A group of ten doctors has called for NBC’s Dr. Oz (Dr. Mehmet Oz) to be fired from Columbia University, where he is vice chairman of the surgery department.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has long tracked the group that is connected to several of the signers attacking Dr. Oz, and CMD’s Executive Director Lisa Graves spoke with the Dr. Oz show about the background of that group and some of the signers. (CMD does not receive any funding from Dr. Oz or NBC.)
One of the doctors, Dr. Gilbert Ross, is a convicted felon who works for the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). CMD’s updated review of ACSH’s funding confirms that it has been funded by a trade group of food corporations that heavily opposes GMO labeling.
One of ACSH’s most common activities is bashing people concerned about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and chemicals used in factory farming.
ACSH poses as an independent science-based organization devoted to outing “junk science,” but consumer advocates have called it “a consumer front organization for its business backers” that “glove[s] the hand that feeds it.”
The majority of ACSH’s funds have come from corporations and major foundations.
CMD examined ACSH’s funding last summer and also looked into the groups when its name surfaced in 2012 in litigation involving concerns about Syngenta’s agricultural chemical, atrazine. CMD’s investigation of unsealed court documents revealed that Syngenta’s PR operation had identified ACSH as a way for it to attack and try to discredit those raising concerns about atrazine; and that ACSH was to be paid for its work defending Syngenta. Other documents that were subsequently leaked to Mother Jones confirmed that Syngenta has been funding ACSH, along with providing additional details on other corporate funders, as of two years ago.
An updated review of all available information about ACSH’s funding sources by CMD reveals that some of the hands that feed the group are not only those of the Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, through the Koch family fortune (Koch Industries profits from petroleum products like ammonia fertilizers and other agribusiness-related operations), but also those of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a $41.4 million trade group representing such companies as Monsanto, Campbell Soup Company, Kraft Foods, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Coca Cola, and Pepsi.
ACSH Spins Pesticides, GMOs, Fracking, E-Cigarettes, and More
In recent months, ACSH has:
- published reports calling a Harvard School of Public Health report on pesticides’ effect on men’s sperm “full of faulty data and conclusions that it makes a perfect example of common study flaws”;
- attacked the International Agency for Research on Cancer (an agency of the World Health Organization and United Nations) for its conclusion that glyphosate–the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup–is “probably carcinogenic,” calling IARC “among the worst of the hyper-regulators… [with] a well-deserved reputation for breezing past or simply ignoring the latest (or even the consensus) science in the service of their precautionary principle-based agenda”;
- lambasted food columnist Mark Bitman’s support for the precautionary principle when it comes to GMOS as “frothings” and “bilious insinuations” that go “overboard as usual”; and
- called fracking “a safe and efficient path to energy independence,” despite the hazardous chemical cocktail used in hydraulic fracturing, which uses and spoils millions of gallons of fresh drinking water each year in the fracking process.
And, of course, ACSH regularly criticizes Dr. Oz’s policy position that GMOs in foods should be labeled as “GMO fear-mongering.”
ACSH has published claims about GMOs that make outrageous statements like “opposition to agricultural progress . . . causes blindness and death worldwide.” ACSH has also made patently false and easily disprovable claims such as, “[T]here are no alternative technologies available to plant breeders with which new improved varieties can be created to overcome the current limitations of global agriculture to produce sufficient food, feed, fuel, and fiber on available land.”
Traditional plant breeding continues to develop crop varieties that are better adjusted to local conditions, produce more, and have other beneficial traits. Take, for example, the work done by the Organic Seed Partnership, a collaborative effort of Oregon State University, the University of Wisconsin, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, Cornell University, and the Organic Seed Alliance.
For a period, tobacco was the rare consumer health hazard about which ACSH had publicly expressed concern. As a result, some of its funding from the food industry dried up after those companies were acquired by Philip Morris (now the global tobacco company Altria), which took umbrage at ACSH’s position against tobacco. “ACSH’s warnings about cigarette smoking resulted in the loss of substantial contributions from food manufacturers that had been acquired by tobacco companies,” ACSH once stated on its website.
But ACSH has since received funding from Altria and at least one manufacturer of electronic cigarettes called “The Safe Cig.”
With the rise of e-cigarettes–and ACSH’s receipt of funding from companies selling them–ACSH has reversed course. It now advocates that “electronic cigarettes should be made as accessible as cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes should be sold widely and lightly regulated…” In another publication, it expresses the hope that the Food and Drug Administration will continue to “allow… millions of desperate addicted smokers continued access to this lifesaving technology.”
E-cig companies have been making the rounds at groups like ACSH as well as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN) in search of third parties to help promote its product and derail regulation.
ACSH Buddy Henry Miller Lead Signer on Oz Letter
The letter calling on Columbia University to fire Dr. Oz includes among its signers Dr. Gilbert Ross, ACSH Acting President and Executive Director, who was convicted of the felony offense of Medicaid fraud and had his medical license revoked in 1995. The letter’s lead signer, Dr. Henry I. Miller–like Ross, an outspoken advocate of GMOs–was a board member of ACSH and the founding director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office of Biotechnology. He is now a senior research fellow at the right-wing Hoover Institution.
Miller gained recent notoriety for his appearance in a political ad by the “No on 37” campaign to squelch California voters’ effort to label GMOs by way of a 2012 ballot initiative, as CMD reported. GMO corporations and other businesses spent over $40 million on the ad and outreach campaign that Miller was featured in. There is no public information about whether they funded him personally or through an organization or not, but there appear to be no legal restrictions on them doing so in the past or future.
The “No on 37” ad originally listed campaign spokesperson Miller as “M.D., Stanford” and showed Stanford University buildings in the background. The campaign had to pull that version off the air at the request of Stanford University and re-do it because “the Stanford ID on the screen appeared to violate the university’s policy against use of the Stanford name by consultants,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
What Miller is most notorious for are his unusual public positions. In 2003, Miller penned an op-ed for the New York Times defending DDT and arguing for its resurrection. This prompted a U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) response pointing out the estimated “increase in infant deaths that might result from DDT spraying.”
Miller was also a founding member scientist of The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, a now-defunct, tobacco industry-funded public relations front group run by the APCO Worldwide PR firm that worked to discredit the links between cigarettes and cancer.
Perhaps most outrageously, Miller wrote in a 2011 op-ed for Forbes that some of those exposed to radiation after the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant “could have actually benefitted from it.”
Miller also penned a 2012 Forbes op-ed on GMO labeling suggesting that it is the supporters of GMO labeling who are engaged in “no-holds-barred advocacy … to disparage farming methods and promulgate fraudulent health claims about the foods we eat.”
Miller, who accused Oz of undisclosed conflicts of interest, is no stranger to conflicts of interest himself.
GMA, Kochs, DonorsTrust, Bradley, Searle, and Others Fund ACSH
In addition to such corporate and trade group funders as ExxonMobil, Chevron, the American Petroleum Institute, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, CropLife America, Procter and Gamble, Pfizer, the Personal Care Products Council, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, and McDonald’s, ACSH funders have also included the Koch brothers’ David H. Koch Foundation and Claude R. Lambe Foundation (which closed in early 2013), the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Bradley Foundation. In this partial list of funders (ACSH stopped disclosing its donors early in the 1990s), the second-largest funder is DonorsTrust, which is known for its “murky money maze” of anonymous right-wing funding connected to the Kochs.
New to this group of funders as of 2013, according to CMD’s research, is the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), a $41.4 million trade group representing such companies as Campbell Soup Company, Kraft Foods, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Coca Cola, and Pepsi. The anti-GMO labeling trade group gave ACSH $25,000 in 2013, according to its most recently available IRS disclosure. The grant was listed for “general support,” and so what ACSH activities GMA funded are not known.
GMA sued Maui after citizens of the Hawai’i county voted to ban GMO crops on the island in November 2014. GMA also sued the state of Vermont over its law requiring GMO labels in 2014, as CMD has reported.
GMA has also repeatedly lobbied Koch-backed Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas to introduce what it calls “The Safe & Accurate Food Labeling Act” and proponents of GMO labeling call the “Deny Americans the Right to Know Act” or DARK Act.
ACSH’s funding stream overlaps significantly with the web of right-wing think tanks called the State Policy Network (SPN), which CMD has dubbed “stink tanks.” For example, the Bodman Foundation, endowed by the investment banking fortune of the late George Bodman, has funded SPN members including New Jersey’s Common Sense Institute and the Empire Center for New York State Policy as well as associate members the American Enterprise Institute, the Acton Institute, the Empire Center’s parent group the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and the National Center for Policy Analysis. Altria (the global tobacco company), the Armstrong Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, Donors Capital Fund, DonorsTrust, the JM Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Olin Foundation, and Searle Freedom Trust have all funded both ACSH and SPN.
Many of ACSH’s funders also have ties to the controversial ALEC, which CMD has called a “corporate bill mill.” Special interests such as 3M, Altria, the American Petroleum Institute, Bayer CropScience, the Bradley Foundation, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Chevron, Coca-Cola, CropLife America, Donors Capital Fund, DonorsTrust, Dr. Pepper/Snapple, ExxonMobil, the JM Foundation, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation, McDonald’s, the Olin Foundation, PhRMA, Procter and Gamble, the Randolph Foundation, and Searle Freedom Trust have all funded both ACSH and ALEC.
See CMD’s full review of ACSH’s known financial underwriters below:
|Funder||Amount Donated||Funding source||Years|
|Bodman Foundation||$90,000||investment banking||2007-2012|
|American Petroleum Institute||$37,500||petroleum industry||2012|
|Amvac Chemical Corporation||$5,000||2012|
|Bradley Foundation, Lynde and Harry||$270,000||factory automation equipment manufacturer Allen-Bradley||2004-2012|
|Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation||$300,000||2002-2012|
|Chinook Foundation||$600||2011, 2013|
|Conrad Family Foundation||$100||2011|
|Cox Family Foundation||$1,000||2009|
|CropLife America||$25,000||pesticide industry||2004|
|Distilled Spirits Council of the United States||$30,000||2008-2012|
|Dodge Jones Foundation||$42,000||railroad and minerals||2003, 2009-2013|
|Donors Capital Fund||$89,500||anonymous “donor directed” fund||2008-2011|
|DonorsTrust||$534,574.62||anonymous “donor directed” fund||2005-2011|
|Finley, A.E. Foundation||$1,000||equipment & machinery distribution||2009, 2012|
|Fragrance Materials Association of the United States, Inc.||$20,000||2011|
|Friedmann, Philip M. Family Charitable Trust||$11,900||Recycled Paper Greetings company||2003-2012|
|GE Foundation||$396,000||General Electric (including a small amount of donations matching employees’)||2003-2012|
|Gerstacker, Rollin M. Foundation||$10,000||Dow Chemical Company||2010|
|Gilder Foundation||$5,000||stockbroker Richard Gilder||2005|
|Griffin, Dorothy G. Charitable Foundation||$3,000||Varflex Corporation (electrical insulating sleeving and tubing)||2010-2012|
|Grocery Manufacturers Association||$25,000||anti-GMO labeling trade association||2013|
|International Formula Council||$10,000||2012|
|JM Foundation||$15,000||Borden Milk Company||1997|
|Kayser Family Foundation||$2,500||2006-2009|
|Kirby, F.M. Foundation||$347,000||Woolworth and Alleghany Companies||1998-2013|
|Koch, David H. Foundation||$6,000||Koch Industries||1986-1987|
|Olin, John M. Foundation||$915,500||Olin Corporation chemical||1985-2004 (foundation closed in 2005)|
|Lambe, Claude R. Foundation||$95,000||Koch Industries||2005-2008 (also contributed $30,000 in 2006 that was returned to the foundation in 2009)|
|McNutt, Amy Shelton Charitable Trust||$1,500||2009, 2011|
|Nolan, David P. Foundation||$250||2010|
|Penn, Arthur S. and Marilyn Charitable Trust||$500||retired president of Elmrock Capital, Inc., board member of Center for Individual Rights||2010|
|Personal Care Products Council||$20,000||personal care products (cosmetics, toiletries, fragrances, etc.) industry||2011-2002|
|Pfizer Foundation||$300||pharmaceutical industry (matching employee gifts)||2011-2013|
|Procter and Gamble||$6,000||2012|
|Randolph Foundation||$73,920||Vicks chemical company||2006|
|Roberts, Gilroy and Lillian P. Charitable Foundation||$200||sculptor, gemstone carver, and former Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint||2013|
|Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation||$27,500||oil||1998-2001|
|Sarah Scaife Foundation||$205,000||Mellon industrial, oil, aluminum and banking||1985-1991|
|Searle Freedom Trust||$100,000||pharmaceuticals||2007|
|Roger and Susan Stone Family Foundation||$5,000||Smurfit-Stone (paperboard and paper-based packaging)||2009, 2012|
|Tepper Family Foundation||$500||2013|
|Texmark Chemicals (David Smith)||$5,000||2012|
|The Safe Cig||$4,100||electronic cigarette manufacturer||2012|
|Tober, Barbara and Donald Foundation||$23,500||2007-2012|
|Triad Foundation||$35,000 (“Gen/fracking”)||2012|
|Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program||$39,400||donor-advised fund||2012-2013|
Cartoon by Joe Mohr. This is an updated version of an article published by CMD in 2014. For more on the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers and the power and influence of the Koch cadre and Koch cash, see CMD’s unique wiki resource, KochExposed.org.