PR firm caught ghostwriting Amherst professor’s “anti-chemical” editorial

Professor Zoeller speaking at the 2016 Food Packaging Forum Workshop

Newly released emails give the public a behind the scenes look into how far extremist organizations will go to create global policies of “zero risk” and the banning of chemicals without scientific evidence.

The emails, reveal among other things, how R. Thomas Zoeller, a Biology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, allowed a public relations firm to ghostwrite an editorial he submitted to the Wall Street Journal he claimed as his own in 2014.

The 2014 submission attacked Julie Girling, a British Member of European Parliament for calling out an alliance of special interest groups and scientists for “waging an emotion-based campaign for ‘zero risk’.

For many years, Zoeller has been interviewed by journalists as an independent voice for articles in many leading news papers. But now, emails between Zoeller and the Science Communication Network (SCN) show the firm wrote at least one editorial submission.

When asked to release the version given to Zoeller and the one he submitted to the Wall Street Journal for comparison, the University responded that Professor Zoeller does not keep attachments. He appears to have edited it based on his reply, but the extent is unknown.

The Wall Street Journal does not appear to have published the editorial. This is fortunate for them, as Zoeller appeared to been under instructions not to disclose the source of his submission. SCN executive director Amy Kostant ordered him not to CC her on his “note to WSJ”.

The Science Communication Network has been used for decades by Fenton Communications as a “non-profit” front group to push their client’s messages including the demonization of biotechnology and agricultural tools.

In an email to myself, Professor Zoeller denied any contact with Fenton Communications.

Zoeller is not the only public professor collaborating with SCN. Included in their network is Berkeley professor Tyrone Hayes, arguably most well known for his questionable research regarding sexual abnormalities in frogs being caused by agricultural tools.

Another major researcher involved in this collaboration has been making headlines for his involvement in the IARC scandal involving the classification of glyphosate as a class 2A carcinogen. Invited to be be part of the Science Communication Network fellows program, Chris Portier has been revealed to be part of a scandal involving the editing out of papers demonstrating the safety of the popular herbicide.

Fenton Communications has been behind many campaigns over the last few decades to create fear among consumers. Largely behind the “apple scare” in the 1980s, Fenton proudly stated, “The [PR] campaign was designed so that revenue would flow back to NRDC from the public. The group sold a book about pesticides through a 900 number on the ‘Donahue’ show and to date 90,000 copies have been sold.”

Many of their public professors are in the media on a fairly regular basis, either “writing” opinion pieces or being interviewed by journalists failing to disclose their connections to a public relations firm.

It is unknown what percentage of anti-science editorials being written are in fact just copied verbatim from the SCN.

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