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Keith Kloor’s Endearing Love Affair With GMOs

New York University’s adjunct journalism professor has curious ideas about science and reporting

Few science writers have worked as hard as Keith Kloor to impact public opinion on genetically modified organism (GMO) agriculture. An adjunct professor at New York University and former editor for Audubon and blogger for Discover, Kloor has spent years championing GMO products and portraying skeptics and critics as scientifically illiterate quacks. Kloor’s one-man crusade to paint environmental advocates as nitwits includes a classic of the Kloor canon: his self-aggrandizing piece in Issues in Science and Technology comparing demands for GMO transparency to the tactics of the Trump campaign and the anti-vaccine movement (a favorite bugbear).

His curious form of advocacy includes bitter attacks on anyone who disagrees with him – a style that’s arguably generated more trouble than it’s been worth. At various points, Kloor’s targets have included Jake Tapper of CNNMichael Pollan, professor of journalism at UC-Berkeley; Tom Philpott of Mother JonesMark Bittman, the noted food columnist and professor at Columbia; Glenn Davis Stone, Guggenheim Fellow and professor of archaeology at Washington University; Nassim Taleb, professor of risk engineering at NYU; Marion Nestle, professor of food science at NYU; and Charles Seife, professor of science journalism at NYU. Two years ago, the author of this piece began reporting on journalists attending industry-funded conferences for the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR). Days after contacting the pro-GMO Cornell Alliance for Science while reporting for CJR, Kloor posted a blog on his personal website describing this author as a “sadistic troll.”

The public has known for some time that Keith Kloor loves GMOs. What they haven’t known, until now, is how hard he’s worked with industry-funded “experts” to present corporate talking points as journalism and then try to cover his tracks. An avalanche of documents released through court proceedings and freedom of information requests point to a coordinated effort by corporate front groups, scientists secretly funded by agrichemical industry giants, and allied reporters attempting to portray themselves as arbiters of scientific expertise while condemning critics of GMO technology as “antiscience.” While some of this story has been told, Kloor’s level of involvement has so far gone unremarked – and there have been no corrections or retractions of his work.