Roger Bate

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Roger Bate is an economist who in 1993 founded the Environment Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a London-based free-market think tank. He later became the co-director with Julian Morris of the IEA's Environment and Technology Programme and as of 2009 is still a senior fellow of the IEA.

He is a fellow of the Julian Morris-directed International Policy Network whose Washington address is that of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where Bate is an adjunct fellow.

Bate is also the former executive director of the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF) which he co-founded in 1994.

Roger Bate is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a very influential right-wing US think tank which promotes denialist positions on climate change, and was head of the environmental unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs(IEA) until 2000. He also sits on the advisory board of US CFACT, the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow[1], a free-market group focused on environment and consumer issues which has received over $500,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998.[2]

Bogus claims on organics

Bate is the co-author, with Julian Morris, of Fearing Food: Risk, Health and Environment. The IEA website comments: 'In the latest ESEF book, Fearing Food, new agricultural and food technologies, including genetic engineering, are shown to be generally beneficial both to health and to the environment.' Contributors to the book include Michael Wilson, John Hillman and Dennis Avery.

Bate and Morris drew on Avery's bogus E. coli claims in a publicity stunt to launch their book. This involved telling people that:

according to the United States Centers for Disease Control, people who eat the products of...[organic agriculture] are eight times more likely to contract the strain of E-coli that killed 21 people in Lanarkshire in 1997[3].

In a related press release, published via the IEA, "Londoners demand regulation of potentially deadly organic food", Bate and Morris wrote:

organic food may well present a danger to children, the elderly and the sick... such people should be discouraged from eating so-called 'organic' or 'natural' foods.[4]

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has never made any such claim. In response to the furore that followed Bate and Morris's slur on organics, CDC issued the following statement:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…has not conducted any study that compares or quantitates the specific risk for infection with Escherichia coli O157:H7 and eating either conventionally grown or organic/natural foods. CDC recommends that growers practice safe and hygienic methods for producing food products, and that consumers, likewise, practice food safety within their homes (e.g., thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables).[5]

European Science and Environment Forum and Big Tobacco

Bate directed and presented the BBC2 Counterblast programme, "Organic Food: The Modern Myth" (BBC2, 31 Jan 2000), in his role as director of the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF).

In its mission statement on its original website, the ESEF described itself as "a non-partisan group of scientists"[6] The only extant web archived version of the website has the modified wording, "The European Science and Environment Forum is an independent, non-profit-making alliance of scientists whose aim is to ensure that environmental debates are properly aired, and that decisions which are taken, and action that is proposed, are founded on sound scientific principles."

Significantly, ESEF's archived website claims, "To maintain its independence and impartiality, the ESEF does not accept outside funding from whatever source, the only income it receives is from the sale of its publications."[7]

However, a paper published in The Lancet by Elisa K Ong and Stanton A Glantz entitled, "Tobacco industry efforts subverting International Agency for Research on Cancer’s second-hand smoke study", suggests that the ESEF was established as a front group by the tobacco giant Philip Morris ("PM") and that funding was sought for this purpose by Roger Bate:

From 1993 to 1994, PM and public relations firm APCO Associates worked to launch The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), a “grassroots” organisation advocating “sound science” in policy decision making. PM wanted a similar organisation in Europe at the end of 1994, with potentially sympathetic European scientists to a conference hosted by TASSC. However, Burson-Marsteller research indicated that potential European members wanted independence from any corporate sponsors; two people specifically mentioned PM as typical of questionable corporate sponsors. It appears that the outcome was the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), established in 1996,44 whose executive director sought funding from the tobacco companies.[8]

Note that this passage from The Lancet does not establish a definitive money trail from Philip Morris to ESEF. But Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber have no doubt that ESEF was acting under instructions from Big Tobacco. In their article, "How Big Tobacco Helped Create 'the Junkman'", Rampton and Stauber state:

as Big Tobacco's European front organization, ESEF's task was to smuggle tobacco advocacy into a larger bundle of "sound science" issues, including "restrictions on the use of biotechnology".[9].

A direct connection between the tobacco industry and ESEF was also drawn in a Prospect article by John Quiggin and Tim Lambert. Quiggin and Lambert stated:

Tobacco companies created a European version of TASSC, the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), led by Roger Bate, another tobacco lobbyist.[10]

Bate wrote a letter to Prospect claiming that the ESEF had no connection with the tobacco industry. Specifically, he stated, "the tobacco industry never established the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF). That allegation was addressed in The Lancet in 2000."[11]

But Andrew Leonard, in an article for Salon.com, pointed out that:

how The Lancet dealt with the "allegation" that ESEF was a tobacco industry front turns out to be nothing more than a letter to The Lancet written by ESEF's medical demographer, Lorraine Mooney, asserting that "ESEF was formed in 1994 in response to the debate on climate change" and that "No funding is tied to specific projects and ESEF and its members always have full editorial control".[12]

The Lancet, understandably, published no retraction or correction of its original story.[13]

Shortly after the Philip Morris revelations, in 2001 Bate suddenly resigned as director of ESEF and its website at www.esef.org was taken down.

Bate contributed a number of articles to the magazine Living Marxism. Both the International Policy Network and ESEF cooperate regularly with members of the Living Marxism network.

Notes

  1. FACTSHEET: CFACT - COMMITTEE FOR A CONSTRUCTIVE TOMORROW, CFACT exxonsecrets.org, Accessed 15 February 2011
  2. Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)Concealing their sources - who funds Europe's climate change deniers?, CEO Report p.4,Accessed 11 February 2011
  3. "Unsavoury facts about organic food: Acid test", The Daily Telegraph, August 16, 1999).
  4. "Londoners demand regulation of potentially deadly organic food", press release, Institute of Economic Affairs, 1999.
  5. Cited in "E. coli facts", Organic Trade Association website, accessed January 2009.
  6. This version of the web page had expired from web archives as of January 2009.
  7. "Mission Statement", archived version of ESEF website, accessed January 2009
  8. Elisa K Ong and Stanton A Glantz, "[www.tobaccoscam.ucsf.edu/pdf/5.1.2b-Ong&GlantzIARC.pdf Tobacco industry efforts subverting International Agency for Research on Cancer’s second-hand smoke study]", The Lancet, Vol. 355, April 8, 2000, p. 1256.
  9. Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, "How Big Tobacco Helped Create 'the Junkman'", PR Watch, Third Quarter, 2000, Vol. 7, No. 3, accessed January 2009
  10. John Quiggin and Tim Lambert, "Rehabilitating Carson: Why do some people continue to hold Rachel Carson responsible for millions of malaria deaths?", Prospect magazine, No. 146, May 2008
  11. Roger Bate, "Contra John Quiggin and Tim Lambert, DDT is usually the most cost-effective anti-malaria treatment, and remains scandalously underused", Prospect magazine, No. 146, May 2008
  12. Andrew Leonard, "Following the junk science money trail: One last installment in the saga of Big Tobacco and the war on science", Salon.com, 5 June 2008.
  13. Andrew Leonard, "Following the junk science money trail: One last installment in the saga of Big Tobacco and the war on science", Salon.com, 5 June 2008.
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