By Gary Ruskin
Co-Founder and Executive Director, U.S. Right to Know
U.S. Right to Know – a new nonprofit organization — released a new report on Big Food’s PR campaign to defend GMOs: how it manipulated the media, public opinion and politics with sleazy tactics, bought science and PR spin.
Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them.
The purpose of this campaign is to deceive the public, to deflect efforts to win the right to know what is in our food via labeling that is already required in 64 countries, and ultimately, to extend their profit stream for as long as possible.
This campaign has greatly influenced how U.S. media covers GMOs. The industry’s PR firm, Ketchum, even boasted that “positive media coverage has doubled” on GMOs. The report outlines fifteen things that Big Food is hiding with its artful PR campaign on GMOs.
#1: The agrichemical companies have a history of concealing health risks from the public. Time and again, the companies that produce GMOs have hidden from consumers and workers the truth about the dangers of their products and operations. So how can we trust them to tell us the truth about their GMOs?
#2: The FDA does not test whether GMOs are safe. It merely reviews information submitted by the agrichemical companies.
#3: Our nation’s lax policy on GMOs is the work of former Vice President Dan Quayle’s anti-regulatory crusade. It was designed and delivered as a political favor to Monsanto.
#4: What the agrichemical and tobacco industries have in common: PR firms, operatives, tactics. The agrichemical industry’s recent PR campaign is similar in some ways to the most infamous industry PR campaign ever – the tobacco industry’s effort to evade responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year.
#5: Russia’s PR firm runs the agrichemical industry’s big PR salvo on GMOs. We don’t trust the PR firm Ketchum when it spins for Russia and President Putin. Why should we trust its spin on GMOs?
#6: The agrichemical industry’s key front groups and shills aren’t trustworthy. Many of the industry’s leading advocates have records of defending the indefensible, or other scandals and conduct that inspires no confidence.
#7: The agrichemical companies have employed repugnant PR tactics. These tactics include attacks on scientists and journalists, and brainwashing children.
#8: The agrichemical companies have a potent, sleazy political machine. They have allies in high places, and employ their power vigorously – and sometimes corruptly — to protect and expand their markets and their profits from GMOs.
#9: Half of the Big Six agrichemical firms can’t even grow their GMOs in their own home countries. Because of the health and environmental risks of GMOs, citizens of Germany and Switzerland won’t allow farming of BASF, Bayer, and Syngenta’s GMO seeds.
#10: Monsanto supported GMO labeling in the UK but opposes it in the USA. Although Monsanto is based in St. Louis, Missouri, Monsanto believes that British citizens deserve stronger consumer rights than Americans do.
#11: The pesticide treadmill breeds profits, so it will likely intensify. It is in the financial interest of the agrichemical companies to promote the evolution and spread of the most pestilential superweeds and superpests, because these will spur the sale of the greatest quantities of the most expensive pesticides.
#12: GMO science is for sale. Science can be swayed, bought or biased by the agrichemical industry in many ways, such as suppressing adverse findings, harming the careers of scientists who produce such findings, controlling the funding that shapes what research is conducted, the lack of independent U.S.-based testing of health and environmental risks of GMOs, and tainting scientific reviews of GMOs by conflicts of interest.
#13: There are nearly no consumer benefits of GMOs. The GMOs that Americans eat are not healthier, safer or more nutritious than conventional foods. They do not look better, nor do they taste better. By any measure that consumers actually care about, they are not in any way an improvement. Profits from GMOs accrue to the agrichemical companies, while health risks are borne by consumers.
#14: The FDA and food companies have been wrong before: they have assured us of the safety of products that were not safe. Many drugs and food additives that the FDA allowed on the market have subsequently been banned because they were toxic or dangerous.
#15: A few other things the agrichemical industry doesn’t want you to know about them: crimes, scandals, and other wrongdoing. The agrichemical industry’s six major firms — Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, and BASF — have been involved in so many reprehensible activities that documenting them would require at least an entire book.
U.S. Right to Know is a new nonprofit food organization. We expose what food companies don’t want us to know about our food. We stand up for the right to know what’s in our food. We bring accountability to Big Food and its compliant politicians. For more information, please see our website at usrtk.org.
Gary Ruskin is the co-founder and executive director of nonprofit organization U.S. Right to Know. In 2012, Gary was campaign manager for California Right to Know (Proposition 37), a statewide ballot initiative for labeling of genetically engineered food in California.
For 14 years, he directed the Congressional Accountability Project, which opposed corruption in the U.S. Congress. For nine years, he was executive director and co-founder of Commercial Alert, which opposed the commercialization of every nook and cranny of our lives and culture. Gary was also director of the Center for Corporate Policy.
He has often been quoted in major newspapers across the country and has appeared scores of times on national TV news programs. He received his undergraduate degree in religion from Carleton College, and a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.