Has Big Ag funding corrupted Canadian chemical and pesticide safety research?

Illustration by Katie Carey, Walrus

A Fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences, [Len] Ritter is one of Canada’s leading experts on the effects of pesticides and herbicides on humans, and was awarded a medal by the WHO in 2006, in recognition of his contributions as an advisor to the organization.

But Ritter also has a history of championing some of the industry’s most controversial agrochemical products.

The fact that Ritter is a professor emeritus of environmental toxicology at the University of Guelph comes as no surprise to his detractors. Located in the city of Guelph, one hour west of Toronto, the university—nicknamed “Moo U”—is Canada’s top agricultural school…. [T]he university remains focused on supplying graduates for the agricultural, farming, forestry, and veterinary industries. This, inevitably, has meant that the school often teams up with the companies that dominate those sectors, forming partnerships that have paid dividends for the institution, which today claims to attract more research dollars per capita than any other comprehensive university in Canada.

Academic critics warn that the arrangement is a Faustian bargain. Faculty members, they say, are being recruited by agrochemical giants to undermine criticisms levelled at their products, and therefore help keep potentially dangerous chemicals on the market.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: Big Agro on Campus

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  • Roy Williams

    The problem with the referenced article is that it paints a picture that every research scientist is for sale – which is one of the primary allegations made by all the anti-technology political activists to plant doubt in the public’s mind – the exact same thing that they are accusing corporations of doing – a typical case of screaming that there is a bugler coming in the back door as you leave out the front door with all the jewelry. Allegations that “science” is for sale are grossly wrong and unfair to the hundreds of thousands of research scientists in nations around the world who struggle endlessly to obtain funding to continue pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

    • Peter Olins

      Trombone players are much more trustworthy.

      • Roy Williams

        I don’t know any musicians personally, but I have no reason to doubt that musicians are trustworthy. However, your implied snide comment about scientists shows me that you know nothing about the practice of science. There are something like 200,000 research scientists working in universities and other non-profit organizations around the world, all of whom had to spend an average of 13 years past high school in school and training programs to reach the point where they could do their own, independent research. You are very mis-informed or un-informed to believe that, after enduring a decade of poverty-level income, 60 to 80 hour work weeks, and working hard to pass exams and reviews that someone would then act unethically and risk loosing everything they had worked for. You obviously have no awareness of just how difficult the path is to reach the position of independent scientist. People just don’t go through what it takes to become an independent scientist unless they really love what they do, and that can all end with one unethical action or one false report.
        Maybe since you are so untrusting of science, you should quit using all the things science has brought you – medicines, computers, cell phones, plastics, and many other things.

        • Peter Olins

          Roy, my lame attempt at humor was about your reference to buglers.

          As it happens, I have been a scientist all my life, creating my first chemistry and electronics lab at the age of 13. I am fully aware of the harsh life that scientists endure in their early careers, and the risks and crushing setbacks they can face in attempt to make the world a better place.

          From my own experience, scientists typical have very high standards of ethics, and the inherent self-policing system usually works remarkably well.

          • Roy Williams

            Peter, Sorry – my lame excuse for missing your point is that I have been travelling all week and attending a typical 12-hr/day conference.