FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: David King
April 5, 2000 202-887-8838
National Environmental Trust:
Environmental and Consumer Groups Question Credibility
Of Controversial NAS Study on Biotech Foods
Study should be abandoned because of conflicts of interest between biotech
industry and NAS
Washington, April 5. On Wednesday, April 5, National Environmental Trust,
Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, US Public Interest Research
Group and the Organic Consumers Association gathered in front of the
National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to object to numerous conflicts of
interest in the NAS research panel¼s study of genetically engineered (GE)
foods. The controversial study is being released today at the NAS.
"A panel that leans overwhelmingly toward a pro-biotech position, including
members on the payroll of the biotech industry, cannot be expected to
produce an independent report with an objective conclusion," said
Congressman Dennis Kucinich.
Congressman Kucinich has joined environmental and consumer groups in calling
for the abandonment of the Genetically-Modified Pest Protected Plants (GMPP)
report based on the highly questionable process under which it was written,
and for the creation of a truly independent NAS panel to redo the work.
Demonstrators dressed in lab coats covered with green "Bio Tech Big Bucks"
dollar bills questioned the controversial study's credibility.
"The NAS should hold the highest standards of independent scientific
reporting, but this study absolutely does not meet those standards," said
Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "The
blatant conflicts of interest with the biotech industry put this study in
the category of a 'paid-for science.'"
An August 1999 New York Times article first reported the conflicts of
interest at the NAS. In one instance, the former director and key recruiter
of the panel, Dr. Michael Phillips, was negotiating a job offer with the
Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), while directing the NAS panel.
BIO, the powerful lead group of the biotech industry, represents over 800
biotech companies. According to a BIO press release distributed upon his
employment at the association, Phillips would have a "key role" in
representing the industry on domestic policy.
In the Times piece, NAS Executive Officer William Colgazier said Phillips
violated NAS' ethical rules which require staff members to report any
conflicts: "If we had known, we would not have had him work on that
"There is no question that there is a revolving door between the biotech
industry and NAS," said Philip Clapp, President of the National
Environmental Trust. "Any conclusions in the study are tainted by the
pervasive conflicts of interest among its authors. The NAS should abandon
this study and start another one with a truly independent panel."
According to NAS itself, the definition of conflict of interest is:
The term "conflict of interest" means any financial or other interest which
conflicts with the service of an individual because it (1) could impair the
individual's objectivity or (2) could create an unfair competitive advantage
for any person or organization.
In February, Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) wrote a letter to Colgazier
detailing the conflicts among panelists. The letter is posted on
Congressman Kucinich's web site at
www.house.gov/kucinich/info/NASletter.htm. It outlines specifically which
panelists have financial ties to the biotech industry. Highlights from his
Committee members who receive research funds from the industry:
* Stephen Baenziger, Eugene W. Price Professor, Department of Agronomy,
University of Nebraska - receives research funds from Nebraska Wheat Board,
Novartis, HybriTech, and Resource Seed.
* James C. Carrington, Professor, Institute of Biological Chemistry,
Washington State University - receives research funds from Biosource
* Fred Gould, William Neal Reynolds Professor, Department of Entomology,
North Carolina State University - receives research funds from Monsanto and
* Allison Snow, Associate Professor, Department of Evolution, Ecology, and
Organismal Biology, Ohio State University - receives research funds from
Mycogen and Pioneer Hi-Bred.
Novartis, Monsanto, and Pioneer Hi-Bred are amongst the world's largest
manufacturers of genetically engineered plant seeds.
Committee members who work on behalf of the biotech industry:
* Stanley Abramson - is an attorney for Arnet Fox Kintner Plotkin and Kahn,
a law firm that is actively engaged in current litigation on behalf of the
biotech plant crop industry. Mr. Abramson has intervened on behalf of the
biotech industry to protect the questionable EPA regulations of GM pesticide
* Fred Betz - is a Senior Scientist at Jellinek, Schwartz & Connolly, Inc
(JSC) and leads their biotechnology and biopesticides practice. He authored
an article entitled, "Doing What It Takes To Commercialize Genetically
Modified Crops in the U.S. and Europe."
In addition to the call to abandon the GMPP report, Congressman Kucinich has
co-authored two legislative bills this session calling for the labeling of
genetically-engineered foods and for overhauling the current unscientific
review process of genetically engineered foods by the Food and Drug
And last month, a large group of environmental, consumer and other groups
delivered a petition to the FDA with specific requests for mandatory
pre-market safety testing and mandatory labeling of GE foods.
Specific comments by environmental and consumer groups on the content of the
report will be released on Thursday, April 6.