The credibility of university research is on the line as corporations step up their funding. One issue is academic freedom. Corporations that fund university research often demand the right to control what scientists can say publicly about their work. "They're like bullies in a sandbox who take away their toys when you don't agree with them," says David Kahn, a researcher at the University of California-San Francisco who was sued for $10 million by the company that sponsored his study, after he published a report that the AIDS drug he was testing was ineffective.
U.S. oil and gas companies are using PR to explain why the price of gasoline is rising amid record profits, writes Julie Earle in The Financial Times. "Through websites and campaigns, energy companies are spreading the word
Since 1995, a private intelligence firm with close links to the British government's MI6 spy agency has been working for Shell and BP oil, collecting information on green activists. The firm's agent, who posed as a left-wing sympathiser and film maker, was asked to betray plans of Greenpeace's activities against oil giants. He also tried to dupe Anita Roddick's Body Shop group to pass on information about its opposition to Shell's oil drilling in Nigeria.
Demonstrators are targeting the Starbucks coffee company for misleading the public about its "Fair Trade" coffee. Starbucks CEO Orin Smith has admitted that sales of Fair Trade coffee make up less than one-tenth of one percent of the company's revenues. Demonstrators also criticize Smith's support for coffee growers that operate "sweatshop plantations" in places like Viet Nam.
Monsanto has launched The Advantage, a weekly electronic newsletter with news summaries regarding what it calls "a world of biotechnology benefits." Headlines for the week of May 30 included "Bush Proclaims National Biotechology Week," "Professor Cites Benefits of Biotechnology," "Enhanced Grape Could Mean Better, Cheaper Wine," and "Study Shows GM Plants Do Not Crowd Out Other Plants." Their website had a few bugs when we visited, but hopefully they'll fix those as easily as they've fixed the EPA.
A new industry-sponsored cheering section for Bush/Cheney's energy policies has been formed, called the "Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth."
Environmental activist Dave DeRosa snuck into the March 22, 2001 meeting of the Vinyl Formulators Environmental Forum and caught industry representatives discussing ways to limit bad publicity connected with Bill Moyers exposT of the chemical industry.
The Environmental Working Group has created an extensive, keyword-searchable archive of 37,000 pages of internal chemical industry documents, detailing what industry insiders knew but didn't tell us about topics such as arsenic, the dangers of hairspray and the active ingredient in Scotchgard, or about the severe contamination of a chemical company town in Alabama. Visit this site to find out how the chemical industry spins, distorts, and twists the facts to suit its purposes -- and to prevent the public from finding out how dangerous their products really are.
Veteran journalist Bill Moyers exposed decades of corruption of science and politics by companies, trade associations and PR firms defending the chemical industry in his March 26 documentary, Trade Secrets. In the week leading up to the actual broadcast, the chemical industry launched its own attack on Moyers, claiming that his documentary was unfair and biased.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has posted on the Internet a database of more than 1,100 professors and scientists who consult for or have other affiliations with chemical, gas, oil, food, drug, and other companies. The web site also provides partial information about nonprofit and professional organizations that receive industry funding. The well-documented database is part of CSPI's Integrity in Science project and is designed for activists, journalists, policy makers, and others who are concerned about potential conflicts of interest.