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February 24, 2018

013 — Kevin Folta — Monsanto Outreach Support, FOIA, Transparency

This week I had to address the elephant in the room. What’s up with the recent flack about Monsanto funding a science communication outreach program?

What is happening with FOIA?  What is the future of the Talking Biotech science communication program?


Yes, I actually went on a vacation-vacation, first time since April 2002.

And it was in a place with no cell signal or internet access.

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53 Comments on 013 — Kevin Folta — Monsanto Outreach Support, FOIA, Transparency

  1. I’m very sorry to hear that the level of abuse is so scary and dangerous at this point. And that the terrorists have won.

    My check will be in the mail this week.

  2. Kevin, I would like to make a small contribution to the program. I am sorry, I don;t see the link for making a donation.

  3. No one could have foreseen how far the antis are willing to go to silence scientists.
    You have my full respect, Dr. Folta.

  4. The truth has prevailed in this case, and always will. As a die-hard FSU fan, I had never imagined I would send any money to UF, but as soon as the UF Foundation account is set up, this Seminole’s credit card will have a charge from the University of Florida.

    • I do think I have that. You posted a link with a substantial series of UF pages. You noted, “ALL SOURCES” implying that I was being paid via some industry source. Remember now?

      I have screenshots. I keep everything you do to harm me, and all will be in a pretty pile for your perusal soon enough.

  5. I’m sorry to hear this has happened to you, you’re one of the nicest people I’ve ever heard of. I’ve seen the interactions you’ve had with these troglodytes, and you’re always polite. For what it’s worth, the jerks responsible for this abuse campaign deserve to be in jail.

    I’m a chemistry undergrad looking to get into agro-chemistry in grad school. I’ve heard that you don’t teach courses right now, but I would be honored to study under you if that were to change in the future.

    • That’s nice. I do teach some graduate molecular biology lectures in light signal transduction. If you come to UF for school submit a request. Maybe I can do a journal club or something. Just ask.

      Best wishes in your studies and reach out if I can ever be of service.

  6. Kevin….. My thoughts are with you. Stay strong. I believe your intent is a pure desire to communicate science for good or for bad, and with clarity and with your deep understanding and insight. This is your greatest moment, continue to fight the fight for wha you believe in, and the power of science to help society.
    Stay the high road, this is your brightest hour..

    • Thanks Mark, I keep telling myself that I’m glad that it is me being taken apart first. If this effort backfires, like it is doing, this whole FOIA thing will be perceived as the giant harassment that it is intended to be. Thank you, and I appreciate the kind words. kf

  7. Hi Kevin

    As I stated on Twitter after the second Craigslist item you posted on your blog, this US Right to Know and this FoIA request is starting to parallel “Gamer Gate.” A select group of people at the top engineer a narrative that mobilises a mob to direct hate and abuse at a target. The leaders of the movement talk about ethics/transparency and disassociate themselves from the mob. Meanwhile the real tactic was always to silence the target.

    If you do have concerns for the safety of your family, students, home or lab perhaps it may be worth contacting the Crash Override Network, who formed to support victims of online abuse –

    BTW, could you set up a Go Fund Me or Patreon to fund the outreach program? Some of us outside the US don’t have chequebooks any more 🙂

    • Thanks DJ. I’m reasonably comfortable with these threats, nothing specific, and I can deal with anyone one-on-one. It is lab/home I’m concerned with.

      Funding? We’ll have a page set up shortly. My university is like a glacier when devising a way to accept funding. I’d rather you make the effort to contact national science organizations and sci-comm groups. Tell them what is happening. This needs a solution. I can’t fight this alone forever.

  8. My theory. This is all coming from March Against Monsanto, and March Against Monsanto is just the propaganda arm of the Organic foods industry.

  9. Dr. Folta, I am so sorry that people have made your public science so personal. There are those of us who appreciate your science and your truth-telling. Please keep teaching. There are so many who have anxiety about food that is unnecessary. I’m still a student, but as I learn and grow in my understanding of food and nutrition, your science is crucial to my understanding. Please don’t give up. The world needs what you can give.

  10. Kevin, we’ve asked Vandana Shiva and others for evidence of their income from these sources.

    Not a single thing… NOT ONE. We’re still waiting and in some cases this is over 9 months ago.

    For those who don’t know who we are – I’m one of the team behind The Fear Babe for which Kevin wrote an excellent foreword before this shitstorm blew up.

  11. From Mission BC Canada, I will be listening to your podcasts, I am not a scientist by profession and am grateful for people like you

  12. Hello Dr. Folta, I am really disappointed and disgusted by the war on science and the things you have had to endure. Please let me know how my friends and I can contribute to your program. We graduated with MS degrees in multiple streams of engineering from UF, and we consider it our duty to aid you in your quest to spread knowledge and fight against ignorance.

  13. This is a great podcast you have here. I can’t even imagine how you must feel, but know you have a lot of friends, and we too can make memes, only with truth in them. 😉 It only goes to show how little ground they have to stand on that they are making threats and being horrible. It’s terribly hateful of them, and it’s not working in their favor. Let your friends know what we can do to help you.

  14. This whole ordeal has been ugly. The viciousness people show complete strangers online is truly disgusting. You’ve handled it so well and I’m glad you’re going to continue with your outreach program. You’re doing the right thing, stay strong.

  15. Glad to hear you are going to continue with your educational communications effort. It’s clear you are doing it right with a mission of better education and understanding and hence are a target of those without a mission but very narrow agendas.

    Here in Maui County Monsanto has donated funds to Women Helping Women, Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation capital campaign to improve the hospital’s Heart, Brain and Vascular Center, Maui Department of Fire & Public Safety funding for the procurement of a portable skid mount pump for to assist in fighting brush fires in remote areas, Hale Makua (nursing homes, a rehabilitation center, home healthcare)for the purchase of a new oven for the organization’s kitchen, which currently produces more than 950 meals per day, local schools for STEM education programs, and to the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s College of Tropical Agriculture and
    Human Resources to establish a fellows program to support the educational and professional development of their students. Many corporations give back to their community.

    I’d say you are in good company Kevin, and heaven forbid Monsanto would fund a program for better science communication. I look forward to hearing more from your various programs.

  16. I listened to the podcast this morning. It’s incredibly disappointing that this smear and harassment campaign is occurring. But this also could be an opportunity to raise substantially more money for outreach and I intend to do my part to keep you talking! UF will be receiving my check. Thank you for being in the forefront in this amazing age of biotechnology.

  17. Kevin, be brave. Keep on teaching science. We are working hard on the movie to help provide more info for supporting GMO science in Agriculture.

  18. Wow – I am stunned. I knew the anti-GMO activists/terrorists were hateful, but I had no idea of the *depth* of their mob anger. That is what it is – unthinking, mob mentality, and that is a scary thing. As a scientist, I have been following you for quite a while and always greatly respect your presentation of and explanations of the facts. I am horrified at the campaign against you personally. Stay strong. This is ridiculousness.

  19. Kevin: I am continually amazed at the vituperation directed at Monsanto, at GMOs, at people who make GMOs – because it is all so so uninformed, or criminally twisted, or illogical. Keep up the good fight! I keep on being accused of being a Monsanto employee (I say: I wish I were!) or industry shill or sock-puppet – I have just started ignoring it, but it’s a little harder when folk are threatening you. It’d be nice if they got a decent education.

  20. Thank you for all the time you take to do your outreach. As an early career plant scientist who’s been following your work for a few years, your time and energy spent on it has been inspiring. Now, I’m deeply impressed by your ability to deal with this unwarranted attack in such a rational and clear sighted way. Keep doing it!

    • Thanks Jenny, that means a lot. Keep up the good work, work harder than you ever have, and let me know if I ever can be of service. Best wishes.

  21. I have really enjoyed your podcast and I regret the trouble you have faced for telling the truth about current genetic science. I will try to spread the good word about your work.

  22. You are honest and transparent. These people are ruthless, and downright scary! “Being paid to lie might be what they are about.” Hell, yeah, Kevin! You hang in there!! Truth/facts/science has your back! The terrorists will not prevail! Waiting to hear where my check should be sent.

  23. You are honest and transparent. These people are ruthless, and downright scary! “Being paid to lie might be what they are about.” Hell, yeah, Kevin! You hang in there!! Truth/facts/science has your back! The terrorists will not prevail! Waiting to hear where my check should be sent.

  24. You are honest and transparent. These people are ruthless, and downright scary! “Being paid to lie might be what they are about.” Hell, yeah, Kevin! You hang in there!! Truth/facts/science has your back! The terrorists will not prevail! Waiting to hear where my check should be sent.

  25. This is beyond horrendous. The treatment you have received from these “activists” who claim to “care” about human beings having healthy food is far more revealing about THEM then it is about you. I sincerely hope that the people who are reading their hateful messages, their lies, and their threats can keep that thought in mind.

  26. We need more people like you to continue to educate people so clearly and honestly on science and technology–including here in the small city of Terrace in western Canada. You have my sincerest apologies for having once supported the anti-GMO groups that have given you so much grief. It was only because I had the privilege of studying under one of the pioneering researchers of Agrobacterium in biotechnology that I was able to learn the truth about GMO foods, but it was because I learned the truth that I lost my fear of GMO foods and began to respect the scientists working to improve food production for everyone’s benefit. The fight against misinformation may seem hopeless, but I am living proof that the work you do is not entirely hopeless.

  27. Kevin,
    The fight you are facing is unfair, but I am so glad that you aren’t backing down.
    I’ll send what I can to help support your outreach program, because I know that you and the solid science that you communicate are worth it.

    My life is better because I was able to interact with you.
    Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for doing what is right, and thank you for continuing to fight against ignorance and fear.

    What you’ve had to go through is completely undeserved, but is there any way to make this right?

    PLOS and NYU should be ashamed of their conduct, and ultimately, people need to be held fairly accountable for what they say and publish.

    The Anti-GMO lobby has stumbled upon a potent weapon, and is going to attack anyone who vocally opposes their message. If it was just exposing the truth, I think most scientists would say “that’s fine.” However, the promise of the libel, the smears and the death threats are probably enough to scare away a lot of scientists who would like to challenge the fear based narrative with actual facts. I would say that “the terrorists” haven’t won as long as we ensure the voice of science can still be heard by those who are willing to listen.

    How we can stop this kind of cascade from happening to other good scientists? I think that all Universities need to stand by their researchers when the researchers are in the right. There are a lot of powerful institutions out there that have the ability and the duty to uphold the truth, and a lot of them aren’t doing it vocally enough.

    I hope that this can soon be put in the past. Please stay safe, and stay strong. I can’t wait to see the new technology your lab is developing. Peace be with you.

  28. This is so sad. My dad calls the antis in Hawaii “Nazis”. It’s the same mentality – fill people with misinformation and fear. Love, love your work! Thank you for all that you do for science!

  29. The elephant in the room? Kevin Folta is a liar. It hurts to be caught red-handed, isn’t it Kevin?

    “Don’t call me a shill for Monsanto when it’s not what I do and really I come with full disclosure.” — Kevin Folta

    “My record speaks for itself, it is all public, and there are no associations with Monsanto or Big Ag” — Kevin Folta

    “I have no financial ties to any of the Big Ag companies that make transgenic crops, including Monsanto.” — Kevin Folta

    Contrary to all Folta’s assertions, his emails revealed “his close ties to Monsanto and other biotechnology-industry interests”. Those “close ties” included a no-strings-attached $25,000 grant from Monsanto, and payments for his travel to see politicians, the media and others that the industry wanted him to meet with.

    A classic case of academic-corporate corruption. And Folta’s sycophants defend him? Independent research is the last bulwark we have against the corporate takeover of the United States. The last thing we need are liars like Folta encouraging the collapse.

    • First, this space is to discuss the podcast contents. But I’ll leave your point here. No, I’m not “caught red handed”. The donation to the program was always public record, no big deal. My message was the same before I had it, while it was here, and will be the same now that it is gone to other uses.

      A donation to a program is not a relationship. I have no interests in Monsanto, I don’t care what they do. I do talk about the science of a technology they use, and that would be the same if they were to disappear from the planet. That’s important. I’m a scientist. My job is to talk about science.

      I can argue with the Nature piece all day. Close ties? Hardly. I have closer ties with the retirement home in town where I give talks to the older folks.

      Corruption? Ok, what did I say that is not true? What is corrupt? Me doing outreach in science literacy for 14 years and then a company providing funds for me to do it more effectively?

      So call me a liar, but you make yourself look bad. I’ve told the truth, time will be very kind.

    • TS2015 – does this mean you are the Top Shill in 2015 for Big Organic? What you said is clearly a crock of $%@# but I think Kevin answered you much better and more politely than I ever could. As another commentator above said: “heaven forbid Monsanto would fund a program for better science communication”. How dare they!

  30. As a former faculty member with Dr. Folta, and as a professor emeritus for the past 12 years, it is refreshing to see someone with both a background in science and genetic engineering stand up for what is right and what is wrong, while taking some criticism from misguided folks that are indeed sincere, but not using the best knowledge available to support their point of view. I indeed have great appreciation for what Dr. Folta says on GMO’s.
    Wayne Sherman, with 43 years as a fruit breeder in the UF Horticultural Dept.

  31. I wish people understood or even wanted to understand how the dollars work at the University. This is such an unfortunate situation. Dr. Folta is finally educating us and should be celebrated! I am glad you are continuing your outreach program. Thanks for all you do!

  32. It’s nice to hear this explained in detail, but the sad thing is that I was able to figure out many of the basics just by reading the email. With no help at all, I was able to see that what the email discussed wasn’t a payoff, or anything like that.

    One would hope that people would come around after being shown the evidence, but what do you do when the very email that should prove your innocence is being circulated as proof of your guilt?

    • Thanks Troy. This is where we live now. Facts don’t matter. It is how you can spin them. I’m grateful you looked into this further. All we can do is champion the truth. It is never clear how folks will accept it. Thank you.

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