Report Shows “Respected” NRC Scientists Bound to Big Ag
On the day before the National Research Council was scheduled to release its “multi-year research report” regarding GMO food and GM crops, Food and Water Watch has released its own report revealing numerous conflicts of interest at both the NRC and the National Academy of Sciences.
The report entitled, “Under the Influence: the National Research Council on GMOS,” details millions of dollars of donations by biotech companies and Big Ag companies like Monsanto to the NRC and provides evidence of a pact-panel of scientists enlisted by the NRC to conduct studies on GMOs. Food and Water Watch describes what is essentially a revolving door of staff directors at the NRC who move back and forth between the federally chartered organization and Big Ag corporations.
Food and Water Watch also presents evidence that the NRC regularly provides scientific conclusions on agricultural issues that are heavily watered down and mostly based on industry science. Indeed, while major corporations involved in the biotech industry and pro-GMO academics are welcome in the NRC, critics are shunned.
With the NRC’s 2016 report, more than half of the experts selected to participate in the project have apparent conflicts, such as receiving research funding from industry, developing GMOs (or patents), consulting for industry or working for industry-funded organizations… Some of these scientist also have promoted GMOs in the media or lobbied government regulators in favor of GMOs.
Food and Water Watch also reveals similar conflict-of-interest when it comes to animal agriculture.
Food and Water Watch states,
Corporate influence at the NRC is by no means limited to the work that the group does on GMOs. In 2014, the NRC undertook an investigation into how to improve “sustainability” in animal agriculture through research and development. The NRC took corporate funding and recruited industry scientists to produce this report, with Monsanto, Tyson, Smithfield, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association and other industry groups involved.
In this instance, the NRC appeared to function as a private, for-hire research contractor, lending its name to a report that had both industry funders and authors – and that made findings that largely support industry’s goals in animal production. Industry advocates can use the report, which bears the prestigious NRC name, to defend controversial industry practices, which has already occurred.
Food and Water Watch makes four recommendations in regards to industry influence at the NRC.
- Congress should expand and enforce the Federal Advisory Committee Act to ensure that the scientific advice the NRC produces for the government is free of conflicts of interest and bias.
- Congress should immediately halt all tax-payer funding for agricultural projects at the NRC until meaningful conflict-of-interest policies are enforced.
- The NRC should no longer engage funders, directors, authors or reviewers that have a financial interest in the outcome of any of the NRC’s work.
- The NRC should prohibit the citation of science funded or authored by industry, given the obvious potential for bias.
As Wenonah Hauter of EcoWatch writes,
Agribusiness companies like Monsanto have an outsized role at our public universities, at peer-reviewed journals and the NRC. We won’t have good public policy on new technologies like GMOs until these rampant conflicts-of-interest are addressed.