Then I looked at the author: Paul Thacker.
Suddenly it was less of a surprise. Thacker is somewhat infamous in the science community. Though he once looked like he had a promising career, his rampant anti-science advocacy and ideological conflicts of interest quickly became evident and they derailed his journalistic credibility.
In 2015, all journalist Keith Kloor did was write about an industry-funded group called US Right To Know (USRTK) and their use of Freedom of Information Act requests in Nature and Thacker attacked him, essentially accusing him of being a shill for Monsanto, and got friends like journalism professor Charles Seife (who is beset by his own conflicts of interest) to join in. It turns out Thacker had been aggressively shopping those emails for USRTK, which led to multiple scientists and science journalists asking Thacker if his "consultancy" work included projects for US Right To Know or industry groups like it.
He refused to answer. Odd for a guy who claims to be all about transparency and revealing conflicts of interest and who even claims to have reshaped American culture with his work, single-handedly causing the Physician Payment Sunshine Act to be created by being on a government committee, etc. You know, exposing how all doctors are corrupt, all scientists are corrupt. You name a conspiracy and Paul is ready to believe it. But he won't answer questions about his own funding.
Others answered for him. University of Berkeley Professor Michael Eisen, evolutionary biologist, Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher, and co-founder of the esteemed open access science journal organization Public Library of Science (PLoS), noted that Thacker likely must have a relationship with USRTK since the group shared the FOIA’d emails with him. PLOS took down the editorial by Thacker and Seife for what they said was violating the spirit of the publication but others believe it was because of Thacker's unwillingness to disclose financial conflicts of interest. The anti-science group Natural Resources Defense Council lists Thacker as a consultant on their website.
Given all that, it is little surprise he is no longer even attempting to hide his partisanship, his hatred for scientists and people who write about it, or his conflicts of interest.
What is new (to me) is his rampant paranoia. In June of 2015 I gave a talk at the U.C. Davis (where Thacker got his Bachelor's degree) World Food Center for a group of science journalists, academics and whoever else attended. I don't really know who was in attendance, I was there for a day. No one paid me to attend, no one paid for me to attend. I may have gotten a free coffee, but because I gave a talk he dismisses this entire site, all 20,000 members, as "pro-GMO propaganda" and insists that there was some secret daisy chain of funding from agricultural corporations at the conference.
Well, I don't care. If a large food corporation, like Whole Foods, or a smaller one, like Monsanto, wants to buy an ad here, they can. We will cash that check. I will cash it from whoever funds him too.
Unlike Paul Thacker, I won't hide my funding sources. They will be right there in an ad on the sidebar. If he ever wants to learn science, or ethics, he is welcome to come by my office and I can give him a crash course.
Until then, you keep cashing your industry checks, Paul. Science Denier For Hire seems to be working for you.
Hank Campbell is the President of the American Council on Science and Health, a pro-science consumer advocacy group in New York City, and is the founder of Science 2.0. He does not receive any funding from Big Organic, though they have offered very large checks to anyone who can shut him up.
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