By Rebekah Wilce on July 25, 2014

The American Council on Science and Health (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, but a new review of its funding sources by The Progressive Inc.'s Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reveals that some of the hands that feed the group that bashes people concerned about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and chemicals used in factory farming, for example, are 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.

ACSH Spins GMOs, Fracking, E-Cigarettes, and More

In the last year, ACSH has published reports calling fracking "a safe and efficient path to energy independence," despite the hazardous chemical cocktail used in hydraulic fracturing, which spoils millions of gallons of fresh drinking water each year. ACSH's spin also ignores the growing amount of "natural gas" fracked in the U.S. that is exported to foreign countries -- as CMD began documenting in 2010 (and has been at the forefront of exposing the PR deception of national security claims like ACSH's). Now, the New York Times and other outlets are writing about the strong push by energy companies like Exxon for large quantities of liquid natural gas from fracking to be exported to Russia and elsewhere rather than kept for domestic use.

ACSH has also 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.

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 sinced received funding from Altria and at least one manufacturer of electronic cigarette maker 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.

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, 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.

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
3M $30,000   2012[21]
Bodman Foundation $90,000 investment banking 2007-2012[22][23][24][25][21]
Altria $25,000   2012[21]
American Petroleum Institute $37,500 petroleum industry 2012[21][8]
Amvac Chemical Corporation $5,000   2012[21]
Armstrong Foundation $15,000   2003-2012[8]
Bayer CropScience $30,000   2012[21]
Bradley Foundation, Lynde and Harry $270,000 factory automation equipment manufacturer Allen-Bradley 2004-2012[8]
Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation $300,000   2002-2012[26][27][28][29][30][31][32][33][21]
Chevron $18,500 oil 2012[21]
Coca-Cola $50,000   2012[21]
CropLife America $25,000 pesticide industry 2004[34]
Distilled Spirits Council of the United States $30,000   2008-2012[35][36][37]
Dodge Jones Foundation $25,500 railroad and minerals 2003,[38] 2010[39]
Donors Capital Fund $89,500 anonymous "donor directed" fund 2008-2011[40][8]
DonorsTrust $534,574.62 anonymous "donor directed" fund 2005-2011[40][8]
Dr. Pepper/Snapple $5,000   2012[21]
Earhart Foundation $212,000   2002-2009[8]
Ethox Chemicals $2,000   2012[21]
ExxonMobil $240,000 petroleum 2000-2012[8][21][41]
Fragrance Materials Association of the United States, Inc. $20,000   2011[42]
Friedmann, Philip M. Family Charitable Trust $11,900 Recycled Paper Greetings company 2003-2012[43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50][51]
GE Foundation $396,000 General Electric (including a small amount of donations matching employees') 2003-2012[52][53][54][55][56][57][58][59]
Gilder Foundation $5,000 stockbroker Richard Gilder 2005[8]
International Formula Council $10,000   2012[21]
JM Foundation $15,000 Borden Milk Company 1997[8]
Kayser Family Foundation $2,500   2006-2009[60][61][62][63]
Kirby, F.M. Foundation $307,000 Woolworth and Alleghany Companies 1998-2012[8]
Koch, David H. Foundation $6,000 Koch Industries 1986-1987[8][64]
Olin Foundation, John M. $915,500 Olin Corporation chemical 1985-2004 (foundation closed in 2005)[8]
Lambe, Claude R. Foundation $95,000 Koch Industries 2005-2008 (also contributed $30,000 in 2006 that was returned to the foundation in 2009)[65][66][67][68][69][8][64]
McDonald's $30,000   2012[21]
Nolan, David P. Foundation $250   2010[70]
Opportunity Foundation $2,000   2009-2012[8]
Personal Care Products Council $20,000 personal care products (cosmetics, toiletries, fragrances, etc.) industry 2011-2002[71][72][21]
PhRMA $160,000 pharmaceutical industry 2008-2010[8]
Procter and Gamble $6,000   2012[21]
Randolph Foundation $73,920 Vicks chemical company 2006[8]
Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation $27,500 oil 1998-2001[8]
Sarah Scaife Foundation $205,000 Mellon industrial, oil, aluminum and banking 1985-1991[8]
Searle Freedom Trust $100,000 pharmaceuticals 2007[8]
Stare Fund $7,500   2012[21]
Syngenta $22,500   2012[21]
Tepper Family Foundation $500   2013[73][8]
Texmark Chemicals (David Smith) $5,000   2012[21]
The Safe Cig $4,100 electronic cigarette manufacturer 2012[21]
Tober, Barbara and Donald Foundation $23,500   2007-2012[74][75][76][77][78][79]
Triad Foundation $35,000 ("Gen/fracking") foundation endowed by media businessman Roy H. Park, formed in 2003 as a spin-off of the Park Foundation 2012[21]

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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