Forbes writer Jon Entine was one of Syngenta's third party outreach persons in defending toxic herbicide atrazine
GMWatch comment, 20 June 2013
To protect profits threatened by a lawsuit over its controversial herbicide atrazine, the GM seed and chemical company Syngenta launched an aggressive multi-million dollar campaign that included hiring a detective agency to investigate scientists on a federal advisory panel, looking into the personal life of a judge and commissioning a psychological profile of a leading scientist critical of atrazine. The Switzerland-based pesticide manufacturer also routinely paid “third-party allies” to appear to be independent supporters, and kept a list of 130 people and groups it could recruit as experts without disclosing ties to the company. At the same time, the company provided strict parameters for what these experts would say.
Atrazine is a highly toxic pesticide that easily contaminates groundwater and is a reproductive toxin, causing frogs to develop both male and female sexual characteristics. It's banned in the EU, though still used in the United States.
Syngenta's "Supportive Third Party Stakeholders Database" of people the company believed it could call upon to promote atrazine, has been published on the Internet by investigative reporter Clare Howard.
The organisations and individuals listed will be familiar to followers of the GM debate. They include:
*CS Prakash, who appears twice, once with AgBioWorld and once with Tuskegee University
*Environmentalist-turned-corporate-spokesperson Patrick Moore
*Vivian Moses of CropGen
*GM promoter for the US government, Nina Fedoroff
*Roger Beachy, founding president of the Monsanto-sponsored Danforth Plant Science Centre, where environmentalist-turned-GM-promoter Mark Lynas was recently an invited speaker
*David Gibo of the University of Toronto, listed in the database as a "monarch specialist". Gibo was an "expert" of choice who was quoted to criticise and neutralise the Losey study, which showed that Bt crop pollen was lethal to monarch butterflies: http://www.gene.ch/genet/1999/May/msg00083.html
Syngenta also believes it has "supportive third party stakeholders" in:
*The two main US regulatory agencies: the US Food and Drug Administration (Monica Revelle); and the USDA (four experts).
*Learned scientific societies, including the American Dietetic Association, the Society of Toxicology, and the Society for In Vitro Biology.
*The American Soybean Association, which lobbies for GM crops.
*Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy
*Center for Science in the Public Interest
*"Quack"-hunting and anti-environmental regulation organisations Quack Watch, the National Council Against Health Fraud, and Michael Fumento's Myth Busters.
*The public research institute CSIRO.
The Jon Entine connection
Also among Syngenta's third party supporters is the president of the Cato Institute. This was the institution that recently planned to host a "debate" on GMOs. Speakers against GM were planned to be Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini, whose study found that GM maize and Roundup at very low doses caused organ damage, tumours and premature death in rats over the long term, and author/broadcaster Jeffrey Smith.
Seralini and Smith were to be pitched against Jon Entine -- a fellow of the pro-corporate think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and critic of the precautionary principle, who would share the platform with a second pro-GM speaker.
Seralini and Smith withdrew from the debate, leading to much gloating from Entine.
However, in spite of Entine's claim to want to "present both sides of the issue" (http://onforb.es/16hamxt) in the debate, his history suggests that the last thing he is interested in is a balanced discussion.
Entine was a vociferous critic of Seralini's GMO and Roundup study. He published several attack pieces on Seralini -- probably more than any single author.
These articles are dishonest in the extreme. For example, Entine described Seralini's findings as "anomalous" even though Seralini's was the only long-term toxicity study ever carried out on this particular GM maize and the herbicide it is grown with. It's hard not to produce "anomalous" findings if there is only one experiment!
Entine has reportedly also been working to discredit Seralini on Wikipedia. We were alerted by Wikipedia users to the fact that Entine was one of the early editors on a one-sided and originally potentially libellous Wikipedia article called "The Seralini affair", which denigrated Seralini's study and Seralini himself.
Entine, under the Wiki user name "runjonrun", was active in vandalising the article by rapidly deleting balancing information, for example, about the scientific support for Seralini's study and the conflicts of interest among critics of the study.
In a previous Wiki spat, "runjonrun" had revealed his true identity as Jon Entine after upsetting other Wiki users by allegedly contravening Wiki conflict of interest guidelines and vandalising articles without justification:
Entine's defence of the toxic products of corporations didn't begin with GMOs, however. Documents revealed in the atrazine lawsuit revealed that Entine was one of the "third party outreach" people that Syngenta's PR contractor, the White House Writers Group, was in communication with over a pesticides conference that the AEI hosted.
Entine authored a book which was published and promoted by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), one of the organisations on Syngenta's list of supportive third party stakeholders. Entine's book, called 'Scared to Death: How Chemophobia Threatens Public Health', defended industrial and agricultural chemical use. The book included two case studies, one of them on atrazine. Syngenta has funded the ACSH.
Entine has also worked with Jay Byrne's PR firm v-Fluence, which was set up by former Monsanto executives.
Clearly what passes for scientific debate is often nothing of the sort. It's corporate interests trying to defend their toxic products against the findings of honest scientists.