Emails show anti-GMO organic activists driving food and farming policy at Consumer Reports

Screen Shot at AM

On their website, Consumers Union [publisher of Consumer Reports; Read Genetic Literacy Project’s Profile of Consumer Reports] claims to be impartial and unbiased. So why are they actively collaborating with anti-biotechnology groups and the organic industry behind the scenes?

Recently obtained emails from Washington State University via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request show Senior Staff Scientist Michael Hansen [NOTE: Read Genetic Literacy Project’s Profile of Michael Hansen] using his Consumers Union email to actively participate in the gmolist—the ‘Independent’ anti-biotech scientists and activists Google Group for secret coordination and planned attacks.

Michael Hansen
Michael Hansen

In one email he describes environmentalist Mark Lynas and ex-Greenpeace turned Golden Rice promoter Patrick Moore as “puppets for industry”. He recommends using Belinda Martineau as a counter to them, being a qualified scientist critical of the technology.

Screenshot-2016-09-04-at-12.41.40-AM

If Hansen had used a private email address, one could allow for him as a private individual to communicate with people sharing his views as he chooses. But here he is seen acting in official capacity for Consumers Union.

Members of the gmolist with industry connections include:

  • Sarah Compson of the Soil Association in the UK
  • Janet Cotter of Logos Environmental, whose business offers “advice” to NGOs about biotechnology.
  • John Fagan [Read Genetic Literacy Project’s Profile of John Fagan], the original founder of Genetic ID used by the Non-GMO Project [Read Genetic Literacy Project’s Profile of Non-GMO Project] to test food.
    Jim Diamond of the Sierra Club
  • Ken Roseboro of the industry funded trade magazine, The Organic and Non-GMO Report
    Charles Benbrook [Read Genetic Literacy Project’s Profile of Charles Benbrook], organic industry consultant

This last name on the list, Charles Benbrook, is perhaps the most controversial of them all. Consumers Union has used him in many reports to promote the organic food industry and instill fear into families about eating fruits and vegetables. Most recently in 2015 he consulted with their staff scientists scientists on an article with many false and misleading claims. The report mentions that “natural” pesticides used in organic farming are generally safer than “synthetic” pesticides used in conventional farming practices, an untrue statement.

Related article:  Will Biotechnology Regulations Squelch Food and Farming Innovation?

Screenshot-2016-09-04-at-8.32.58-AM

Consumers Union failed to disclose the funding Benbrook has received from industry for his consulting services as well as his research during his time at Washington State University. This is information that Consumers Union should have been aware of with Michael Hansen and Benbrook collaborating together in the gmolist.

Former United States Surgeon General Koop once described Michael Hansen’s fearmongering campaign as “baseless, manipulative and completely irresponsible.” Considering that Consumers Union has always taken a pro-vaccination stance, Hansen is also a danger to public health. Steven Druker, Claire Robinson, and John Fagan on the gmolist are all part of the Maharishi Transcendental Meditation cult which was responsible for a measles outbreak in Iowa (Claire Robinson is the manager of the gmolist).

Consumers Union claims to empower “consumers with the knowledge they need to make better and more informed choices” and claim to be free of “commercial influences”. This may be true on matters such as interest rates and warning about the dangers of cigarettes. When it comes to our food supply their senior staff scientist appears to be deeply influenced by corporations with the goal to spread fear rather than knowledge.

This article originally appeared on We Love GMOs and Vaccines here and was reposted with permission of the author.

Stephan Neidenbach is a middle school teacher in living in Annapolis, MD. He holds a BS in business administration from Salisbury University and a MS in Instructional Technology from University of Maryland University College. He started and runs the Facebook group We Love GMOs and Vaccines, follow him on twitter @welovegv.

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
ft covidresponseus feature

Video: Viewpoint: The US wrote the global playbook on the coronavirus and then ignored it

A year ago, the United States was regarded as the country best prepared for a pandemic. Our government had spent ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
globalmethanebudget globalcarbonproject cropped x

Infographic: Cows cause climate change? Agriculture scientist says ‘belching bovines’ get too much blame

A recent interview by Caroline Stocks, a UK journalist who writes about food, agriculture and the environment, of air quality ...
organic hillside sweet corn x

Organic v conventional using GMOs: Which is the more sustainable farming?

Many consumers spend more for organic food to avoid genetically modified products in part because they believe that “industrial agriculture” ...
benjamin franklin x

Are most GMO safety studies funded by industry?

The assertion that biotech companies do the research and the government just signs off on it is false ...
gmo corn field x

Do GMO Bt (insect-resistant) crops pose a threat to human health or the environment?

Bt is a bacterium found organically in the soil. It is extremely effective in repelling or killing target insects but ...
favicon

Environmental Working Group: EWG challenges safety of GMOs, food pesticide residues

Known by some as the "Environmental Worrying Group," EWG lobbies for tighter GMO legislation and famously puts out annual "dirty dozen" list of fruits and ...
m hansen

Michael Hansen: Architect of Consumers Union ongoing anti-GMO campaign

Michael K. Hansen (born 1956) is thought by critics to be the prime mover behind the ongoing campaign against agricultural biotechnology at Consumer Reports. He is an ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend