June 16 2012
By Dr. Mercola
In another example of “follow the money,” a new report by Food and Water Watchi has found that a quarter of research funding at land grant universities comes from corporations, compared to less than 15 percent from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), giving big companies like Monsanto a stronger foothold than ever in higher education.
According to the featured article by Jill Richardsonii, a whopping $7.4 billion flowed from big corporations to agricultural research in 2006―an astounding amount that’s compounded by the fact that, in 2005, a third of agricultural scientists also reported consulting for private industry.
In the most egregious cases, corporate boards and college leadership overlap; in 2009, for example, South Dakota State University’s President David Chicoine joined Monsanto’s board of directors—a position earning him $400,000 a year.
To most people, such remuneration could be incentive enough to heed the will of the board on issues relating to the research being performed at the University, which by the way has “the most active research program in the state with over $70 million in research expenditures,” according to the University’s web siteiii.
In a 2009 article posted on Margaret Soltan’s blog University Diaries, Sen. Frank Kloucek is quoted as sayingiv:
“The appointment of Chicoine to the Monsanto board negatively affects the credibility of the university, since crop research reports from SDSU could easily be assumed as skewed. This research must not be tainted in any way, shape or form and this certainly taints that research… It … jeopardizes the integrity because it makes it look like we’re in the hip pocket of Monsanto.”
What Corporate Sponsorship Does to Education
In some cases, corporate ties to educational institutions are flagrantly displayed, leaving no doubt as to who “owns” the program. For example, the Danforth Campus at Washington University named their life sciences building The Monsanto Laboratory of the Life Sciences. According to the University’s web sitev:
“Monsanto Corporation has for many years been a major supporter of research in the sciences at Washington University through such measures as the Washington University/Monsanto Biomedical Research Agreement, which has brought more than $100 million of research funding to the University.” [Emphasis mine]
What do corporations receive in return for such funds? In a 2001 article, originally published in the Christian Science Monitor, Mark Clayton writesvi:
“It was to be a landmark university-corporate research partnership: Novartis, a Swiss-based pharmaceutical conglomerate, would pay $25 million over five years to the University of California at Berkeley. But what the company was to get in return shocked faculty, students, and outsiders alike. In exchange for funding, Novartis would be allowed to sift through the research of the department of plant and microbial biology at Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources – licensing up to about one-third of the researchers’ output.
… Despite protests, the deal went through, and administrators report that it is working. Yet misgivings persist. “This is a public university that is supposed to work for all sectors of society,” says Miguel Altieri, associate professor at Berkeley. “Obviously the sectors we’re going to be working for in the future are the ones that bring in the money.” Such comments only hint at the vortexes created by university-corporate partnerships.
Critics cite fears over limits on academic freedom, conflicts of interest among researchers, and bias creeping into scientific research. Over the long run, observers also worry that research priorities might shift away from breaking scientific ground to more short-term, product-related efforts. And there is the possibility, too, that the public will lose confidence in higher-education research.” [Emphasis mine]
That was just over a decade ago, and today, we know that all of these misgivings were indeed warranted. Academic freedom has gone out the window; conflicts of interest are rampant; bias has not only crept into scientific research but eclipsed independent objectivity entirely; ground-breaking scientific research is scarce while blockbuster products are hightailed to marked based on flimsy evidence; and trust in corporate-funded research has been proven to be sorely misplaced.
How Corporations Like Monsanto have Hijacked Higher Education
Jill Richardson’s article, “How Corporations Like Monsanto Have Hijacked Higher Education“, is an excellent read, and I highly recommend reading it in its entiretyvii. In it, she gives several clear examples of what happens when corporations are allowed to fund education.
Here’s just one example:
“When I approached professors to discuss research projects addressing organic agriculture in farmer’s markets, the first one told me that ‘no one cares about people selling food in parking lots on the other side of the train tracks,’” said a PhD student at a large land-grant university who did not wish to be identified.
“My academic adviser told me my best bet was to write a grant for Monsanto or the Department of Homeland Security to fund my research on why farmer’s markets were stocked with ‘black market vegetables’ that ‘are a bioterrorism threat waiting to happen.’ It was communicated to me on more than one occasion throughout my education that I should just study something Monsanto would fund rather than ideas to which I was deeply committed. I ended up studying what I wanted, but received no financial support, and paid for my education out of pocket.” Unfortunately, she’s not alone. Conducting research requires funding, and today’s research follows the golden rule: The one with the gold makes the rules.”
But restricting academic freedom is not the only problem with corporate-funded education. Legislators want, and indeed NEED well-executed research to base rules, policies and regulations on. However, it needs to be independent research—not the corporate fairytales passing for science that you get when the industry pays for the research of their own products. Every time research tainted by corporate interests is used to pass laws and regulations, it affects everyone, and the ramifications can be enormous.
Staying with biotech as the example, genetically engineered crops were brought to market based on industry-funded research and are now present in all kinds of processed foods—yet the safety of such ingredients has never actually been established; environmental damage is now beginning to become apparent; and, in the US, consumers are prevented from knowing what’s in their food due to the industry’s tactical influence over our political process as well! The revolving door issue is a major problem in more than one respect.
“Take, for example, Roger Beachy, the former head of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the agency in the USDA that doles out research grants. Beachy spent much of his career as an academic, collaborating with Monsanto to produce the world’s first genetically engineered tomato. He later became the founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Monsanto’s non-profit arm, before President Obama appointed him to lead NIFA.”
So not only do you have revolving doors between corporations and government agencies that fund research, you also have revolving doors between industry, lobbying groups for industry, and government legislative bodies! It’s a system rigged to protect corporate interests and fail consumers at every turn.
Corporate Funding Significantly Taints Scientific Results
“What is the impact of the flood of corporate cash? ”We know from a number of meta-analyses, that corporate funding leads to results that are favorable to the corporate funder,” says [Food and Water Watch researcher Tim] Schwab.
For example, one peer-reviewed studyviii found that corporate-funded nutrition research on soft drinks, juice and milk were four to eight times more likely to reach conclusions in line with the sponsors’ interests. And when a scrupulous scientist publishes research that is unfavorable to the study’s funder, he or she should be prepared to look for a new source of funding.
But often the industry influence may be more subtle. Joyce Lok, a graduate student at Iowa State University, said, “If a corporation funds your research, they want you to look at certain research questions that they want answered. So if that happens it’s not like you can explore other things they don’t want you to look at… I think they direct the research in that way.” [Emphasis mine]
Numerous studies investigating the influence of funding sources have discovered the same thing: the sponsor has a tremendous impact on the results of the research. So much so that it sometimes hijacks the entire scientific process.
Biotech Brainwashing—Is Your Child a Victim?
Unfortunately, corporations like Monsanto do not just influence higher education and scientific research. No, many companies realize that in order to shape future beliefs and consumer behavior, you have to start the brainwashing much earlier than that. Which is exactly what they’re doing.
As recently reported by Ronnie Cumminsix:
“In a blatant attempt at brainwashing, the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI) has widely circulated what it calls a Biotechnology Basics Activity Bookx for kids, to be used by “Agriculture and Science Teachers.” The book — called Look Closer at Biotechnology — looks like a science workbook, but reads more like a fairy tale. Available on the council’s Web site, its colorful pages are full of friendly cartoon faces, puzzles, helpful hints for teachers — and a heavy dose of outright lies about the likely effects of genetic engineering on health, the environment, world hunger and the future of farming… You don’t have to read beyond the first page of Look Closer at Biotechnology to realize that this is pure propaganda:
Hi Kids! Welcome to the Biotechnology Basics Activity Book. This is an activity book for young people like you about biotechnology — a really neat topic. Why is it such a neat topic? Because biotechnology is helping to improve the health of the Earth and the people who call it home. In this book, you will take a closer look at biotechnology.
You will see that biotechnology is being used to figure out how to: 1) grow more food; 2) help the environment; and 3) grow more nutritious food that improves our health. As you work through the puzzles in this book, you will learn more about biotechnology and all of the wonderful ways it can help people live better lives in a healthier world. Have fun!”
In his article, Cummins goes on to decimate these ludicrous and unscientific claimsxi, now taught to children through this shameless indoctrination tool. If you’re still unclear on why genetically engineered crops can fulfill NONE of those claims, and instead poses one of the greatest threats to our planet and mankind’s continued existence on it, please read his article in its entirety.
Beware of Front-Groups Posing as “Independent” Educators
It’s worth noting that while CBI claims to promote science-based information about the industry, CBI is simply regurgitating industry propaganda that is wholly unsupported by independent scientific reviews. This is certainly not surprising when you consider that CBI is funded largely by the biotech, chemical, pesticide, and seed industry giants: BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow Agro Sciences, Dupont, Monsanto, and Syngenta.
CBI also recently contributed $375,000 to the Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law, which is another front group working on behalf of the biotech industry to defeat the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act of 2012. This citizens’ ballot Initiative, if passed in November, will require foods containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled as such. It will also prevent the routine practice of labeling or advertising genetically engineered foods as “natural” or “all natural.”
So, while espousing and promoting the many benefits of genetically engineered foods, the industry and their front groups are simultaneously throwing millions of dollars into organized efforts to prevent you from knowing when you’re actually eating those allegedly highly beneficial foods. Surely one must stop and wonder why—especially if these benefits are all truly “science-based,” which would make them provable…
Did You Know: 4H and Future Farmers of America are Also Funded by Monsanto?
The idea that Monsanto is shaping the brains of our children is particularly disturbing considering the company’s long history of destructiveness and complete lack of consideration for the health of future generations or the environment. Monsanto is a poster-child for heartless, if not genocidal, corporate greed.
While some of the biotech propaganda is distributed by industry-promoting organizations like CBI, as in the example above, Monsanto also directly funds youth organizations such as 4H and Future Farmers of America (FFA)—in the latter offering scholarships to members who pursue a college degree in agricultural science. The company also sponsors other scholarship programs such as the National AgriScience Student Scholarship and Recognition Program.
Again, the dichotomy between Monsanto’s corporate behavior and the motto of 4H, for example, is so stark it boggles the mind. On the web page for their 4H support, they statexii:
“The motto of the world’s largest youth organization is “To Make the Best Better.” This is honored by Monsanto as we are proud to share and support the motto of 6.8 million youth, aged 5-21, who are involved in 4-H programs annually.”
Genetically engineered crops have very little to do with improving crops that have existed and sustained mankind since the beginning of agriculture, and everything to do with establishing products that can be patented and sold at a premium each year, since farmers are not allowed to save patented seeds from one season to the next, or share them with neighboring farmers. Genetically engineered crops also support the sale of other Monsanto products, such as their Roundup herbicide, for which their Roundup Ready crop varieties are specifically designed.
Another organization trying to hijack the minds of tomorrow’s consumers and leaders is the The Biochemical Society. They too have a “fun activity site” where kids and teens can learn about genetic engineering, vaccines, and drug trialsxiii–touting the field of genetic engineering as a calling for those interested in making a positive difference in people’s lives, as opposed to being driven by making loads of money.
That’s ironic, considering the fact that it’s a $229 billion-a-year industry with an annual growth rate of more than 10 percentxiv, combined with the fact that genetically engineered crops have been linked to decreased yields, destruction of soils, cross contamination, increased pesticide use, and an ever-growing number of health hazards, including sterility. Once you add to that the fact that the leading edge of science has already determined (some 20 years ago!) that genes are primarily influenced by the environment, including nutrition and emotions, and it becomes easy to see that the industry probably would not be able to continue thriving if it DIDN’T resort to early-age indoctrination of false ideas and ideals…
What’s the Solution?
The collusion between trans-national corporate powers, our educational system, regulatory agencies, and politicians now runs so deep that it will be a Herculean challenge to turn it all around. But I still believe it’s possible.
Educating people about these realities is a first and important step. You, being among those who are informed, can help share this knowledge with others. Remember that the definition of fascism is a government system that has complete power in regimenting all industry and forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism. What we have here is a hybrid—a sort of corporate fascism that forcefully suppresses anything that threatens their monopoly on profits—be it free-thinking college students or a competing industry.
More than 1.6 million people receive this newsletter, and together we can make a huge difference by educating each other on these pressing issues.