

Kailis has been a long-term campaigner against the use of GMs and is part of the prominent Kailis family fishing and food dynasty, in WA.

“We have some big funders who want to get the science showing lack of safety of GMO in a significant court room,” Mr Kallis emailed Benbrook.

In his reply email, Benbrook told Kailis he would charge $200 per hour to be an expert witness in the Marsh case.

He also warned about going down the “academic route” but could “ramrod” the proposed research that would question the safety of GMs.

I suspect this job could be done in four to eight months if there were adequate resources to get the help needed. I will ramrod it, but cannot take it on unless fully funded. My academic program is running on fumes, I need to retain my WSU base for lots of reasons. If someone goes the academic route, it would be 2-4 years before a dissertation is done. The fast route requires hiring and paying top-notch folks to join the team, so the papers can be divided up, and then individual evaluations reviewed/confirmed by the group. I don’t have time to do a thorough budget, but expect six figures through publication. I would be glad to get involved as an expert witness in the Marsh case. I charge $200/hr – I have lots of trial and depo experience.

Benbrook’s later added, “Off the top of my head, if I am the ramrod, I would need full control of process and right to be a slave driver/dictator, and at least $100k, and probably will regret promising to do it for that amount”.

In reply, Mr Kailis said his aim was for the proposed research to be “robust enough to take into a “strategic” court room as a summary of evidence of GMO/glyphosate harm to date and be a spur to demand moratorium until further testing and more.

“Yes we will get PR from this research but the end game I aim for is to be in court with independent scientific evidence of harm versus proGMO (vested) scientific evidence,” he said. [Editor’s note: GLP bolded the phrase “independent scientific evidence”]

Kailis is also a prominent board member of the UK-based Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) [UK’s organic lobby] which also opposes GMs.

Benbrook said his experience as an expert witness in court proceedings was that the publication of research in a peer reviewed journal was “very important in responding to inevitable attacks”.

University of Melbourne senior lecturer in food biotechnology and microbiology, agriculture and food systems David Tribe said the FOI email exchange showed that there was a PR plan to produce a predetermined outcome on the efficacy of GMs — not a scientific one.

“This exchange shows that Kailis is prepared to pay for research that has a preordained outcome and is confirmation of bias,” he said

Tribe also said the email exchange showed Kailis had a global network of anti-GM and pro-organic connections he was working with.

Despite this network of allies, including the Safe Food Foundation, the organic activists in Western Australia were unable to find a solitary witness who was able to testify at the Marsh v Baxter court case, and give evidence, proving GMs are unsafe.

Read full, original post: Emails expose anti-GM science for hire

  • Stephan

    :-)

    • First Officer

      This may be where, “Chuckles bites the dust”.

  • mem_somerville

    It’s also very clear from this exchange that the Marsh case wasn’t about their supposed loss of $85,000. The Marshes were used as a vehicle for ideologues to press this issue in the courts. That’s baldly stated by Kailis. And they sucked at it, so it was all this drama for nothing to help the Marshes (unless they got a cut, that’s big money flying around).

    I wonder if the Marshes feel used. They should.

    • First Officer

      Not sure that he does. He’s appealing to the Australian Supreme court. He may be as ideologically minded as his handlers. But, yeah, $1.5 million spent to get $85K. Need we say more?

    • PDickey

      Yeah, I’m sure that Marsh feels used, after his crops were destroyed by gmo garbage

      • Twan

        Mr. Baxter the neighbor of Mr. Marsh had grown gm canola and Mr. Marsh claimed to have found some canola plants on his property. He monitored and reported their presence to the NASAA. Representatives of the NASAA visited his farm, Mr. Marsh showed the gm canola, they decertified him. Strange Story eh, you can read it here: http://www.farminstitute.org.au/ag-forum/getting-the-story-right-on-the-marsh-baxter-gm-case. You just have to wonder, why did the guy not simply pull out those stray canola plants? There was no risk of contamination as Marsh wasn’t growing canola himself. Why did he call the NASAA to have himself decertified? Why then go public with it claiming it was his neighbor’s fault? Mem-somerville’s Explanation makes sense, yours’ not.

      • JP

        “Destroyed?” They certainly were not that. His farm merely no longer met arbitrary organic certifying standards.

  • Victor_Gallagher

    Wow ! What glaring antithetical behaviour. This makes that tiff concerning Kevin Folta look like nothing at all. I wonder if the mainstream media will give this the attention it warrants or simply choose to ignore it ?

    • First Officer

      Classic anti-gmo case of projection.

  • First Officer

    “ramrod”

    Nah, too easy.

  • First Officer

    Pst, Title need correction “For $100K …”

  • RevDr. Robert Foster, AbC, EfG

    You guys left a zero off the number in the title.

    I think it is sadly hilarious that for all their screaming of “Shill!” the ones caught with their hands in the piggy bank are the anti-science crowd. heh

    • jazzfeed

      As if you, the GLP and the mutation industry owns science! You can talk and write that way but it’s an obvious co-opting of the word, especially by putting quotation marks around “science” when it’s used by those who oppose the mutation industry and the plague on the planet it’s become.
      Similar nonsense: “there is a consensus on the science” (meaningless-at most it means a snapshot in time); and “the science is settled” (oxymoronic). Shills exist, many of them, whether that fact is whispered or screamed. They are trained.

      • RevDr. Robert Foster, AbC, EfG

        The retardation in the above comment is beyond measure.

        • jazzfeed

          The retards are the science myopes. DNA tinkering is an infant, imprecise technology. Rolling it out of the lab anyway, far before it’s time, and marinating millions of acres of formerly fertile soil in unanalyzable xenobiotic chemical concoctions, monocropping and attempting to patent as much of the food supply as possible, has resulted in direct and collateral damages on a global-disaster scale.

          • RevDr. Robert Foster, AbC, EfG

            DNA tinkering is an infant,

            60 years is hardly “infant.” Especially when you factor in Moore’s law.

            imprecise technology

            You’re mistaking genetic engineering with artificial selection & mutagenesis. Geneticists know exactly what each gene does and how it works.

            Rolling it out of the lab anyway, far before it’s time, (sic)

            And when is its time, O All Knowing One?

            marinating millions of acres of formerly fertile soil in unanalyzable xenobiotic chemical concoctions

            Impressive word salad, but the words contradict each other.

            monocropping

            Means what?

            attempting to patent as much of the food supply as possible

            This has been going on for longer than genetic engineering has been around, and has nothing to do with genetic engineering.

            has resulted in direct and collateral damages on a global-disaster scale

            Really? Gosh. That must be all over the news, huh?

      • Lol, the “mutation industry?” Yes, I can see why “science” needs to be put in quotations for some.