- The food industry has zeroed in on the academic community as a viable third-party approach to validating the industry's claims about GMOs on both sides through respected public figureheads, like professors and researchers, according to The New York Times.
- "There is no evidence that academic work was compromised, but the emails show how academics have shifted from researchers to actors in lobbying and corporate public relations campaigns," The New York Times reported, regarding its review of emails from academics involved in either side of the debate.
- "What industry does is when they find people saying things they like, they make it possible for your voice to be heard in more places and more loudly" Bruce M. Chassy, a professor emeritus at the University of Illinois who supports and received a Monsanto grant to promote "biotechnology outreach and education activities," told The New York Times.
The involvement of the academic community, both sides say, is a way to better explain research results and their implications regarding the safety of GMOs, or lack thereof, to consumers and other stakeholders, such as legislators and investors. This is particularly important as the Senate gears to pick up the GMO labeling debate this fall, when it will decide whether to follow the House in disallowing states to create individual mandatory GMO labeling requirements and instead enforce a national voluntary labeling standard across the food industry.
Some companies are moving toward offering non-GMO products, particularly the smaller organic food companies that have popped up over the last decade, as many believe that this is what the American public is asking for. However, that perception does not bode well for biotech companies like Monsanto, which is a key producer of the herbicides that the organic food industry and its associated academics say are unsafe. Monsanto thus has recruited its own set of academics and provided grants or funding for trips to enable those researchers and professors to promote the safety of GMOs.
PhD candidate Matt Teegarden and fellow food scientists are promoting the safety of many of these food chemicals through videos used to explain how to pronounce certain scary-sounding ingredient names, which they hope will clear up some of the negativity surrounding food science.
"It's really good that people are asking questions," Teegarden told The Washington Post. "It's just really awesome that people are curious about their food. But the problem is that a lot of the people providing answers are cultivating this culture of fear. We just want to be part of that dialogue. The more we can engage everyone — including the people who have negative views of science — the more balanced a conversation we can have."
Whether these academics actually believe in the causes they are fighting for is up for debate, but without them, food companies could be scrambling for other viable alternative to prove their opinion on biotechnology to consumers.