I’ve always said that food and chemical corporations work with public university scientists “behind closed doors” to manipulate the public—and now our movement has irrefutable PROOF. But first, let me start at the beginning…
“The fact that she is able to mobilize this army of blind followers who reject science and follow her words, to smear and harm the reputations of companies that are doing nothing wrong.” – The Atlantic, 2/11/2015Kevin M. Folta, the chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida, described Ms. Hari’s lecture at the university last October as a “corrupt message of bogus science and abject food terrorism.” – quoted in New York Times, 3/15/2015“There’s something that dies inside when you are a faculty member that works hard to teach about food, farming and science, and your own university brings in a crackpot to unravel all of the information you have brought to students.” — Folta’s Blog, Food Babe Visits My University, 10/21/2014
Well, NOT ANYMORE.
This week an unprecedented major investigative report was published in the NY Times about how the chemical and food industries work with public university scientists to advance their agendas to the public. Hundreds of emails have now been revealed between University of Florida Professor Dr. Kevin Folta, Monsanto, the biotech front groups, and their PR firm Ketchum after a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request was submitted by the nonprofit group U.S. Right To Know.
Why would Monsanto work with a public scientist in the first place?
Some powerful entities in the chemical and food industries have a financial incentive to try to discredit us in the work we have all done together and now we know how they are using public scientists like Dr. Kevin Folta as sock puppets to advance their message. We’ve come a long way in our food movement and things are finally starting to change – people are getting healthier and the food industry is responding to us, but why is someone like Dr. Kevin Folta on a mission to stop our progress?
Newly discovered emails reveal that Folta received a $25,000 unrestricted grant from Monsanto, and even wrote to a Monsanto executive, “I’m glad to sign on to whatever you like, or write whatever you like,” and “I promise a solid return on investment.”
However, Folta previously denied ties to Monsanto, here are 9 different examples:
- “But he denies financial ties.”
- He has “no formal connection to Monsanto.”
- “David [Oppenheimer] and I have no research or personal funding from ‘Big Ag’ – only in our dreams.”
- “Certainly Monsanto (and others) have funded work at my university. Not my work.”
- “I have no financial ties to any of the BigAg companies that make transgenic crops, including Monsanto.”
- “I have nothing to do wth MON“
- “I’m an independent scientist. Not Monsanto.”
- “I am one of thousands of independent, public scientists worldwide…”
- “I have nothing to do with Monsanto. I’m not, you know, I don’t work for them… I am not a shill (laughing)… I’m a public scientist.”
Monsanto sells Roundup, the chemical that is sprayed on the majority of GMO seeds. The main ingredient in Roundup was recently classified as a probable carcinogen. They are in panic mode trying to repair their image and will do anything to confuse the public.
Folta attempted to derail my speaking event at the University of Florida. He has also been interviewed by major media outlets such as The Atlantic, NPR, and the NY Times acting as an unbiased third party source, telling reporters he has no financial ties to Monsanto or the biotech industry all while acting as the ringleader and chief of my critics.
Monsanto thanks Folta for attending my talk at The University of Florida
One of the emails discovered by USRTK.org showed Lisa Drake, an executive at Monsanto cheering Dr. Folta on after he attended my talk at his University last fall. Dr. Folta wrote a blog post attempting to discredit my talk including a false accusation that I refused to answer questions from the audience. (FYI – Here’s the photographic evidence of the long line of teachers and students that I answered questions from.) I still find it bizarre that if he wanted to ask me a question so bad that he didn’t stay to meet me face to face. Instead he spread dishonest information about my talk all over social media, in forums and on his blog, acting more like an online troll than a distinguished science professor.
Seeing this email sent shivers down my spine and left me with a lot of questions. First and foremost, my talk was not about the dangers of GMO foods, it was about the story of quitting my corporate career to become a food activist sharing examples of major food companies changing their policies. Who wrote that paragraph summarizing my talk that Lisa Drake referenced? Why was a Monsanto executive sending this message to Folta? Did they ask him to attend my talk? Are they paying him to attack activists like myself? At the time I had no idea why this professor was so aggressive towards me but now it’s starting to make sense.
I’ve tried to explain to various reporters in the past that many of our critics are part of the larger entrenched food and chemical lobby that doesn’t agree with having more transparency (labeling GMOs) or doesn’t want to remove the controversial chemical additives from our food. The reporters have always said but what about the “public university scientists” that have no ties?
This investigation finally begins to explain that.
Why I am also submitting a FOIA request
In light of this email and the incredible amount of reputational damage Dr. Folta has waged on me personally and our healthy food movement (see a sampling of his public comments below), I am submitting a formal request to the University of Florida to have all documents and correspondence released to the public from Dr. Kevin Folta regarding my name Vani Hari and Food Babe.
I believe obtaining these correspondences will serve the public in greater transparency on how the food industry uses “independent” third-party scientists and professors to control science and deliver their PR and lobbying messaging.
I’ve often wondered why companies like Monsanto go through such great lengths to stop transparency about GMOs… If their food is safe, why don’t they want to label GMOs? Why would they pay public university scientists to advance their message?
Quotes from Kevin Folta:
Folta calls me a crackpot, accuses me of food terrorism, blackmail, villifying farmers and compares me to a dog.
“Vani is very good at marketing herself and telling people what they want to hear. She is very good at playing into the current popularity of vilifying farmers and large-scale agriculture. But really, she’s her own company, and she’s the spokesperson.” – The Atlantic, 2/11/2015
Kevin M. Folta, the chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida, described Ms. Hari’s lecture at the university last October as a “corrupt message of bogus science and abject food terrorism.” (Her fee was $6,000.) Dr. Folta added, “She found that a popular social media site was more powerful than science itself, more powerful than reason, more powerful than actually knowing what you’re talking about.”. – quoted in New York Times, 3/15/2015
“She really conflates the science. If anything, she’s created more confusion about food, more confusion about the role of chemicals and additives.” – NPR, 12/4/2014
“To have someone like Hari go out and make up nonsense that only digs into public opinion against these technologies is really frustrating for us.” – The Atlantic, 2/11/2015
“Vani Hari would be spreading her corrupt message of bogus science and abject food terrorism here at the University of Florida. Oh joy”. – Food Babe Visits My University, 10/21/2014
“Responding to the Food Babe is like telling a funny joke to my dog at a party. Everyone there gets it– except for the dog. She just tilts her head to one side and looks at me like I’m stupid.” – Response to the Food Babe. This is Boring, 3/19/2015
“There’s something that dies inside when you are a faculty member that works hard to teach about food, farming and science, and your own university brings in a crackpot to unravel all of the information you have brought to students.” — Food Babe Visits My University, 10/21/2014
“If this is a charismatic leader of a new food movement it is quite a disaster. She’s uninformed, uneducated, trite and illogical. She’s afraid of science and intellectual engagement. She’s Oz candy at best.”- Food Babe Visits My University, 10/21/2014
“What if Hari were to take a long look in the mirror and decide that while scaring people into boycotts and book buying pays the bills, the legacy associated with it is embarrassing. Time will frown on Hari, and it already is happening. While adored by internet fans, scientists, physicians, the food industry, farmers and science fans see her clearly as the empty information vessel she truly is.” – The Value of Vani, 12/12/2014
“Her discussion was a narcissistic, self-appointed attack on food science and human nutrition. There is a vein in my head that pulses when I hear someone deliberately misrepresent science for personal celebrity, and it was pounding.” – Food Babe Visits My University, 10/21/2014
“I was really proud to see that the student audience was not buying it. Throughout her presentation that was about Hari in the spotlight and “me-me-me”, students got up and left. She left gaping pregnant pauses where previous performances got applause– only to hear nothing. Not even crickets.” – Food Babe Visits My University, 10/21/2014
“While microphones stood ready in the audience to answer questions, there was no public Q&A period where a scientist that knows the research could publicly challenge her false assertions.”- Food Babe Visits My University, 10/21/2014
“I guess I’m just angry because I didn’t get to lock science horns with The Food Babe. I would have liked to have asked a few questions that she could never answer.” – Food Babe Visits My University, 10/21/2014
“I listened to her talk about herself and provide lots of false information to my students, and waited for the opportunity to ask dismantling questions from one of the two microphones in the room”. – A Letter To Support My Claims Against the Food Babe, 11/16/2014
“She did not take questions from the audience. The event ended and the audience left”.- A Letter To Support My Claims Against the Food Babe, 11/16/2014
“She was paid $6000 for over an hour’s time to promote her brand and spread her filth. Now scientists and educators have to fix it.” – A Letter To Support My Claims Against the Food Babe, 11/16/2014
Folta discredits Food Babe campaigns to remove controversial chemicals from the food supply:
Additional Evidence: Folta denies any ties to Monsanto on his blog:
“In another thread she encourages those curious to call the university, because “a certain professor who promotes Monsanto… has spread a lot of nonsense”. Again, she speaks from no evidence, leveling false allegations against a public scientist that only wants her to back her claims with science. How do I ‘support Monsanto’?”- A Letter To Support My Claims Against the Food Babe, 11/16/2014
“She also took the liberty of making a false association between a public scientist and university professor to a company that does not exist, purely to discredit him. Here are two clear falsehoods that Hari stands by. Why anyone would take any advice from her, ever, is beyond me.”- A Letter To Support My Claims Against the Food Babe, 11/16/2014
“I work as an independent, public scientist. Companies have no control of my research, my results or my opinions.”
“You’ll also see from my publications that almost all of my funding comes from public sources, like USDA, NSF and NIH. I’m not a “Monsanto scientist” as you’ve suggested. My only “industry funding” is for strawberries– a strawberry industry of family farmers that grow a nutritious fruit. Yes, I answer questions on GMO Answers. I am not paid, I’m grateful for the forum, and if you gave me a page on Food Babe.com to answer questions the answers would be exactly the same.”