Judge dismisses plant geneticist Kevin Folta’s defamation lawsuit against New York Times

Kevin Folta
University of Florida plant geneticist Kevin Folta

A University of Florida horticulture professor known for his scientific defense of genetically modified foods lost his defamation suit against journalist Eric Lipton and the New York Times for describing his close relationships with biotech giants including Monsanto.

Chief U.S. Judge Mark E. Walker of the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee [on February 27] granted the motion for summary judgment filed by Lipton and the Times and directed the clerk of courts to file it dismissed with prejudice. No hearing was held.

Summary judgment is appropriately granted when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” Walker said.

In his ruling, Walker reaffirmed Florida’s “fair report” privilege for journalists and the state’s public records laws.

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In his lawsuit filed in October 2017, Folta claimed that Lipton and the Times “manipulated an interview” to advance their own “anti-GMO agenda” by making him appear to be a “covertly paid operative of one of the largest and controversial companies in America, Monsanto.”

The defendants said the article purported to document how both biotech and organics companies cultivated relationships with public university professors. The article relied on interviews and public records, including emails between Folta and executives with Monsanto and other biotech companies.

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Read full, original article: Tallahassee Judge Mark Walker throws out federal defamation lawsuit against New York Times

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