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Monsanto's Favorite EU Propaganda Operation: the So-Called "Science Media Center"

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Depending on whom you ask, Fiona Fox is either saving science journalism or destroying it. But today, she is touting its benefits to a roomful of reluctant scientists. "Your voice has to be heard," the charismatic and sometimes combative head of Britain's Science Media Centre (SMC) tells the audience of more than 70.

Most of these scientists work at the UK Food and Environment Research Agency (FERA), a sprawling government laboratory based in York, which studies hot-button issues such as pesticides and genetically modified (GM) crops. FERA scientists have a reputation for being closed to the media and, this May afternoon, Fox is trying to convince them to open up. "You're not alone, it's scary out there," says Fox.

That is a message that Fox has honed well since establishing the SMC in London in 2002. The centre's aim is to get scientific voices into media coverage and policy debates - and by doing so, to improve the accuracy with which science is presented to the public. It tries to do this by providing select journalists with a steady flow of quotes and information from its database of about 3,000 scientists, and by organizing around 100 press briefings a year. "Our philosophy is we'll get the media to do science better when scientists do the media better," says Fox.  

All this means that when science makes the news in the United Kingdom, the SMC has often played a part. Scientists adore it, for getting their voices heard. And many journalists appreciate how the non-profit organization provides accurate and authoritative material on deadline. But Fox and the SMC have also attracted some vehement critics, who say that they foster uncritical media coverage by spoon-feeding information to reporters, that they promote science too aggressively - the SMC has been called 'science's PR agency' - and that they sometimes advance the views of industry.