VICE News, along with the Center for Public Integrity, has published a four-part investigative series, titled ‘Science for Sale,’ which examines industry-backed research as well as the extensive work consulting firms have done to manipulate data and alter how the science is perceived by the public and, to a greater extent, the courts.
While these four articles don’t cover the food industry specifically, there are many parallel issues, concerns, and takeaways.
Multi-billion dollar companies will go to great lengths to protect their profit, and — most importantly — they have the resources to do so. This first part in the series covers three tactics:
1) Hire consulting firms to analyze and publish their own research to protect a product.
“Gradient belongs to a breed of scientific consulting firms that defends the products of its corporate clients beyond credulity, even exhaustively studied substances whose dangers are not in doubt, such as asbestos, lead and arsenic.
Gradient’s scientists rarely acknowledge that a chemical poses a serious public health risk. The Center for Public Integrity analyzed 149 scientific articles and letters published by the firm’s most prolific principal scientists. 98 percent of the time, they found that the substance in question was harmless at levels to which people are typically exposed.”
2) Lobby against regulation and for defunding government agencies that could otherwise do independent research. This limits the data and research that could be used against the company.
3) Have firms tap into academia where research funding might be limited (related to the above tactic if defunding government research and public universities) and offer researchers funds and/or financially substantial contracts as advisers.
This is not to say every single corporate-funded research study is a lie. What is at play here is a much larger and covert strategy of obfuscation. We highly suggest you take the time to read this article thoroughly and learn more. As you do, think about parallels with the food industry (some of which — the sugar industry comes to mind — have been well-documented).