It seems that Monsanto’s reach extends to the most prestigious of collegiate institutions.
According to email messages obtained by the Boston Globe, Harvard professor Calestous Juma received instructions from biotech giant Monsanto on how to present a paper on a topic suggested by the company. Juma did not disclose this connection with Monsanto.
The 2014 policy paper, titled Global Risks of Rejecting Agricultural Biotechnology, was widely distributed with the help of a marketing firm provided by Monsanto, which “would ‘merchandize’ the papers online, disseminate them to the media, and schedule op-eds, blog posts, speaking engagements, events, and webinars.”
Eight other professors received the email in 2013 from Eric Sachs, Monsanto’s head of regulatory policy and scientific affairs, asking them to write a series of papers and providing a detailed strategy for public persuasion.
“This will be an important project and is designed to lead to increased engagement on critical topics that are barriers to broader use and acceptance of [genetically modified] crops globally,” Sachs wrote.
Sachs went on to describe a series of seven papers that he asks the professors to author. The e-mail says that the specific topics were selected because of their “influence on public policy, [genetically modified] crop regulation, and consumer acceptance”.
“I understand and appreciate that you need me to be completely transparent and I am keenly aware that your independence and reputations must be protected,” Sachs wrote.
The goal, Sachs said, was to change public dialogue about GMOs “toward a broader understanding of the “societal benefits of [genetically modified] crops” and change policies that are “unnecessarily limiting innovation in the biotechnology arena.”
Juma did not get paid by Monsanto and used material from his own book, but the direct influence of the multinational corporation seems to be in contradiction of Harvard’s rules. Their conflict of interest policy says that “faculty members should not permit outside activities and financial interests to compromise their primary commitment to the mission of the university.”
While Juma’s general support of GMO crops may rest on bad information, the breach of integrity is the fact that he authored a paper on behalf of the world’s biggest biotech business. The public looks to academia for impartial research, and that trust was violated.
This corruption of higher learning complements a deep infiltration by Monsanto into the federal branches, and the regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect the public using objective information.
Juma, an authority in international development, says his failure to disclose his Monsanto connection was “bad judgment.” But the paper has already run its course as part of biotech’s propaganda machine.
Global Risks of Rejecting Agricultural Biotechnology praises the use of GMOs to feed developing countries in Africa. GMO proponents claim that the crops produce higher yields with less pesticides and fertilizers, but these claims have been debunked.
Failure to Yield describes how GM crops are not producing significantly higher yields, and that non-GM breeding and farming methods are actually doing a better job at increasing yields. Indian farmers are proving this using a method called Agroecology.
The only thing that GM crops increase is the use of chemicals. “RoundUp Ready” and other crops resistant to herbicides require the use of chemical sprays that drench entire fields on a regular basis. Overall pesticide use increased 26 percent in ten years, and glyphosate use increased 10-fold from 1996 to 2012. This is especially concerning now that the World Health Organization has listed glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.
Yet Juma and other influential people still seek to push these products onto the developing world, on behalf of biotech companies that stand to make billions by enslaving their agriculture as they have in the U.S.
With a holistic approach to agriculture—such as Agroecology and Farmscaping—that embraces life instead of annihilating it, we can solve the world’s agricultural demand while reducing man’s impact on the environment.