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5 Astroturf Groups You Should Stop Sharing From

After a hefty helping of inspiration from blogger Dawn's Brain's series on Facebook pages that people need to stop sharing fr...

Thursday, November 2, 2017

5 More Astroturf Groups: Part 2 Electric Boogaloo

And now, the long awaited follow up to 5 Astroturf Groups You Should Stop Sharing From - ok, maybe not. Regardless, here is another list of some fake grass front groups pushing industry junk science on the unsuspecting public.

#1. ENDOCRINE SCIENCE MATTERS



Well, yes it does. And it matters where you get your science from, like independent endocrinologists or the chemical industry. Guess who is behind Endocrine Science Matters? Spoiler alert: it's not independent scientists.

On the ESM about page; "Endocrine Science Matters is a project of CropLife International and its global network, which are the voice and leading advocates for the plant science industry."

CropLife's members?

Surprise!

It's evident that the Big 6 (for now, anyway, pending mergers) and friends have a rather strong financial interest in NOT having any of their chemical products declared to have endocrine disrupting effects.


Here they are trying to throw shade on a recent study looking at declining sperm counts in Western countries by sharing a link from the very aptly named Junk Science website run by Steve Milloy. Similarly, they seem extremely bothered by estimates of human cost burden from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) calling them "grossly exaggerated" on their website along with half a dozen or so tweets making similar accusations about research conducted by NYU scientists. The 'experts' they cite are Gregory Bond a former Dow Chemical employee, and Daniel R. Deitrich, who has received funding from industry as well as working closely with chemical companies like Dow and Bayer.

One might notice too that their logo is not so dissimilar to that of the Endocrine Society, a legitimate science organization - you have to wonder if this was purposefully done to confuse the public.



If you're looking for endocrine science that matters, best to skip over this industry front group.


#2. CAMPAIGN FOR ACCURACY IN PUBLIC HEALTH RESEARCH (CAPHR)


This is a group I've written about before more extensively, but I'll give a short recap here. The CAPHR is somewhat unique in that they are focused on the findings of one group of independent scientists - the International Agency for Research on Cancer arm of the World Health Organization, known as IARC for short. CAPHR is a project of the American Chemistry Council and its members who happen to be exactly who you would expect them to be.

Here they are making the argument that out of the hundreds of compounds and agents evaluated, only one has been categorized as probably not likely to cause cancer.

Inadequate evidence to classify the carcinogenic potential of caffeine is impacting enjoyment of pumpkin spice lattes everywhere. It's a crisis of epic proportions. 

If you listen to the pumpkin spice latte enthusiasts over at the CAPHR, it would seem as though IARC just chooses things at random to evaluate simply so they can scare people into avoiding benign substances, such as asbestos, tobacco, or plutonium.

This of course isn't really the case. IARC explains on their monograph Q&A about how they choose which agents to evaluate:

IARC works with international experts to identify priorities from among agents suspected of causing cancer, based on the availability of scientific evidence of carcinogenicity and evidence that people may be exposed to the agent. Priority can be given to a wide variety of agents or substances with different impacts on public health. For example, air pollution has a high public health impact because everyone is exposed, even if exposure levels are generally low. On the other hand, occupational exposures, such as those involving vinyl chloride, may be very high and can therefore have a marked impact even if very few workers are exposed.

So, they are evaluating things that are already suspected of of causing cancer in the first place, which would explain why only one has been found to be probably not carcinogenic to humans and placed in group 4.

IARC's mission is in the interest of public health, by categorizing hazards that health agencies around the world may use for conducting risk assessments. The science they rely on is available to the public and peer reviewed. Their monographs are updated periodically as new data emerges. While constructive criticisms are warranted with most any large scientific group and how they operate, it's not very hard to see the picture that the CAPHR paints is heavily biased towards the interests of the ACC and its members.

#3. PEEL BACK THE LABEL


This is a relatively new organization, launched in August 2017 by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). It seems that a major impetus for this campaign is Dannon's pledge to remove genetically engineered ingredients from its supply chain for many of their major products, as well as providing labeling indicating whether a product is produced with genetically engineered ingredients. The long term goal seems to be to transition all products "towards the use of fewer and more natural ingredients that are not synthetic and non-GMO.' 

This change isn't going over so hot with the dairy industry, in particular the NMPF. They've publicly challenged Dannon and other food manufacturers on what they call "deceptive food company marketing claims." They base this argument on the fact that some foods are being labeled 'non-GMO' like orange juice for instance. They use as one example that "Florida's Natural adding a Non-GMO Project certification to its orange juice labels, despite the fact that there are no commercially-grown, genetically modified oranges."

There are in fact no GE oranges on the market (yet). But it's a bit hard to follow how this is deceptive. The oranges have not been genetically engineered - so how is it 'deceptive' to label them as such? I've seen no explicit statements like, 'no genetically engineered oranges used in Florida's Natural products' and that I could see as implying that there is a commercially available counterpart. But labeling a non-GMO product as non-GMO?

This seems like quite a stretch. Honestly, as a consumer, a non-GMO label can only tell you so much and sometimes it seems redundant on certain products - but do consumers really need the dairy industry to sweep in and protect them from labels? Kosher labels are not relevant to a gentile like myself, but even I can appreciate that they are there for informational purposes, even if I am not using the information for myself. The real issue Peel Back The Label has with this doesn't seem to be about consumer welfare as much as it is about protecting the supply chain.

In their open letter to the Dannon corporation, NMPF states, "Your pledge would force farmers to abandon safe, sustainable farming practices that have enhanced farm productivity over the last 20 years while greatly reducing the carbon footprint of American agriculture." Would it surprise you to know that the letter was co signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, and U.S. Farmers and Rancher's Alliance?


No? Then it should also come as no surprise that the campaign is taking a cue from none other than the Astroturf Kingpin Rick Berman with another of their arguments against GMO labels. Leaked audio of a speech Berman gave reveals his tactics for manipulating public opinion and discrediting opponents. His 7th commandment? Push "fear and anger". PR Watch reports, "Berman talked about pushing people's emotional buttons...stating: "you could not get into people's heads and convince them to do something as easily as you could get into their hearts or into their gut to convince them to do something. Because, emotions drive people much better than intellectual epiphanies."

The Peel Back The Label campaign is putting this to use by portraying labels they don't like as 'fear mongering' in fact, they use the word fear quite a bit, it's all over their Twitter feed and website. By positioning the companies meeting consumer demand by dropping GE ingredients, or adding labels to their products as 'fear mongers', they are attempting to do two things - discredit the proponents of labels, and elicit an emotional reaction from the public. Some may feel embarrassed that they have been 'deceived' and don't want to be seen as fearful or naive. Embarrassment is a strong emotion that can motivate behavior - the campaign is readily exploiting this. Watch, as they invoke the Spectre of Fear Mongering - spooky!



Logically, we know labeling an orange or a tomato that is not genetically engineered, as not genetically engineered or 'non-GMO' that this is true, and not a deceptive statement. The Peel Back The Label campaign uses propaganda to emotionally manipulate the public, fights transparency and promotes what is best for their profit margins, not consumers. 


#4. THE CENTER FOR FOOD INTEGRITY


The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) was launched in 2007, by a PR firm called CMA Consulting. The name is quite similar to that of independent consumer group, Center for Food Safety (CFS). The legal director for CFS Joseph Mendelson, believes this is no coincidence. He is quoted in Food Navigator-USA.com as saying, "The name was obviously chosen to try to distract attention from groups like ours and confuse consumers."

CFI's members include the American Farm Bureau Association, Chik-fil-A, DuPont, Iowa Pork Producers Association, McDonald's, Merck & Co., Monsanto, Purdue Foods, Tyson Foods, Inc., and the United Soybean Board.

A main focus of CFI is on conducting informal research on consumer attitudes to inform their members on what they consider to be 'important food system issues.' The purpose of this research is to 'identify key audiences and insights for Food and Ag to earn trust.' CFI states on their website, "We survey U.S. consumers to measure and track attitudes on important food system issues. Each year's results build on the previous year - culminating in a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the food system, and translating into new CFI strategies to effectively engage, increase transparency, and earn consumer trust."

As a service to their members, CFI also offers 'Influencer Direct Outreach.' Influencers are what CFI calls consumers. They created the website Best Food Facts to 'help consumers make informed choices'.

Best Food Facts website's blog tackles in depth and hard hitting topics like:

Ask An Expert: Is German Chocolate Cake Really From Germany?

How Long Does Halloween Candy Really Last?

and

The Art Of Eating Insects

They also answer your questions about genetically engineered salmon, how 'science' created gene silenced Arctic apples, pesticide use on food, and one post specifically about glyphosate where a professor of crop and soil sciences and a weed scientist (clearly experts on human biology and toxicology) assure you not to worry about this herbicide residue in food, because...wait for it... it's 'safer than table salt.'

Seriously, it's getting old.

The bottom line from them on all of these topics, as you might have guessed, is that everything is fine and dandy in our agricultural and food systems.

Well, the reality is that we are facing some big problems with resource depletion, food waste, land management, antibiotic resistance, and abuse of pesticides. This is not going to go away because you deploy public relations teams to conduct surveys and try to manipulate consumers opinions with fake grassroots looking campaigns.



#5. THE COALITION FOR SAFE AFFORDABLE FOOD



Formed in 2014, the Coalition For Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF) is an industry funded lobbying group that includes members such as CropLife America, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Monsanto Company has even announced their involvement with CFSAF on social media.


As you might have guessed, CFSAF and its members main focus is on food labels that would identify crops or products made with genetically engineered ingredients. They fought mandatory state laws and promoted voluntary labeling like the bogus SmartLabel as a federal standard for disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients. Between 2016-17, they spent at least 360,000 dollars on lobbying efforts through the firm Russell Group who has a very long list of agricultural and food industry clients, along with both the tobacco and chemical industry.

The money spent by the Food and Ag industries on labeling is hard to tally, but one estimate puts the number at about 51.6 million dollars - just for the first half of 2015 alone. Compare that to the spending by what some ironically call 'Big Organic' to lobby for labeling in the same time period that came to just under 1.5 million dollars.

Clearly the playing field is not close to level from even an industry standpoint, never mind consumer representation. Big Food Frontgroups like CFSAF are not doing anything to fight for consumers, transparency or science - only what is best for their members business interests. 

Can you spot the Astroturf? 

Technology isn't deserving of trust - that can only be earned the industry deploying it.


What this industry doesn't seem to understand is that while they can pour millions of dollars into lobbying and campaigns made to look independent and scientific, they can never buy our trust.






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