Is the Genetic Literacy Project a corporate ‘front’? GLP responds to ongoing false allegations from US Right to Know / Organic Consumers Association / SourceWatch / Baum Hedlund / Church of Scientology

Activist groups opposed to agricultural biotechnology (GMOs and gene edited crops and animals) repeatedly claim that the Genetic Literacy Project is a “corporate front group that was formerly funded by Monsanto” — a statement found on the  SourceWatch site, for example. That’s not true.

What is true is that these accusations are generated by a loose coalition of extremist activists with little to no standing among scientists and journalists. They are financed in significant measure by the far left fringe of the organic community in partnership with the Church of Scientology. And they have taken many journalists in the mainstream press down their disinformation rabbit hole in part by creating a ‘disinformation feedback loop’ that is corrupting science and science journalism. Read on.

The facts

The GLP was not started with seed money from the agricultural industry or any corporation and has not received ‘secret’ or ‘disguised’ funds from Monsanto or any corporation over the history of its existence. There is no evidence behind those assertions, as they are untrue. The GLP is a ‘front’ group only in the fevered imagination of anti-biotechnology critics who reject, on ideological grounds, genetic engineering in agriculture (and in many cases in medicine as well, including for vaccine development to contain COVID-19…see below). Biotechnology rejectionist advocacy special interest groups know this but they continue to make false allegations in an attempt to damage the GLP’s ability to communicate science facts (and letting the scientific chips fall where they may) that challenge their ideological world view.

If there were even a shred of independent evidence, it would have come to light in the hundreds of thousands of emails and documents that emerged during litigation involving Monsanto and from Freedom of Information Act filings that targeted the company, the GLP and dozens of scientists and journalists who believe that biotechnology is a critical tool in the pursuit of sustainable agriculture. Rather, the available documents underscore the fact that the GLP was independently founded and funded, overwhelmingly with grants from non-partisan foundations.

The GLP has retained its independence from corporations, associations and interest groups on the ideological left and right throughout its entire history. The independent Media Bias/Fact Check is one of the most trusted independent ethics sites on the web, cited by Reuters Fact Check, Science Feedback, Washington Post and NPR among dozens of topflight news sites. It rates the Genetic Literacy Project as “highly factual” and “Pro-Science” with no ideological bias (in fact, the GLP’s tagline is “Science Not Ideology).screen shot at am

The often-sourced purveyor of the fiction: SourceWatch

SourceWatch, a project of the dubiously-named litigator-linked Center for Media and Democracy, is a major promoter of the false allegations targeting the GLP. This organization — which promotes itself as an independent Wikipedia-like resource — is considered in the journalism world as biased with low credibility. Journalism ethics site Media Bias/Fact Check points out its “left bias and questionable credibility because of its “one-sided reporting” that often relies on “untrustworthy resources”.screen shot at pm

Media Bias/Fact Check also notes the ideological bias of the organization behind SourceWatch, Center for Media and Democracy. SourceWatch is known as CMD’s ‘attack site’. Both CMD and SourceWatch have received funding from the organic industry — financial support that they do not disclose.

Follow the money: Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology are the financial and legal muscle behind attacks on independent scientists and journalists

The financier and law firm that appears to be at the center of the attacks on the GLP and science journalists and independent research scientists is Baum Hedlund, a Los Angeles-based class action law practice. Baum Hedlund was founded by Church of Scientology lawyers and has had close ties to the cult for decades. It is most notoriously known in recent years for litigation targeting mainstream psychiatry and the use of antidepressants, a money bonanza tort blitz that’s gone on for more than 15 years. The flow of settlement dollars in dubious cases has reportedly propped up the finances of a once-tottering cult, setting the stage for the ambulance-chasing litigation by Baum-Hedlund targeting biotechnology advocates.

The connection between the Church of Scientology and the anti-GMO movement is comparatively recent, but their approaches to intimidating critics overlap. Accounts from ex-church members and a series of investigative books and documentaries have alleged financial fraud, harassment of journalists, support for dubious medical practices, criminal behavior, aggressive litigiousness against critics and abuse of its members, both physical and psychological.

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Baum Hedlund was one of the first firms to recruit litigants to target Monsanto/Bayer over allegations that glyphosate causes cancer. The firm represented some of the initial plaintiffs that took Bayer to court. It is now poised to reap a financial bonanza of hundreds of millions of dollars from settlements in the works.

The lead attorneys in the Bayer litigation, including founder Michael Baum and one of his partners, Brent Wisner, have been active members in the church for years. According to records posted on the Internet, Wisner has been a member since at least 1992. His father Michael Wisner is also a longtime church member, “environmental health activist” and advocate for Scientology’s Purification Rundown, a detox program designed to rid the body of “food preservatives, pesticides, atmospheric poisons and the like.” The senior Wisner even praised his son’s efforts against Monsanto in a 2017 blog post, writing that Brent was involved in “a major legal action against Monsanto and its toxic weed-killer, RoundUp ….” A Scientologist since the 1970s, Baum is now the senior managing shareholder of the firm.

Baum has a legally checkered history of alleged corruption and illegal and unethical activities. Along with now retired founding attorney Paul Hedlund, he was a key investor in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, the $593 million investment fraud perpetrated by Reed Slatkin, a minister with the Church, who was convicted and jailed in 2003.

Baum is most notoriously known for his involvement in Operation Snow White, Scientology’s internal name for a criminal conspiracy it conducted during the 1970s in a failed attempt to illegally purge unfavorable United States government records about the Church and its founder L. Ron Hubbard. For more than two decades, Scientology was engaged in a battle with the federal government over its tax-exempt status. A federal investigation led to a raid and the eventual filing of extensive charges.

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Eleven highly placed church executives, including Mary Sue Hubbard (wife of the founder and second-in-command of the organization), eventually pleaded guilty and were convicted in federal court of obstructing justice, burglary of government offices, and theft of documents and government property. In total, as part of a plea bargain, seven church members were found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct justice, and one was found guilty of conspiracy to obtain government documents.

According to the stipulation of evidence agreed to by Michael Baum, he acknowledged he was a “Scientology covert operative”; “burglarized the Interpol Liaison Office at the Justice Department on at least three occasions”; and “made … false IRS credentials.” Baum and several other Scientologists, including Hubbard (who went into hiding and is still unaccounted for), were identified as “unindicted co-conspirators”, but were never charged in the case.

Apparently looking for a fresh money pot as the Prozac tort bonanza began to fade, Baum Hedlund reportedly set its sites on Monsanto and glyphosate, eventually establishing a close relationship with US Right to Know, an activist NGO created in the wake of California’s failed initiative to label GMOs (see below). It drew on its attack strategy honed over 30 years of rancorous litigation against the US government, anti-depressant manufacturers and its many disillusioned cult members. With guidance from anti-GMO activists, it turned its gun sites on biotechnology and agricultural chemical companies.

Baum Hedlund is now the central repository for discovery documents turned over by Monsanto through court action while USRTK has troves of documents using the Freedom of Information Act targeting more than 10 years of communications by scientists, academicians and journalists. The collections are dubbed “The Monsanto Papers” (by USRTK) or “Monsanto Secret Documents (by Baum Hedlund).

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Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology also has deep and ongoing ties to attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., one the country’s most notorious anti-vaccine activists, who is currently spreading COVID anti-vax conspiracy propaganda. Church-affiliated consultants and nonprofits have played a prominent role in the ongoing battle over medical exemptions for vaccines in California, with celebrity Scientologists urging their social media followers to oppose the state’s restrictions on vaccine exemptions. Jenna Elfman, Danny Masterson, Juliette Lewis and Kirstie Alley, all outspoken Scientologists, have lobbied against California legislation requiring all students to be vaccinated.screen shot at am

Kennedy, arguably the most influential of the anti-vaccine campaigners, is also a noted member of glyphosate litigation team that is currently squabbling over their share of more than $800 million in Roundup class action settlement fees. Kennedy claims that Monsanto/Bayer, much like the pharmaceutical industry in battles over drug prices, has long bought off government regulators. “I don’t think it’s a surprise that after 20 years Monsanto has known about the cancer-causing properties of [glyphosate] and has tried to stop the public from knowing it,” Kennedy has said. [Editor’s note: The 17 major independent science organizations that have reviewed the thousands of studies on glyphosate have found the herbicide to be safe for the environment and not a threat to human health when used as directed [Read GLP infographic]. Baum Hedlund/Robert F. Kennedy, Jr./USRTK’s key strategy is to orchestrate smear campaigns against mainstream scientists and reporters as “industry shills” when they report the accepted science consensus surrounding biotechnology or glyphosate.

When asked in 2019 by the GLP to explain in more detail its direct or indirect ties to the Church of Scientology and its support of USRTK, Baum Hedlund did not reply; instead, reminiscent of Church of Scientology attacks on journalists investigating its corrupt Operation Snow White or criticism from former acolytes,. it posted an attack piece on its website filled with a familiar litany of guilt-by-association emails – but no actual proof.screen shot at pm

This  sleight-of hand attack strategy is designed to distract the public (and jurors during litigation) from focusing on the evidence. As retired GLP board member Drew Kershen, professor emeritus at University of Oklahoma College of Law, wrote in an email:

On the appeal of DeWayne Johnson v. Monsanto Company, the California Medical Association, California Dental Association and California Hospital Association filed an amici curiae brief in support of overturning the [glyphosate] trial verdict. The …. brief concludes with this sentence: ‘The answer to the complex scientific question the jury was required to resolve in this case should have been based on accepted scientific evidence and rigorous scientific reasoning, not the jury’s policy choices. Even worse, there is reason to suspect the jury’s analysis was based on speculation and emotion.’ The correct characterization is that of the amici curiae brief from three major California professional associations: “accepted scientific evidence.”

The Baum Hedlum Law Firm is the entity that is the shill—for anti-science propaganda.

Baum Hedlund’s 2017 filing in support of its glyphosate litigation claimed that the GLP was launched with seed funding from Monsanto to further the agricultural biotechnology industry. It has become an oft-quoted document by sloppy journalists who site a legal brief as fact.screen shot at pmThis is simply not true. Monsanto did not ‘quietly funnel money to the GLP (which is also mislabeled as a think tank, which it does not claim to be; it’s a science education and outreach NGO). GLP does not “shame scientists”; rather it distinguishes between mainstream science and ideology in its news analysis and commentaries and it is committed to presenting a range of ideological perspectives.

GLP does not care one whit whether its reporting helps or hurts “Monsanto and other chemical producers”, and in fact regularly carries articles highly critical of the missteps and the occasional missteps of Monsanto and the agri-chemical industry in general. In fact, in its commitment to presenting a broad spectrum of viewpoints, the GLP has run 48 articles alone from Carey Gillam, the ‘research director’ for USRTK (more on Gillam’s notorious journalism history below). It lets the scientific chips fall where they may.

What is the truth behind US Right to Know (USRTK), a creation of the Organic Consumers Association?

Journalists or activists (or in one case even Congressional committees (see below) who have circulated these accusations as if they are ‘accepted facts’ have done so without attribution or they have linked to others who have made such claims without documentation or they have linked to the Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology filing or they cite SourceWatch.

What is the original source of these unfounded allegations? They originated with the anti-biotechnology activist group US Right to Know and its consultants and associates. [GLP has a background fact check on the organization here] USRTK is an advocacy NGO with two of its three founding board members from Greenpeace and the Center for Media and Democracy. Founded in the ashes of its failed 2012 attempt to stigmatize foods grown from GMO seeds, USRTK has evolved into a hit group for the radical wing of the organic industry.

The so-called ‘right to know’ NGO was jump-started with almost $1 million in seed and support funding from the Organic Consumers Association, a pro-organic lobbying organization. Other organic-supporting anti-GMO advocacy groups have contributed more than $500,0000. Almost none of USRTK’s contributions originated with the general public or independent foundations.

It’s primary benefactor, OCA, is notorious for its fringe positions on science-related issues. It opposes biotechnology, promotes vaccine denialism, is rabidly anti-vaccine, advocates for homeopathy and peddles natural remedies over mainstream medicine. [GLP has a background fact check on OCA here]. It is reflexively anti-biotechnology, including raising doubts about the safety of COVID vaccines, aligning it with far right Trumpers (see below).

Media Bias/Fact Check rates OCA as “low” credibility, calling it a “conspiracy and quackery level pseudoscience website based on the promotion of numerous unproven and misleading claims related to science”. That’s the organization that has provided key funding for the anti-GMO movement in the US for most of the last decade. Their most prominent client: US Right to Know. The independent NewsGuard journalism fact checking site rates OCA’s credibility as 20/100, judging that it “severely violates basic standards of credibility and transparency”:screen shot at pm

The independent and well-respected Center for Countering Digital Hate, which was formed to challenge vaccination denialism, puts OCA on its “deplatform” list along with another USRTK partner, RFK, Jr., because of its dangerous ongoing demonization of vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines.screen shot at pm

USRTK-Mercola.com connection

USRTK also partners closely, including for fund raising, with one of the most notorious anti-science alternative/natural medicine promoting quacks, Dr. Joseph Mercola. His eponymous website Mercola.com sells supplements and pushes ‘natural medicine’. The News Guard ethics site concludes Mercola.com “severely violates basic standards of credibility and transparency” and is a “super spreader of COVID-19 vaccine disinformation.” Media Bias/Fact Check calls this USRTK/OCA/Church of Scientology partner a “conspiracy-pseudoscience” site that regularly promotes “quackery”.

Mercola posts a steady stream of propaganda intended to persuade the site’s visitors not to trust mainstream healthcare and consumer-protection agencies. A news release on his website claims that physicians are the third leading cause of death in America and that traditional medicine is “responsible for killing and injuring millions of Americans every year…” [Read GLP Mercola profile here]screen shot at pm

USRTK’s chief propagandist: Carey Gillam, reportedly fired from Reuters over ethics concerns

The USRTK’s chief ‘researcher’ is Carey Gillam. Gillam has a controversial history as a longtime Monsanto antagonist and critic of conventional agriculture. She was affiliated with Reuters for 17 years, much of it covering crop food and farming. She left in 2015, after years of complaints from mainstream scientists for her lack of editorial balance and her embrace of anti-GMO conspiracy propaganda.

Before her departure from Reuters, Gillam worked with USRTK and other anti-GMO activist groups in writing dozens of articles that mainstream scientists believed promoted activist viewpoints. That apparently led Reuters to question whether she had compromised her journalistic integrity, according to various emails uncovered in a FOIA. They highlight her personal relationship with prominent, anti-GMO activists such as Ken Roseboro, head of the Organic & Non-GMO Report and and Claire Robinson, both deeply connected to the rabidly anti-GMO Mahrishi cult. screen shot at pm

Gillam, reportedly, was fired. The GLP asked her specifically to respond to reports of her firing but she did not respond. USRTK alleges that Monsanto caused her ‘separation’ from Reuters.

Shortly after leaving Reuters, Gillam joined one of her key anti-biotechnology sources, USRTK, as ‘research director’. She and others at USRTK subsequently forged a relationship with Baum Hedlund, the Scientology law firm that filed the seminal cases targeting Monsanto and its Roundup weedkiller. As part of that partnership, USRTK morphed into a document archive and distribution source for pesticide litigator court filings and a PR site for Baum Hedlund PR releases.

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Gillam has reportedly provided court notes assembled during the glyphosate litigation as part of its association with Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology. When asked about this, in an email dated October 19, 2019, she replied, “With respect to Baum Hedlund, a few of the firm’s attorneys have provided comments and publicly available court records for US Right to Know as they do for other reporters and researchers. US Right to Know does not accept or solicit donations from the firm or from its attorneys.” When asked in a June 14, 2021 email whether USRTK has received any form of renumeration, in kind or direct, as distinct from a “donation,” the GLP received no reply.

When Gillam was asked about whether she believed it appropriate for USRTK or for her personally to work closely with the Church of Scientology law firm, which has had key people convicted of federal crimes and has been directly linked to conspiracy-mongering and heavy-handed litigiousness, and has a record of threatening people who crosses the organization, she responded in 2019:  “As far as I know no one with US Right to Know has any connection to Scientology.”

When asked in a June 14, 2021 email to elaborate on her direct and indirect relationship with Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology, and the close working ties between the firm and USRTK, including reports of myriad planning meetings with the litigators, and her specific role as a note taker/court reporter for the firm, she deflected, writing: “I do not have financial ties to either.”

A similar set of questions were posed to the two heads of USRTK, Gary Ruskin and Stacey Malkin.USRTK staff, including Gillam, Ruskin and Malkin, have reportedly met and strategized over how to manage the Monsanto litigation numerous times, including dozens of in-person and phone meetings, most in Baum Hedlund’s offices. There are also allegations of other in-kind work by USRTK on the law firm’s behalf.

Ruskin, like Gillam, refused to answer a range of questions about the Baum Hedlund/USRTK relationship. His response echoed Gillam’s talking point: “You guys are a corporate front group. … U.S. Right to Know has no financial relationship with Baum Hedlund or the Church of Scientology.” That was not responsive to the questions, which asked about non financial cooperation. When asked, again, for further elaboration beyond the declaration that there is “no financial relationship”, Ruskin declined to respond further.

USRTK’s chief hit man: Paul Thacker, profiled as a “sadistic troll”

USRTK and Gillam also partner with consultant Paul Thacker. A former journalist, Thacker is referred to by mainstream scientists as a “liar” and worse, a “malevolent…sadistic troll” by a well-respected journalist and NYU professor who detailed Thacker’s brazen twisting of the truth to promote conspiracy-laden viewpoints and his vicious personal attack style. That characterization echoes the experiences of Mary Mangan, a prominent genomics scientist, who recounts her encounter with Thacker “the troll”. Thacker is also an editor of numerous SourceWatch attacks (including the one against the GLP), as plant scientist Karl Haro Van Mogel confirmed in 2019.screen shot at pm

In 2019, Huffington Post ran a Thacker-authored hit piece titled “Monsanto’s Spies,” which featured the GLP among its targets. It attempted to portray the nonprofit as Monsanto’s lackey. The commentary is combination of some facts (most presented out-of-context), half-truths and gross misrepresentations. Let’s deconstruct the aspects of the piece that fingers the GLP.

Thacker begins by misleadingly trying to suggest that the GLP was founded as a public relations front. He correctly notes that the GLP website was originally registered to ESG MediaMetrics, a one-person consulting firm started by GLP founder Jon Entine. Thacker calls it a “PR firm”. That’s not accurate. ESGMM was launched by Entine in 2001 while he was teaching business ethics and sustainability as ’scholar-at-large at Miami University in Ohio. Entine gave public speeches on business ethics issues helped organizations assess their environmental footprints and write environmental sustainability reports (hence the E=Environmental, S=Social, G=Governance). Its last client, in 2010, was NiSource, an Indiana-based Fortune 500 utility company; Entine helped research and write its first sustainability report (for fiscal year ending 2009).

There never was then or since any direct or indirect connection between ESG MediaMetrics, shuttered in 2010, and the nonprofit GLP, launched in 2011 — and IRS tax records confirm this. Entine used his IRS code from the defunct sustainability company when the GLP was founded. Thacker knows the facts but ignores them.

For background, Entine has an established history in the sustainability and business ethics movements. He has written thousands of articles over 30 years in this area, including in many peer reviewed journals (e.g. here, here). He has written two books on business and organizational ethics, two books on population genetics, and three books on agricultural biotechnology, agri-chemicals and chemophobia.

Entine is credited with coining the current usage of the term “greenwashing” in a series of articles in the 1990s detailing the hypocrisy of the early proponents of ‘corporate social responsibility’ and its iconic leader, Anita Roddick, founder of the UK-based The Body Shop cosmetic company. His exposé, “Shattered Image: Is The Body Shop Too Good to Be True“, published in 1994 in Business Ethics magazine is considered a seminal piece on sustainable business. The article — winner of a National Press Club Consumer Journalism Award — and a torrent of negative publicity sent the stock of this company, once considered a model of ‘corporate social responsibility’, down more than $500 million. Subsequent popular and academic-focused articles by Entine detailing The Body Shop’s environmental and social hypocrisy corroded the reputation and finances of the company, resulting in its shuttering of hundreds of stores and its eventual sale.

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Entine is considered by business ethics experts and journalists as a founding figure in the corporate social responsibility and early sustainability movement. He was a sustainability columnist for UK-based Ethical Corporation for more than 15 years from 2001-2016. His articles on business ethics are featured in dozens of textbooks (e.g. here, here).

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Attacking the launch of the GLP was only the start for Thacker. After a thinly-disguised attempt to suggest the GLP was formed as a PR front, Thacker goes for his lame version of the kill. He cites and links to an article in the French leftist newspaper Le Monde, which claimed in a 2-part series based on USRTK documents that the GLP is “linked to the pesticides and biotechnology industries”. Who knows what “linked” means in the writer’s conspiratorial imagination, but Le Monde provided exactly no link or other evidence to support that casual attack.

Thacker also cites what he claims is a smoking gun — a “statement from Bayer” (which acquired Monsanto in 2018) that the company “no longer provides financial support” to the Genetic Literacy Project. No other context is provided. The GLP asked Bayer the source of this supposed “statement” but they said none was issued to their knowledge. The GLP asked Thacker and Huffington Post when the article appeared to produce this alleged “statement” but they refused. Huffington Post wrote to the GLP that because Thacker’s article was an opinion piece, it did not require him to substantiate his claim. In a June 14, 2021 email, Thacker was asked to provide hard evidence of any of his allegations (there are no documents linked in any of his attack pieces) but he did not respond.

USRTK/Gillam/Thacker and its Scientology law firm partners know that the allegations they circulate about the GLP are false. They have collected hundreds of thousands of emails from scientist-researchers, tens of thousands of internal Monsanto documents and dozens of FOIA depositions of scientists extending from 2012-present covering the entire history of the GLP and yet have not found even one document in hard support of these allegations.

On the contrary, the USRTK-initiated FOIA did yield one hard document that directly undermines claims by Thacker and USRTK. In one of its discovery sweeps targeting Monsanto, USRTK/Baum Hedlund unearthed a 2016 “Monsanto Company Confidential’ memo (now posted on the Baum Hedlund website) outlining the company’s strategy in responding to attack organizations like USRTK.screen shot at pm

The Monsanto PR team (not anticipating the release of this internal document) makes clear on pages 13-14 that agricultural industry trade groups and Monsanto itself were not supporting the GLP:

We are not aware that CBI [Council for Biotechnology Information] has provided any funding to the Genetic Literacy Project. We also do not fund Genetic Literacy Project.

That’s definite and in writing – but Thacker never quotes it. Although Huffington Post disgracefully allowed Thacker to misrepresent the GLP’s origins and its alleged financial ties to Monsanto, more responsible news organizations have not let him get away these falsehoods. Thacker previously played the same disinformation card in an article on the science website STATS in 2018. The GLP challenged the misrepresentations to STATS. Unlike HuffPo, STATS demanded that Thacker provide the hard evidence to back his allegations, but he could not. STATS editors forced him to delete those factually inaccurate innuendos.screen shot at pm

In sum, there is now an extensive body of publicly-available documents that contradict the unsubstantiated diatribes promoted by USRTK/Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology/Organic Consumers Association and other fringe anti-science activist organizations. No tax filing, testimony by any person, email or letter — or any independent document — exists to support their allegations. All GLP-related IRS filings are publicly available and are linked on our Mission, Financial Transparency and Governorship page.

Disinformation anti-biotechnology conspiracy loop

None of the facts seem to matter much to the insular, and well-funded, anti-biotechnology community [Read GLP analysis of the organic industry—foundation—anti-biotechnology advocacy network]. Activists have perfected an incestuous loop of disinformation. A common thread runs through articles or in posts on advocacy websites attacking agricultural biotechnology. USTRK, Carey Gillam, Paul Thacker, SourceWatch and the ambulance-chasing Church of Scientology law firm Baum Hedlund — known for their vaccine denialism and other anti-technology views at odds with mainstream science — have established a classic “disinformation loop”. For example, Thacker’s attack pieces on agricultural biotechnology, including his targeting of the GLP in SourceWatch, invariably cite and link as evidence articles ginned up by Thacker or Gillam or USRTK or Baum Hedlund.

Here is an example of how this incestuous network works:

  • USRTK/Organic Consumers Association/Baum Hedlund — and its propagandists, including Gillam and Thacker — make unsubstantiated claims in ‘articles’ they place on websites overseen by Huffington Post, The Guardian (two sites that have accepted ‘guest articles’ from Gillam and Thacker) or the fringe Internet conspiracy sites that carry his increasingly bizarre diatribes.
  • Two articles appeared in the French far left paper Le Monde based on a USRTK propaganda report prepared in support of the litigation team at Baum Hedlund (branded as the “Monsanto Papers”), which describe the GLP as a “well-known propaganda website” that is “fed by PR people linked to the pesticides and biotechnology industries.”
  • Le Monde attacks the GLP using characterizations supplied by its research partner, USRTK, the originator of the unfounded accusations, as if it’s an independent source.
  • USRTK then claims on its website that the GLP is an ‘industry front’ group. Its source? LeMonde, to which it supplied the propaganda for the two-part series in the first place.
  • SourceWatch and other biased sources then reinforce this propaganda, citing and linking to the Baum Hedlund allegation, although it is nothing more than a legal brief or to the Le Monde articles based on USRTK propaganda.
  • These dubious sources, including Le Monde, are then invariably cited by sloppy and/or biased journalists or activist sites or organic industry proponents, mainstreaming these false accusations by presenting them as fact; search engines do not distinguish verified facts from quack claims.

This is a classic disinformation feedback loop. And it gets worse, as fact-less propaganda can take on a life of its own.

Anti-GMO activists corrupt Congress. Which group is a ‘corporate front’?

In late 2017, the minority Democratic staffers on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space & Technology held hearings spurred by the Baum Hedlund lawsuits targeting Monsanto and its glyphosate weedkiller. USRTK and Baum Hedlund reportedly consulted with and supplied many documents to Congressional staffers in preparation for the hearings. The Democrat-led committee’s report, “Spinning Science & Silencing Scientists: A Case Study in How the Chemical Industry Attempts to Influence Science, had no cited authors. It is largely a farcical collection of anti-biotechnology, bogeyman conspiracy theories lifted almost word-for-word from the Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology glyphosate briefs.

Although it was shocking, it was not surprising that the ‘GLP is a creation of Monsanto’ fiction found its way into the Democrat’s final February 2018 report. The GLP makes a cameo appearance, with the report claiming: “Monsanto … turned to … industry front groups, such as Genetic Literacy Project as platforms of support for industry spokespersons.”

What evidence was cited in support of such an inflammatory claim? None. Because there is none. The ‘corporate front group’ allegation is the creation of the team of USRTK and Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology. That’s the source for the Democratic committee’s unsigned ‘report’.

The accusations against the GLP are not supported by independent documents; the only ‘evidence’ is the occasional link back to the USRTK web page, litigation filed by USRTK partner Baum Hedlund, or claims made by other media outlets, such as Le Monde, who cite or link to USRTK or Baum Hedlund or SourceWatch as their source. Now, as icing on the disinformation cake, anti-biotechnology activists and sloppy journalists can cite an unsigned, undocumented Congressional ‘report’.

This is truly Alice-in-Wonderland science, a mirrored world of alternative facts.

The GLP was not started with secret Monsanto funding. The GLP has not taken funding from industry sources or trade groups that is not reported in federal 990 documents. Yet a Congressional committee ignores the public evidence and blithely calls the GLP an “industry front group” — without even contacting the GLP for a response?

What irony. The originator of that libelous fiction — US Right to Know — was launched with $1 million in seed money provided by one of the most well-funded (and notorious) organic-promoting lobbyist organizations, Organic Consumers Association, which represents the wacko-wing of the organic food and natural products movement. Note that USRTK, which originated the ‘GLP is a corporate front group’ fiction, gets more than 85% of its multi-million dollar funding from organic industry sources.

In contrast, the GLP is guided by mainstream science. The GLP will not disregard science facts just because some or all of the research was done by a corporation or a company developed a product. Anyone who accuses the GLP of ‘blindly’ supporting ‘corporate science’ or Monsanto in particular doesn’t read our extensively-reported analyses. As one of many examples, the GLP has run more than two dozen articles criticizing Monsanto and other agri-chemical companies for their bumbling of the rollout of the herbicide dicamba, including this devastating 4-part series. It regularly in the name of balance, runs Carey Gillam propaganda. That’s a pretty strange way to spend shill bucks.

So, while the GLP covers the science and politics of the biotechnology revoluton and let’s the chips fall where they may, USRTK is the very definition of a conspiracy-promoting ‘corporate front group’, and that’s not being reported.

This is Orwellian.

Final facts

Despite allegations by an unholy alliance of anti-science propaganda sites, neither the GLP nor any of its employees received any founding donations from Monsanto (or any of its employees). Over the years, the GLP has not been ‘quietly funded’ by Monsanto or other agricultural companies or associations in the agricultural industry.

The GLP’s contributors are identified in federal filings available to the public and posted on our Mission, Financial Transparency and Governorship page (where we disclose all donors). To date, unlike USRTK, which has a budget half-again as large as the GLP, we have published annual reports for the last three fiscal years that provide complete transparency about our activities, motives and finances.

In sum, there are no independent documents supporting the allegations spread by USRTK/Organic Consumers Association/Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology. There are no ‘smoking gun’ documents waiting to emerge. There are only unsubstantiated claims that reference each other in a disinformation feedback loop.

These fringe activists seem obsessed with scuttling innovations, from bioengineered COVID-19 vaccines (all of them) to GMO and gene edited seeds that produce more sustainable foods, all ushered in by the biotechnology revolution. In the latest outlandish ideological twist, according to Mother Jones magazine, a consortium of the fringiest of anti-GMO groups including USRTK, Organic Consumers Association and Center for Food Safety are vigorously and vocally opposing key research into the coronavirus and other deadly viruses. Why? Because the research involves genetic engineering, the bogeyman of the fringe anti-GMO left. According to the leftwing magazine, quoting the head of Center for Food Safety, all GMOs present a “tremendous amount of danger and threat.”

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Virologists and other scientists believe if these views congeal into a more mainstream movement it could cripple novel virus research with potential catastrophic medical consequences. “If we don’t do that work, it’s really damaging to future public health risk,” one virologist told Mother Jones.

It’s also worth asking why the environmental and organic activist groups behind attacks on the GLP and evidence-embracing journalists and scientists felt no qualms partnering with the Church of Scientology which has faced decades of allegations of corruption, money laundering and even murder and child slavery? Why do Carey Gillam and Paul Thacker and others at USRTK so willingly collaborate with Scientology-affiliated lawyers and freak shows like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. who have a long track record of spreading unscientific nonsense? And why do so-called mainstream journalists and universities (we are talking about you University of California-San Francisco) provide an unfiltered platform for this drivel?

We now have the bizarre situation where the leading opponents of biotechnology are an amalgam of science-denying crackpots (Organic Consumers Association, Joe Mercola, RFK, Jr.), ambulance-chasing cultists (Baum Hedlund/Church of Scientology) and conspiracy-embracing fringe activists and ideologues (SourceWatch, USRTK, Carey Gillam, Paul Thacker). Yet, bizarrely, some news organizations and other ‘progressive groups’ and universities not only treat claims by these clown car ideologues as credible, they uncritically disseminate their views and often promote them.

It’s predictable if disheartening that the far left and far right are now in sync on some science issues. United by their righteous zealotry and suspicion of biotech-based medicine and agriculture, anti-GMO leftists are ideological bed fellows with Trumpian far rightists.

“The political spectrum isn’t always a straight line,” Mother Jones wrote in summarizing its startling and disheartening piece. “Sometimes it’s a circle where at a certain point in the back, the far left and the far right converge.” 

Welcome to Wonderland.

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