Spinning science for industry
According to Spinning Farmed Salmon:
- As the story broke the international media carried quotes from a variety of university based scientists, such as Dr Charles Santerre. He commented that he ‘strongly believe[s] that all the data we have today suggests that everyone should be eating more farmed salmon’. He also stated ‘I would calculate 6,000 people getting cancer over their lifetime, that’s an approximation, versus potentially saving the lives of 100,000 individuals every year’. These and other statements from Santerre were reported in a wide variety of media including The Times (London), The Daily Telegraph (London), Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh) and the Press and Journal (Aberdeen). Santerre was also quoted in the Los Angeles Times and on ABC News.
- Further scientific testimony came from Stephen Safe, Michael Gallo, and Philip Guzelian. Gallo said that, ‘as a professor of public health, I would never tell anyone to limit their intake of salmon.’ Philip Guzelian was quoted in an SQS media release and referred to as ‘Professor of Medicine and Head, Section of Medical Toxicology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center’. He criticised the findings of the study saying that the levels of PCBs found in salmon were ‘not known to be of a level harmful to humans.’
- Given their status as academic scientists these sources were likely to be treated as credible by the media and within hours the industry was citing their comments in the press as evidence of scientific dispute. But how independent were they?
- Santerre was described in the press as Purdue University’s ‘Associate Professor of Foods and Nutrition and an expert in the detection of PCB’s’. There was no reference in these reports to the fact that Santerre was being paid as a consultant by Salmon of the Americas. Santerre was taken on on 1 January 2004 specifically to combat the publicity on farmed Salmon. Nor did the press report that Gallo is a regular pro-corporate commentator. In the 1990s he was listed in an ‘expert’ directory circulated to journalists by the Chemical Manufacturer’s Association, the American Crop Protection Association and the American Plastics Council. The directory was issued following the release of Our Stolen Future – a publication that warned of the adverse health effects on humans of chemicals such as PCBs in the environment.
- Stephen Safe and Philip Guzelian also appeared in this directory. Safe ’believes a link between PCBs and cancer is mythical'. In 1997 he dismissed environmental concerns as ‘chemophobia’ fed by ‘paparazzi science’ in an editorial for the New England Journal of Medicine. His comments excited controversy when the editorial was published as he neglected to disclose grant receipts of $150,000from the Chemical Manufacturers Association.
- Like Santerre, Safe was described in media coverage by his academic title as ‘Professor and Director of the Centre for Environmental and Genetic Medicine, Institute of Bioscience and Technology, Texas’. PR Watch has identified Safe as a ‘usual suspect’ regularly appearing as a scientific expert ‘in a variety of anti-environmental, pro-industry forums’.
- The merry-go-round of scientists lending their voice to industry causes continues with Guzelian, previously a paid consultant to Philip Morris (worth $100,000 a year), who has appeared regularly in court as a ‘long term "expert-witness" on behalf of corporations with a history of dioxin and other toxic polluting emissions’. Guzelian is a member of the advisory council of the Atlantic Legal Foundation (ALF) with a ‘mission’ to ‘advance the rule of law by advocating limited, effective government, free enterprise, individual liberty and sound science’. ALF aims to ensure that ‘courts apply correct legal and scientific principles in those cases in which scientific and other expert testimony is offered’. ALF has received funding from Chevron, DuPont, Exxon Mobil, Pfizer, and Texaco and prominent conservative philanthropic foundations.
- Guzelian is also (along with Santerre and Safe) a ‘scientific adviser’ to the American Council on Science and Health, a corporate front group funded by corporations including Nestle, McDonalds, Coca Cola, Monsanto, Exxon Mobil, Pfizer and many others. ACSH exists to downplay risks associated with the products of its funders.
- David Miller, Spinning Farmed Salmon (part 2 of 3) Spinwatch 28 May 2008
- Lexis-Nexis search on ‘Farmed salmon and Santerre’ from 8th January 2004 to 20th January 2004.
- Medical, health and food safety experts advise reading past the headlines in the new news about farmed salmon. Salmon of the Americas, 10 January 2004 http://www.salmonoftheamericas.com/topic_01_04_press.html
- ‘Don’t jeopardise health by cutting out salmon respected US scientists direct vehement criticism at flawed salmon study’ SQS news release 9 January 2004, http://www.scottishsalmon.co.uk/mediacentre/releases/2004/090104.asp
- Edwards, R. ‘Scientists back toxic salmon study’, Sunday Herald, 18 January 2004. http://www.sundayherald.com/39358
- Dowie, M. ‘Gina Kolata What’s Wrong With the New York Times’s Science Reporting?’ The Nation 6 July 1998 http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/Gina-Kolata-Dowie6jul98.htm
- From an editorial written by Stephen Safe for the New England Journal of Medicine, 337, 1303-4 (1997) Cited in Frank van Kolfschooten ‘Conflicts of Interest (Financial) and Bias’ Annie Appleseed Project 28 March 2002 http://www.annieappleseedproject.org/conofinfinbi.html
- Reynolds, J. ‘Salmon still on the menu for top chefs’ The Scotsman , 10 January 2004. http://news.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=1080&id=31592004
- Stauber, J. and Rampton, S. ‘The Junkyard Dogs of Science’, PR Watch Vol 5. No. 4. 1998, http://www.prwatch.org/prwissues/1998Q4/dogs.html
- Tobacco documents online, http://tobaccodocuments.org/profiles/guzelian_philip.html
- ‘Public Health Expert Testifies to Unacceptable Health Risks from Utah Incinerator’ Chemical weapons working group, 31 July 1996 http://www.cwwg.org/PR_07.31.96TOCDF.html
- The Atlantic Legal Foundation http://www.atlanticlegal.org
- Sources for the preceding paragraph: ALF Annual Report, 1994; ALF, "Our Philosophy", 2004 cited in Exxon Secrets Fact sheet on the ALF, http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=16