Anti-GMO group attempts to intimidate scientists

A recent piece by a Discover magazine blogger demonstrates that anti-GMO activists are so desperate, that they are using intimidation in order to silence opposition to biotechnological foods (GMO). Keith Floor wrote an article for Science magazine where he reported that an anti-GMO group known as US Right to Know (USRTK) out of Oakland, California have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to obtain the names of scientists who have written articles on the website GMO Answers. GMO Answers is a website funded by food and biotechnology companies, respectfully.

USRTK Executive Director Gary Ruskin claims to want to find out the link between universities and businesses and to what extent they are part of the GMO (his words) PR machine. However, Floor did some more research and found none of the scientists posting at GMO Answers are connected to the GMO, agriculture or food companies in any way. The anti-GMO crowd is doing nothing more than an intimidation campaign in order to embarrass scientists and hinder their research.

Mr. Floor quotes one scientist Dr. Michael Phillips at the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics, in Barcelona, Spain who is quoted as saying:

The [freedom of information] requests were filed by the group US Right to Know (USRTK) allegedly to investigate possible improper dealings between public research scientists and private industry partners. I say “allegedly” because this particular group has a history of anti-GMO activism and appears to be motivated by a strict ideology that is not evidence-based. They are also motivated by a desire to embarrass public scientists and disrupt their work. That arouses suspicions this new approach might just be an exploitation of a legal resource to harass and derail scientists doing legitimate research that certain individuals feel ideologically opposed to due to their personal worldview. This seems even more likely considering the scientists who are the subjects of these requests are all outspoken supporters of biotechnology who have engaged with the public to defend and promote the usefulness of this technology.

The Right to Know group’s actions remind me of what animal rights activists have done to intimidate researchers who use animals for medical tests. This is one of many instances where environmentalist groups will use harassment and intimidation to achieve their aims since they know they cannot make their case logically. This should also tell you something about genetically modified foods too. If environmentalist organizations, like Greenpeace, are correct in their assertions about GMO foods then they should not need to resort to these kind of strong arm tactics.

UPDATE: The Washington Free Beacon reports that an environmentalist group is attempting an FOIA request of a University of Kansas scientist who testified against wind farms at a hearing at the Kansas state legislature.