Statement on Kevin Folta and Conflicts of Interest

Image of Kevin Folta from his UF webpage.
Professor Kevin Folta of the University of Florida (UF) is a well-known science communicator in the subject of agricultural biotechnology. He is a plant scientist who has researched how plants react to light, and he started blogging about a variety of topics in 2008. Over time, Kevin gained popularity as a speaker on biotechnology. He launched a podcast called Talking Biotech in 2015. In 2016, the Council on Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) selected Kevin to receive a Borlaug CAST Communication Award.
We, Karl Haro von Mogel and Anastasia Bodnar, co-founders of Biology Fortified, Inc. (BFI), respected Kevin so much that we invited him to become a member of our Board of Directors in 2015, which he graciously accepted. We had already begun to collaborate with him in 2014 when Karl invited Kevin to serve as a co-PI on the GMO Corn Experiment, a crowd-funded citizen science experiment run by BFI to test a popular claim about GMOs. Sadly, the time has come for BFI and its related projects to sever all ties with Kevin Folta.

Transparency issues

Over the years, Kevin has repeatedly denied taking funding from industry. Following articles discussing undisclosed industry funding for Kevin’s outreach, Karl advised Kevin on multiple occasions to be more forthright with his disclosures of potential conflicts of interest (COI), and we expected that he would follow through with his promises of transparency. Kevin has since been open about who has donated, but it is not clear how donated funds are spent. He promised to update a spreadsheet of his outreach activities bimonthly (later changed to quarterly), but as of today he is over a year late: the last entry was 5 August 2017.
There were recent allegations, which we initially did not believe, that Kevin was being paid as a consultant by Bayer. This would present a conflict of interest for his public outreach work, including his involvement with BFI. Karl asked Kevin about this issue via email, and Kevin denied having a COI: “I was not working for Bayer.” We suspected he was withholding information, so Anastasia submitted an anonymous records request to UF. She submitted the request anonymously because Kevin has already shown his willingness to go on the offense, most notably in a lawsuit against The New York Times.
Anastasia’s initial request was for “All records to, from, and about Kevin Folta regarding all financial disclosures, disclosures of outside activities, and conflicts of interest, including the dates that they were disclosed.” UF asked for clarification, so Anastasia clarified, “Please provide copies of all “Disclosure of Outside Activities and Financial Interests” forms for Kevin Folta.” This was the only records request that either of us made, and it was fulfilled at the end of July.

Kevin Folta consulted for a law firm working for Bayer

Screenshot of Kevin Folta's disclosure form showing he checked "consultant" as the type of work.The records produced by UF show that Kevin disclosed twice to UF (11 May 2017 and 10 April 2018) that he was serving as a consultant and expert witness for law firm Clifford Chance, in an arbitration between Bayer Crop Science and Aventis Pharma. Clifford Chance advises and represents Bayer (e.g., 1, 2, 3). Kevin writes that he was to be paid $600/hour for approximately 120 hours of work.
In his disclosure forms, Kevin both declares that this is consulting and says that it is not. Since submitting the first disclosure form, Kevin has declared publicly and privately that the work was not consulting, and that he has never profited from working with industry (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4).
Even though he disclosed to UF in May 2017, Kevin’s UF webpage stated on 2 February 2018: “Consulting To date, Folta has declined opportunities for paid consulting and has performed such work at no charge as part of his job”. Kevin’s lab funding page still states that he has done no paid consulting, but has since added: “Expert Witness — In May 2018 Folta provided expertise in analysis of data for a law firm. The work was done off of university hours, on approved vacation time, and is not related to his job duties or research at the University of Florida. He was compensated for his time.” This may seem like public disclosure, but the public cannot evaluate a potential COI when no information is provided about the parties involved or the type of work conducted.
The distinction between consulting and being an expert witness, or of working for a law firm rather than for the company they represent are merely semantics. Whether it is called “consulting” or not, or whether working for Bayer or Bayer’s legal representatives, it is still a significant conflict of interest that should have been disclosed.

Conflicts of interest matter

As stated in the Biofortified Blog post, Credibility is our currency: “A COI is a situation in which a person has multiple competing interests, financial or other, that have the potential to compromise or bias their judgment or objectivity. COIs exist whether or not decisions are affected. COIs merely recognize the potential for wrongdoing based on conflicting motivations.”
Professional relationships with industry, financial or otherwise, can provide value to society. Every professional has the right to take on these additional responsibilities, in accordance with the ethics and disclosure policies of their employer and other organizations they work with. Activities such as consulting and serving as an expert witness can provide important experience to scientists and needed information for industry. However, these matters must be fully disclosed to their institutions, organizations, and research teams to safeguard the integrity of their work. Further, when scientists take on a strong public-facing role, disclosure becomes even more important to maintaining the public’s trust.
Science communication needs more support from all sources, including industry. However, science communication requires both respect and trust, and conflicts of interest decrease trust. Increased transparency is needed all around.
Kevin continues to jeopardize science communication efforts with his undisclosed COI. Many projects could be impacted, including the GMO Corn Experiment, the Talking Biotech podcast, a newly-awarded USDA grant to study consumers’ attitudes of biotechnology, The Plant Cell journal where Kevin serves as a features editor, and many others. We encourage Kevin to acknowledge the potential COI on his various projects as appropriate, and issue an apology to colleagues and fans who he misled.

Biology Fortified moving forward

Consulting on this arbitration represents a conflict with BFI’s writing and reporting on issues related to biotechnology, and should have been disclosed. The consultation work involved issues related to “contamination” through cross-pollination, a topic that we periodically write about. We have reviewed all correspondence with Kevin during this period to ensure he did not provide any input or advice that was related to his outside work or the parties involved. The GMO Corn Experiment was the only matter that was related since it involved a product developed by Monsanto, which is now owned by Bayer.
We asked Kevin to step down from the BFI Board in March of 2018 due to his lack of time to work on BFI-related projects, and he did so on April 2nd. Kevin has also been removed from the GMO Corn Experiment, and we will re-do any work that he was involved with to avoid any potential conflict of interest, whether real or perceived.
An update about the GMO Corn Experiment has been posted separately. Biology Fortified is currently seeking prospective board members who exemplify the kind of ethical leadership that the scientific community and the public need. Ideal board members would be willing and able to help us expand our activities in providing scientific expertise, training future science communicators, and developing resources on issues in food and agriculture.
Since our site was first launched in October 2008, we’ve been driven by our passion for science, our desire to help the public understand biotechnology, and a curiosity to learn about the far-reaching impacts of our field. We recognize that our chosen field also at times has political implications, which means that we and other scientists who speak out on this subject have an obligation to be extra transparent. The next generation of scientists and science communicators need to know how to form appropriate professional relationships with industry and other interested parties so their work can be well-received and contribute to the public good. We will continue to do our part to make this community stronger.
What will you do to help make science communication more transparent, more effective, more resilient? Consider joining us as an author, volunteer, or donor to help us continue our mission.


Text from the Disclosure Forms

Kevin submitted the first disclosure form on 11 May 2017, with the description of work stating:

“I will serve as a consultant in an arbitration hearing in Geneva, Switzerland. Two large companies are in dispute over a genetic contamination incidents that happened years ago, leading to substantial losses. My role will be to provide scientific evaluation of evidence that helps define a timeline of the contamination and feasibility of mechanisms. The work is fascinating as it has so far been of great value to learn how companies deal with these kinds of issues around intellectual property. Thus far I have only been contacted by Clifford Chance law firm, and I spoke with one of the other experts in the arbitration. I am a good fit for this job.”

In an attached letter to UF dated 11 May 2017, Kevin writes:

“I have been requested to serve as a compensated expert in an arbitration hearing between two parties. This work is not formally consultation work, it is more work as a professional witness, although there is no trial. The work is beyond my normal job at the University of Florida. My services have been requested by Clifford Chance, a law firm involved in the mediation, and I am uniquely positioned to assess the evidence of cultural and genetic practices of the parties involved to help inform a fair and reasonable decision through arbitration. I have filed the appropriate paperwork for outside work, and guarantee that this will all be performed beyond the normal work time in my jobs as Professor and Chair here at the University of Florida. I’m asking for approval to pursue this work.”

Kevin submitted a second disclosure form on 10 April 2018, with the description of work stating:

“I have been asked to provide expert witness testimony for an upcoming arbitration hearing in May 2018. I have been retained by a law firm to provide this service. The activities benefit me by requiring me to deeply study pollination in a cereal crop, and to think about application of molecular markers in the process of tracking off-target gene flow. These topics may have eventual impacts at UF/IFAS.”

In an attached letter to UF dated 10 April 2018, Kevin writes:

“I have been providing service as a scientific expert in an ongoing arbitration hearing working for the law firm of Clifford Chance. I have performed all work on my own time, or have used vacation time when travel was necessary. The final phase of this hearing will be conducted in Frankfort, Germany, May 14-25, 2018. I will use vacation time to participate. To satisfy part 2(c) of this form, the work is to provide my expert evaluation of evidence in a case between Bayer Cropscience and Aventis Pharma. I am being compensated at $600/hour. The work has no overlap with duties at the University of Florida / IFAS, as stated on the attached form. While Bayer Cropscience sponsors work in my laboratory, that project was initiated long before the consultancy, and the two have no overlap, even remotely. I fully expect to be available, accessible, and engaged with university work for the duration of this “vacation”.”

Written by Biofortified Board

Our mission is to enhance public discussion of biotechnology and other issues in food and agriculture through science-based resources and outreach.

269 comments

  1. I am sorry to read this and hope that eventually fences can be mended. Reading this saddened me. I hope all parties are successful in their goals. I do have a suggestion. You have a viable board candidate in your back yard. He has experience with corn breeding of traditional and GE. He also has the teaching ability, patience, and tact that I lack. He would also make a good guest author. Please contact me if interested.

  2. Do elaborate please
    “The next generation of scientists and science communicators need to know
    how to form appropriate professional relationships with industry and
    other interested parties so their work can be well-received and
    contribute to the public good.”
    Who decides this “appropriate”?

  3. Who decides what is an appropriate relationship between academics and industry?
    There is no simple answer here. We need to look towards ethics statements from scientific societies and universities, government policies on outside activities, the science communication literature especially research on trust, consumer groups, and more.
    I do know for sure that keeping potential COI secret is not the right answer. Even in situations such as a pending legal matter, we can still acknowledge that a COI exists to our collaborators without giving details that can not legally be divulged.

    1. And indeed, if the legal matter was related to parties tied to the project, the proper thing to do if you cannot disclose the details of the legal matter is to voluntarily remove yourself from the conflicting project.

        1. No, I can’t Rob. But I expect a certain degree of respect from my collaborators to consider my choice of working with them if they are doing something that will harm our work together to inform me so I can make a decision, and not provide false information when I ask about it.

    2. Well I’ll be happy to take this on. I was contractually bound to not disclose details of this outside, non-university work. I still will not. Period.
      Shame on you Anastasia and shame on Karl. This was not consulting. Period. It says that right in the docs that you have in your hand and chose NOT to put on the page. I hope the community sees what this really is. Shame. Shame.
      And stop sending bogus claims to my university and to my family attorneys. I’ll make those public too if you want to go there.
      READ THIS EVERYBODY.
      http://kfolta.blogspot.com/2018/08/biofortified-write-first-ask-questions.html

      1. We put all of the evidence related to this COI right in this post: “In his disclosure forms, Kevin both declares that this is consulting and says that it is not.”

        1. Because the is no box for “analyze data”, Anastasia. I picked the thing that was closest possibility back when the job was mentioned, I didn’t even know exactly what I’d be doing. You just royally screwed up. You did exactly what the bad guys do– get the docs, interpret as you wish. The typed doc submitted the SAME DAY said “This is not consulting” and you conveniently ignore that.
          This will not end well for you. It was not consulting, it was a confidential, private matter between two sets of attorneys that need professional guidance on thinking about some scientific data. That’s it. It is confidential, and I cannot break that agreement.
          Shame on you. Thanks for further impugning my integrity and simultaneously destroying your own.

        2. Kevin’s most recent disclosure on April 10 clearly shows that he
          described it as “consultancy”. As we pointed out, this debate over
          whether to call it consultancy or not is moot. It was already addressed
          in our article and does not change any material facts about it being a
          conflict.

          1. I don’t care what it was described as. What matter is what is WAS. It was a Subject Matter Expert in a private arbitration, outside of my work, on my own time, for a law firm. Glad you feel that my private life is your business. You were the subject of at least a dozen incoming phone calls today. You’re done. People are pissed, and you never should have done this. It was a classless move, especially when I wrote so many letters for you and did so much career advising. You never tried to understand, you just Thackered me.

          2. Correction: As far as I can tell here it was paid by attorneys. They can have more than one employer.

          3. except he disclosed to UF that the matter was an arbitration for Bayer. That means Bayer was the client and the client pays the bills including the costs of any experts.

          4. But compensation came from the attorneys themselves, right? Or am I mistaken on that point? The dispute was between unnamed parties that may not have been Bayer interests.

          5. Hi Brian, attorneys work on behalf of their clients. The money came from the law firm’s client. The consulting / expert witness work was done for the client, even if it was arranged by the law firm.

          6. Hi Solar,
            There seem to be a few different questions in there, but I think it is good because a lot of people don’t seem to know how law firms work and what it means to be a client of a firm.
            1) “The dispute was between unnamed parties that may nor have been Bayer interests” In his disclosure to UF, Folta notes that is work is: “expert evaluation of evidence in a case between Bayer Cropscience and Aventis Pharma” So he admits the work is related to that particular matter. Moreover, as I understand it, Clifford Chance represents Bayer. Generally, a firm can’t represent both sides of a dispute (becuase, ethics).
            2) “Compensation came from attorneys themselves”
            When a company (or person) hires a law firm they become a client of that firm. That imposes a number of ethical obligations such as a duty of loyalty to the client as well as strict rules on what client funds are used to pay for. A firm is not going to hire an expert for a client out of their own money, but instead need to pass that on to a client. Since they have an ethical duty not to co-mingle client funds, the money has to come from the specific client related to the matter (Bayer).
            In practical terms, this means that while Clifford Chance is writing checks for disbursements, they are invoicing Bayer with the costs associated with all of their actions on behalf of the client. Since I doubt they are working pro bono, what that usually means is passing invoices from third parties onto the client whether it be for experts for for plane tickets to visit witnesses.
            Further, because of that duty of loyalty, they can’t hire an expert they know to be adverse to their client’s position (a conflict of interest). I can almost guarantee that someone in Bayer’s legal department had to ok the hiring of Folta, because you have to get the client’s ok on things. They are the decision makers in response to the lawyers recommendations. If they proposed some anti-GMO expert for example, Bayer would have certainly had the right to veto them. If the results of the expert analysis are not to Bayer’s liking, the report will be nixed and a new expert found to try again.

      2. You don’t know when to quit.
        Maybe if you changed your identity you could attract more Monsanto/Bayer money.
        Sooner or later you will be widely known as a fraud, parrot for the industry that owns you.

  4. Why would you not disclose this? Money from law firms seems to be perfectly acceptable, even to anti-GMO folks. I was just reading Benbrook’s disclosure on a paper:

    Charles M. Benbrook declares that he has no conflict of interest. No external funding was received to support the writing of this paper. CMB has served as an expert witness in litigation involving pesticides and the labeling of foods derived from GE crops.

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs40572-018-0207-y
    Seems simple enough, with no consequences.

  5. And suprise suprise 3 fo the 4 first comments are from known Big GMO operatives who do not disclose their funding (although it is obvious).

  6. The next generation of scientists and science communicators need to know how to form appropriate professional relationships with industry and other interested parties so their work can be well-received and contribute to the public good. We will continue to do our part to make this community stronger.

    While I agree with this sentiment, I also think it is going to be fraught with difficulties for many communicators. Given the heat, vitriol and character assassination that goes on in the GM/glyphosate debates, the temptation is going to be to say that no relationship is the appropriate relationship. This would be wrong.
    I personally felt it was completely wrong for Kevin Folta to state he was receiving no research funding from industry, when Monsanto was supporting his outreach efforts. I have told Kevin so on his blog and know that he doesn’t exactly agree with my point of view. The problem is was that it opened Kevin up to attacks of being dishonest and that has led to where we are. That is not to say that Kevin should not have accepted the funds from Monsanto. Merely that he needed to be more circumspect about the claims of distance from industry.
    I have spent my career dealing with all the players in the sector and can state that I get to change more minds within industry by being in discussion with them, than I do by shouting from the sidelines. But then I have always been clear that there has been some research funding from the chemical industry – from just about every one of the major players and several of the minor players. However, I am also clear that this pales in comparison with the research funding from farmers. Being up front about the associations has of course led to loud accusations of being a shill from internet commentators, but I don’t care about that. What I care about is what the farmers who I am doing research for think, and they want me to play this role, because they see me as impartial and helping to keep industry honest.
    Legal consultancies are a really difficult issue, because they come with non-disclosure agreements. So when I do consult to legal firms, I can’t tell anyone exactly what the case is about without permission. There have been times when I have been retained, not to provide an expert report, but to provide background information to the legal team, which created a whole new layer of complication over disclosure.
    The real issue around this whole area of possible COI is that if you really do have relatively rare expertise, then everyone wants to access that. Managing this is best done by being as open as possible about what you are doing and for whom. And in the end, we all need to recognise that internet trolls are not our audience and we don’t have to pander to them.

    1. Thank you Chris for this comment. I very much agree that there is needless negativity toward even the thought of working with industry. I’ve gotten criticized by people for even EMAILING them to find out information about something! Good disclosure is the way to go, and it lets everyone know what your interests, ties, and positions are, and that lets them evaluate your work. Kevin had a Bayer grant in his lab which was disclosed on his website and so not a problem. We were irked by not getting a notice from him about it and hearing about it on Twitter, but this went way beyond that. I asked direct questions and I was evaded repeatedly. I was told that he could not tell me anything about it.
      Once we had the documents, there was no point to ask any further questions because he had said that he could not say anything about it. Still today, no clarification has been made or false statement made by us as been pointed out, at least that I can find. In the end, this contract was voluntarily entered into, and saying that he could not tell us about it is no excuse because it was entirely his choice to sign onto it.

      1. That’s right, I could not tell you the details in response to your demanding emails. I’m still laughing at the Knights of Transparency filing anonymous FOIA requests!
        Just because I can’t tell you the answers, in emails, to pointy questions you are asking, did not mean that the best strategy was to go nuclear. Frankly it looks really bad for you and BFI. You’ve shown that rather than resolve a conflict by a conference call or some other civil resolution that you are kind of person that goes for the jugular. I’d never hire you. You’re a liability in the workplace and someone that would cause tremendous HR problems with your “I’m gonna tell on you or shame you” approach.
        I emailed you all the time and you didn’t respond. When I asked you to sit down and talk at ASPB in person, you turned me into the conference organizers for violating the Code of Conduct! You felt talking was harassment.
        You and Anastsia then cc my Department Chair and Dean on the only correspondence you send to me, and that looks really petty too. If you have a problem with me, talk to me. Put down the plushie and pick up a phone. Sort it out. Be a damn adult for once.
        This is all unfortunate because in terms of public understanding of biotech and ag technologies, you just took us both out The good news is that communication in biotech space is a hobby. I have a lab, students, and statewide clientele that need my attention, and I’ll be glad to exit this backstabbing forum, no problem.

        1. Really Kevin? Why would you expect to be believable?
          Well, Eric says he believes you, but he is an industry compensated writer.

  7. I think that the whole idea that there is a problem with the idea that public researchers at Land Grant Universities are doing something wrong when they have dealings with the private companies that serve the same farmers. If I’m a Florida grower I want my tax supported researchers making any connections they can that might benefit my business. I’ve written before that there is a very intentional private/public partnership about ag and that should not be an issue. I would like to see tax supported folks like Kevin ever more engaged with the private sector in ways that are good for farmers.

    1. Perhaps preceded by public announcements regarding all participants along with each person/organizations contribution or responsibility. Then when accusations are made. The response is simple. “”Oh, cut the crap. we announced all that 2 months ago””

      1. And when you have a confidential agreement signed? The wolrd is NOT black and white and science is definitely not. When we reduce ourselves to that level the world loses.

        1. Yes, there would always be some exceptions. I was speaking of a general policy. With this type of work I can’t think of a general policy that would work. I had in mind the outreach grant and just research in general. How would your university handle a confidential analysis job like this?

    2. Bayer sponsored my research for a year (not renewing– the are unsure of their direction). If connections to companies are the kiss of death, Karl and Anastasia should have went after that. Instead they follow the lead of GM Watch, citing hacked or stolen docs or other false information. This is a major problem. I was never a consultant for Bayer. I analyzed some data for a handful of attorneys that were working through a private matter between two parties. Period. It was right up my alley and I think helped the process.

      1. You were exposed.
        Further evidence is your pathetic censoring any disagreement with the totally misleading “Genetic Literacy Project” postings.
        Apparently you haven’t learned from the tea leaves.
        Bayer bought you when they bought Monsanto. Bayer is unsure about their further direction because they don’t have a sure way of compensating you, without being exposed further than they already are.

    3. I agree that public-private partnerships are important, and necessary – I said so in this post. The issue is when someone claims again and again that they have not ever and will not ever work for industry, and then it turns out… they did. I understand there was likely a non-disclosure agreement. As fellow board members and as collaborators on a scientific research project, we deserved some small amount of information, as was provided to UF. Or if that was not possible, simply saying “hey I’m sorry but I have a COI and I’d better step away from this project.” It should have been easy.

      1. The project initiated and should have been completed long before this thing even started Anastasia. It has been the continual dragging of heels on this Corn Project that caused the overlap with this outside confidential work. I had significant writing done on that thing more than a year ago. I had a research grant from Bayer, and that didn’t phase anyone! So I should drop out of a project that I was instrumental in because you and Karl and so damn slow at producing an outcome? Not how it works. I did the work, I should get credit for doing the work.

  8. I wanted to emphasize a point that seems to be getting lost. Kevin did add a note about being an expert witness on his website, but it appeared after 2 Feb 2018, nearly a year after he disclosed to the university on 11 May 2017. During that intervening year, he was on the board of BFI and a collaborator on a research project. Yet he gave no disclosure to his collaborators and friends. Not reporting a COI is research misconduct. If we had published without disclosing, we would have commited research misconduct.

    1. Wrong again. It was on my website much before that time, in one form or another. Remember, I may have signed the university paperwork to initiate the work in May 2017, but you ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA of when I actually did it or what I did. You don’t know, and you never will because I will keep my word on confidentiality in this non-university, private matter. The statement about engaging expert witness work is on my website and a link to that page is in the back of every one of my research reports, as are the links to everything I do.

    2. The internet archive aka wayback machine unfortunately did not index the Folta Lab website often. But the 2 Feb 2018 indexing clearly shows no disclosure. We don’t know exactly when the page was updated, but it was after 2 Feb 2018.
      Here’s 2 Feb 2018 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9e38bdbeb85fdb21e869514f79fa2a574fa31cec3249137a7b8d48a262b2da8f.png
      Here’s the current page (note all the additions)
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e0df83ecfed07ce0563e70b83ea63764fe3435ec3b92a4e9b9c40553b17896db.png

      1. That’s about when I started to log hours, and at that point I was not paid a penny. Keep fishing. You were wrong to do this. It hurts everyone involved. For what? A private matter that you’ll never know the results of? That does not affect my research or have anything to do with it? That has zero impact on the literature? This was an old private dispute between two parties and they wanted to put a lid on it. Done.

  9. This saddens me, as an informed consumer that is active in debunking misinformation it seems that thee pro biotech folks need to be ‘more Catholic than the Pope” There is little room for what is reasonable in the discussion with the anti-bio tech folks They are quick to use any possible COI to discredit any one or any group I am not sure that they would not try to discredit me because my husband graduated from ST Louis U where there is a Monsanto building
    It does put folks like Kevin in a very hard place and that is a shame
    I am afraid that at this time transparency of the most pure kind is needed
    It will greatly limit the educated voices supporting bio tech
    It may not be faire to folks in research but it seems that it is the world we are lifing in right now

    1. Cairenn, it does put us in a pickle. Monday (Labor Day) I have a conference call with an LED light company to discuss their products and our new approaches. They made me sign a non-disclosure agreement, which I was glad to do. I have tech that I’m not ready to publish and they have an interest in keeping their business plan and efforts anonymous as well. We will not discuss the content of the conversation outside of that call. It protects everyone’s interests. I’m doing novel work on a shoestring with undergraduate hands- other well-funded internation labs could do in days what takes me months with limited resources.
      This is common and a necessary part of what we do. There has to be some protection of ideas.
      Is this respect for others’ confidentiality a breech of transparency? Karl and Anastasia seem to think so. I guess I’ll have to send them a transcript of a confidential conversation so they don’t throw me under another bus.

      1. Ok, if this is fair to say:

        I have a conference call with an LED light company to discuss their products and our new approaches

        Why isn’t this fair:

        I have a conference call with a law firm to discuss their lawsuit and litigation approaches

        That doesn’t disclose anything in the scope of work. And we know it has no consequences on the work–Portier’s contract had no consequences on the IARC. Benbrook’s many legal and consulting gigs has no consequences on his papers. They can even make policy demands with that stuff underway. Or they appear in Carey’s book without any disclosures.
        It is unfair–I totally agree that the fact this has been so distorted by the GMO haters (but only aimed at plant scientists, apparently)–that “more Catholic than the Pope” is a good description of it. Ironically, the consequences of this hurt people like me who have never worked on any program or consulting like this, but get falsely maligned for it. It makes what I do harder.

        1. Mary, such disclosures were clearly stated on my website. I disclosed as much as I could under NDA. Karl and Anastasia wanted more, I could not give them that under my confidentiality agreement, so they went Ruskin on me.

          1. your website disclosure is worthless. For a disclosure to be useful it has to provide meaningful information that allows potential conflicts to be evaluated.

          2. Thanks Brian. There is such a fine line there. What would you suggest? I can’t name companies. Open to suggestions. Thanks.

          3. Obviously it is going to depend on the exact NDA wording, but an overly broad NDA is probably invalid. Always a good idea to consult legal counsel before signing and before making statements.
            That said, the problem with your website disclosure is that it doesn’t give any idea as to the scope and nature of the work. This can usually be done without being specific to the parties or the specific subject matter. For example, that the work was for a law firm on behalf of a company in industry X. You haven’t revealed the party, but you have at least narrowed down the scope to something one might consider relevant. You can probably even say something abstracted about the technology. For example, if you said: I did expert work for a law firm on behalf of a crop sciences client related to technology Y. It is hard to imagine such a generalization would reveal any confidences.
            Fundamentally, though, the problem is that the disclosure can’t be general, but should be specific to the party that needs to evaluate the potential conflict. For example, lets say you did some research funded by Bio company A and wanted to publish results. You would tell the journal about the source of the funding to be transparent on potential conflicts. You couldn’t just say “well my website says that I’ve received industry funding in the past”.
            [PS sorry for being a little flippant in calling your website discourage “worthless” and appreciate your more thoughtful response]

          4. Brian,
            Thanks for the response. I think that if this was a do-over that’s what I’d have to do. Another part of this is that we’re Monday-morning quarterbacking this too. I didn’t know scope when this started. Scope came from thinking about data, and that really didn’t fully develop until quite recently (certainly in 2018).
            I agree with you that going forward these things need more specifics. That means when a potential job requires 100% confidentiality, I can’t take it, even if it is outside (private, non-university) work.
            At the same time I have to take opportunities for my job that are under NDA, particularly in the rapidly growing controlled environment LED plant space (my area of research). Everyone is looking for an edge, there are new players that don’t want to be revealed. It makes it hard to obtain research opportunities if I have to list everything pre-publication.
            I still need to update my website since I did do this work. So if I put that I was retained by a law firm representing several seed or crop biotech companies as approved non-university work as a compensated subject matter expert, then that is okay? Thanks.

          5. I think you are a good scientist and science communicator. I also appreciate that you are often the target of anti-gmo crowd.
            I’m not your lawyer and can’t give you legal advice (see even I need disclosures); however, I think you could probably spend some time with some legal and ethics advisers at UF to help mitigate or prevent future issues especially considering the extra scrutiny your work often receives. (like the proverb “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion” it is a thousands of year old issue).
            I can’t imagine that an NDA couldn’t be agreed upon that wouldn’t allow for an a description of the nature of the work in conflicts disclosures in such a way that the party in interest can’t be determined. These things can always be tailored to the situation at hand.
            You might also think about what such an absolute requirement might suggest (most NDA are not so stringent as to the parties, but instead focus on particular confidential information to be protected). To me it suggests that they will scrap your work if the results are such that it doesn’t help their client’s case so that the other side can’t find out. As a scientist you might wonder if that is the kind of work you are comfortable doing as it is perhaps less interested in fact and more interested in winning. I would imagine that research NDA’s are more flexible than legal ones.
            I think they can also give you guidance on what the threshold is for disclosure of potential conflicts. I saw that several times you referenced it as a private matter unrelated to your university work. In general, that it is private wouldn’t preclude it from being a conflict. Being unrelated to your university work may mean it doesn’t need disclosed to the university, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a potential conflict to other organizations.
            I think the improved website language helps in terms of transparency, but I would caution against using it in place of an affirmative disclosure to relevant entities as needed (and what you said is probably a good start for how you could present it to them…if they say “whoa, we need more information” that’s when the hard work begins within the confines of any confidentiality agreement. It is always better to be as upfront as possible even to tell them what you can’t tell them because then it is harder for them to feel mislead, which seems to be part of the case here.

          6. Thanks Brian, I appreciate your thoughtful answers.
            Just a FWIW… we have an Associate Dean that handles outside work, disclosure, etc. I work with her and call anytime I have questions. I follow her guidance to the letter.
            I think that we’re seeing the residues of a system that is not ready for today’s hyper-scrutiny and instant access to every bit of information, including confidential materials.
            I’m going to try to contact an expert nationally, and do a podcast interview with her/him. I need to get it right. That’s exactly what I told my Assoc Dean in one recent email. It was included in the stash that Karl/Anastasia received but didn’t seem to make it onto this website.

          7. “I’m going to try to contact an expert nationally, and do a podcast interview with her/him”
            I think that would be very informative and useful to others as well.

          8. Hi Kevin…
            As you’re well aware, once again, Monsanto’s reputation of ghost writing safety reports was featured in the recent court hearing in California, where Monsanto was ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars.
            Have you ever been involved in any ghostwriting of Monsanto’s safety reports?

          9. I don’t do work in risk assessment. I work in strawberry genomics and how light affects plant decisions. They have plenty of experts to write such things.

          10. There is evidence on the Internet, to the contrary, that you have in fact indulged in ghostwriting.
            However, I’ll take your word for it.
            Surely, it’s going to destroy the reputation of Monsanto, and the agribusiness industry in general, if this continues.
            Do you condone this immoral and unethical behaviour?

          11. Neat. That’s a new one on me. Got a link?
            No “ghostwriting” for me. I have enough delinquent writing on my desk with my name on it.

          12. So you have already stated, but I was asking you, what do you think of ghost writing by others in your industry.
            Do you condone that?
            Don’t you care about what it does to your industry?

          13. It is not “my industry”– I am an academic scientist and have been for over 30 years. First, let’s stop the term “ghostwriting”. Let’s be precise. It is not acceptable to provide someone with text that is used in publication with someone else’s name on it. The obvious exception is when people have editors or speechwriters, or others that initiate or revise text.
            Such things are damaging to credibility in the industry, which is why they are, where they are. Again, not my industry.

          14. I see…
            I was deliberately using a generalisation, because in the past, when I have been more specific, that’s given an avenue for people to avoid giving a direct answer, and indulge in off topic prolix and obfuscation.
            So am I to assume, you also refute those allegations in the link I left you?

          15. Of course. That’s USRTK. They make a lot of claims that are baseless, they are directly financed by industry and hold opinions on genetic engineering that are starkly in opposition to the scientific consensus.
            The whole story on those first two answers is a simple one and explains everything. It is bent by RTK to create a story that just isn’t true. I’m glad to provide more details, but its so boring.

          16. “…that are starkly in opposition to the scientific consensus.”
            There is nothing wrong with being implacably opposed to consensus science, because if history is a guide, many of those who have been opposed to consensus science, have been proven correct in the longrun.

          17. Well that’s not very smart. In post 1980 history you don’t find that many examples (maybe some in dietetics, eg fat) and on consensus like climate, vaccines, GE crops… it will take a lot of evidence to turn a consensus. And I’m fine with hypothesis testing to challenge a consensus. That’s great. But until there is evidence to support alternative views it is simply a hypothesis.

        2. Mary, this is a good point. However, here’s a couple of bumps. When I first filled out the forms I had little idea of what I’d be doing exactly. I knew I’d be analyzing data in a private matter between several parties. I didn’t know what the data were, and they certainly didn’t know which way my interpretations would lead. I totally get it and am trying to figure out the tightrope between transparency and confidentiality. The podcast tomorrow should be really helpful in sparking the discussion.
          The other part of this is how we publicly reprimand others for their bad judgment. I was a bit harsh on Karl and Anastasia. They were wrong to do what they did, and that’s a consensus among academics. The internet might feel otherwise. We need to pick up a phone and have conversations. Karl didn’t answer an email from me for a month, and when I asked him to meet at a meeting in Montreal he turned me in to the conference organizers for harassing him. He’s got some serious problems.

      2. I am remember a story Billy Graham told about what he had to do to make sure that there was never a hint of scandal around him One night when he had worked after everyone else. he went out to go home and discovered that his secretary s car had broken down, Instead of offering her a ride to her home, They went back instead and waited with the security guard for a wrecker and her husband
        When I was in college I had set up a degree plan for Science , Technology and Public Policy Part of the idea was to be the interface between scientists and government and the nedia I wish I had been able to finish that degree
        Kevin, in this matter I don t think you intended to do something wrong, GUT it would be perceived by that anti bio tech folks as wrong, We have to be like Billy Graham acoiding anything that someone could twist into something wrong

        1. Who among us would look at a $600/hr gig exactly the same as a volunteer position or a talk in exchange for a meal and drinks and gas compensation? Tough call.

        2. Unfortunately it is up to imaginations to connect non-existent dots. I have to work with development of molecular markers in strawberry, even though people have no idea what they are, but it is DNA, so it must be evil.
          I do a lot of stuff every day and try to be innovative in research, teaching, extension and community outreach. Once in a long time I step on a land mine and adjust.
          The issue these days (as was discussed on Twitter) is that in gray area topics we need to not “call out” the person thought to have crossed the line. We have to do a “call in”. Aaron Huertas said this and he’s right. Accountability does not have to come in the form of a tear-down campaign.

  10. Seems to me the basic problem here is that a ridiculous amount of time has passed with no results presented. The GMO Corn Experiment is about as straitforward as it gets. I understand that everyone is busy doing other things, but this should have been put to bed a long time ago. I participated and was happy to do so, but taking over 4 years to do data reduction on what is basically a grade school level experiment? And you use moving and a job search to explain the delay? Not buying it.

  11. While I have watched people on the anti-GMO side deliberately mix up apples and oranges, I am surprised and saddened to see the same strategy being used by Biofortified. People who know the science and what Kevin does should know better.
    Here are the facts: One role that Kevin has taken on is his outreach program. This deals with the science of GMO’s and their safety. I have heard him talk many times. He does NOT say that a particular seed company is right or wrong, better or worse, etc than any other seed industry. His talks are not plugs for the seed industry.
    Separate from his outreach program are his teaching and research programs. Goals here are different. Research has to be supported and Kevin has been more than upfront in stating where his research funding comes from. There is no question and no controversy surrounding the fact that the gift from Monsanto years ago was used to support his outreach program and not his research program.
    Separate from outreach, research and teaching programs he was recently asked to be an expert witness in a case between two seed companies. The case had nothing to do with the safety of or the science behind GMO’s. It was a legal dispute about germplasm.
    The life that Kevin lives is typical for a plant molecular biologist in academia. In fact, I give public lectures on GMO’s, teach, do research, interact with industry in my research, have had industry support in my lab for research and serve as an expert witness in legal disputes about plant germplasm. It is the identical phenotype. This begs the question of why is only Kevin targeted for this vitriol when these activities are not uncommon in academia.

    1. Remind me to not attend your lectures.
      Kevin supports the companies like Bayer and they support him.
      That is the real problem.

  12. Karl Haro von Mogel:, It would be good for you to get the sugary-enhancer paper published.

  13. I think there’s a significant difference between being a “consultant for Bayer”, as you asked Kevin, and being an expert witness for a legal case in Switzerland involving GMO contamination. It is not semantics to call those completely different things.
    Seems to me you all are in the wrong here.

    1. “She submitted the request anonymously because Kevin has already shown his willingness to go on the offense”
      Also, throwing this sort of shade in the article seems incredibly childish to me.
      Yes, Kevin goes on the offensive when the New York Times puts out blatant libel pieces lying about the facts.

      1. And we’re meeting tomorrow about legal action against BFI. Stay tuned. It probably isn’t worth the price of chasing it. These folks are already irrelevant and now have really dug a career grave.

        1. I wouldn’t give BFI management a reason to inflate their collective egos further. Let their careers naturally drift off into obscurity. This situation is the equivalent of stepping on chewing gum – Scrape it off and move on.

  14. I’ve never seen a lick of disclosure on the part of Karl or Anastasia regarding the sources of their income. Are we to believe they’re living off a trust fund?
    I only raise the issue because they’ve launched this attack on Folta. While it’s obvious that he could have been more forthcoming about his sources of income, even the minimal disclosures he’s made make him vastly more transparent than this Biofortified thing.
    Who funds Biofortified?

          1. You are right this scarcely covers a month’s rent – because it doesn’t. It has always been a part time and mostly volunteer-based enterprise. My academic work has been kept separate, and disclosed publicly. Anastasia’s work as well. There’s no lack of disclosure.
            Is your argument that Kevin’s concealment of personal COI would be ok if other people did it too?

          2. Your BFI disclosure is inadequate.
            In fact, it’s so utterly inadequate I wonder if it’s not simply a troll. And I would say the same about the “MAMyths” people who are piling onto Professor Folta alongside you, but I suspect they’re mainly housewives. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s easy to demand transparency from others when one has nothing to disclosure of her own.

          3. Among other issues, this is a blatantly sexist comment. Even if we were “mainly housewives” we have a significant number of degrees and years of experience in a variety of fields. Choosing to spend time raising a child or pursue another degree doesn’t invalide that.
            What do you do? Consulting, writing, and speaking isn’t a “job”. It’s ok for you to do that for a living but not for women? Check yourself.
            To focus on the funding – what exactly do you want? The sources of funding are clearly listed. It’s also clearly listed that we are volunteers. You can also find my whole career history on LinkedIn and on my personal website. Just google it.

          4. Right, I was expecting something along these lines. I’ve learned not to engage with such complaints.
            My point is that making other people disclose their sources of income when you don’t is bad form. I have no clue where your partner works and what potential COIs his employment may entail. This may well be available on the Internet somewhere, but it’s not on the BFI website.

          5. We do report all of BFI’s income, and I report all of my personal COIs and employment history. I honestly don’t know what more I could do.
            What standard of COI reporting requires disclosure of family member’s employment in completely unrelated fields? For a time, my spouse was doing an internship at Pioneer as a software engineer, and I disclosed it because Pioneer does work that is related to the content on our site. That was like 10 years ago, so eventually I removed it. Since that time, my spouse has not worked in ag related fields or companies at all thus there is no COI. You are reaching.

          6. BFI is not an income-producing entity, it’s a hobby.
            I know where Folta’s money comes from, in a lot more detail than I have any right to know. But I still know nothing about where yours comes from.
            It’s relevant because you’re all worked up about some recent income of Folta’s that’s probably none of your business either. Expert witnesses are not hired to advocate or take a side, our job is to state the facts. One of the declarations we have to make is whether our compensation depends on the outcome of the case. I think it’s fair to ask that question of Folta.

          7. Wait, what–“hobby”?
            How come pro bono legal work isn’t a “hobby”? Pro bono science outreach is?
            This is about the strangest argument about Biofortified–that they don’t take money and this somehow irks you? Of all the directions this kerfuffle could have gone, that’s definitely the last one I would have expected.

          8. Give me a break. I’m asking why these people demand financial disclosures from Folta when they don’t provide any of their own. Their response is: “Here, go look at my hobby! It’s totally transparent!”
            That’s a dodge. They want every last detail about Folta’s income but they’re very selective about their own income.
            How do I know these people are not funded by OCA? Would their behavior be any different?

          9. Because they have no funding, you are gonna make stuff up? This is truly the strangest possible response to the fact that you don’t like that they aren’t funded by someone.
            People pay you for legal analysis? Really?

          10. Ha! No need. You seem to be chasing your own tail, and you just took care of that yourself.

          11. Yeah, people are trying to give you information you don’t seem to have. so that’s a good thing–you need to learn some things, apparently.
            But it also looks like you’ll just fill the gaps with any sort of fiction that suits you as well. Not a good look for you.

          12. Nope. I have no ag industry funding, never have. No money from lawyers. This doesn’t stop conspiracy theorists, of course, from free-range fiction writing.

          13. I’m more of a character and integrity person

            Who belittles women and makes up stories about Biofortified funding? I do not think it means what you think it means.

          14. I don’t have to tell myself anything, we can all read what you wrote. Who needs Ted when we have you to spend our volunteer time educating?

          15. Richard please. I have read and learned from both of you for quite a while. Mem has never lied that I have seen. This is going nowhere slowly. Please cease.

          16. Sorry about the delay. But I checked with my Mom on this one. She says that the vast majority of women who have never married me can not grammatically correctly be called “thick? Thus this term is fairly well restricted to my ex-wife, Roseanne Barr, and Vani Hari.

          17. Richard Bennett has been banned from commenting for profanity, sexist comments, combative behavior, and calling other commenters lying and thick. He was warned. Elsewhere on Facebook, he was also bragging about getting “censored” for having his short, profanity-comment deleted. I’ll be happy to reinstate his ability to comment after one week upon his request if he is interested in civil dialog.

          18. Because he’s banned here, he’s chasing down old comments I made elsewhere to insult me. Disqus is really unhelpful as a platform on this kind of stalking.

          19. A stalker forced me to lock my comment history. You have that option, it turns on or off in seconds. They can still search for some of your activity though.

          20. That’s an unexpected reply. I never felt silenced or hidden when I used a tool that foils stalkers. Although it can definitely be used to hide troll tracks as well, witness Ted Miner’s 15 sock puppet accounts, all with locked comment histories.

          21. If I show my comment history, I have nothing to hide. People can see exactly where I stand on plant science, vaccines, cancer quackery, climate, or any of the other things I stand with the scientific consensus on.
            Some people follow me to see where I’m commenting because there are stories they are interested in as well. So that’s a strategy to bring people to good articles (or bad ones that need science smackdowns). This prevents that good service from happening.
            And I won’t let cranks shut me down.

          22. I agree on keeping an open profile. I find it suspicious, especially with pseudonyms, when people hide their comment history.

          23. I might be able to provide a bit of perspective on the reasons why pseudonyms are an unfortunate necessity for some of us.
            As I have not yet earned/been granted tenure, there is the issue of job security. In the case of Kevin, the FOI requests from USRTK cost his institution quite a bit of both money and personnel hours, and this type of event is very much wrapped up in the intent of a tenured position.
            That’s very much a secondary concern for me though. The unfortunate truth is that, there are people on both sides of the GMO/Biotech debate who are quite frankly crazy. My institution has already had to deal with animal rights activists damaging equipment back in the 90’s and 00’s, and there is no way I’m going to put my students and post-docs at risk because I want to try and correct some of the pseudoscience online.
            I fully acknowledge that it weakens the strength of my points, but given the behavior of quite a few of the posters here, it’s not something I’m willing to leave to chance.
            I still have a long way to go, before I hit the emeritus stage.

          24. Oh, I have absolutely no problems with pseudonymous commenters, and I think your points are very well made. I’m also pseudonymous. I’ve had death threats and people wishing death on my children for opposing against junk science.
            The issue for me is hiding posting history. There are a lot of people acting in bad faith who repeat the false information over and over again, accepting corrections each time to make themselves look reasonable. Or trolls. Or barely disguised shills. With an open posting history, your behaviour can be inspected and it’s easier to build a reputation for yourself. So although you can’t use your credentials, people can see you probably have them.

          25. Unfortunately, posts and traffic history have been used to harass and damage both reputations and equipment. I would love to be able to share my full history, but a colleague from the University of Guelph just found out just how much damage the crazies can inflict.
            He was using his FB account (personal) to address some issues with the information from the Non-GMO Project’s main page.
            Long story short, one poster implied that he was a pedophile, and when that comment was finally removed from FB, this individual used the personal info to harass him for weeks.
            FB would not do anything to stop the attacks, and although he is looking into libel and defamation complaints, it does nothing to fix things in the short term.

          26. Right–my position too. I totally understand that some people can’t be “out” for professional reasons. Some are silenced by employers, others can’t afford the abuse. I know people have had their children’s safety threatened.
            But that’s precisely *why* I get out in front of these things. You can’t go after my employer since I work for myself. So it’s even more important for me to stand up, since I have the privilege to do so.

          27. Peter Harris did the same thing with me. In that case, he keeps trying to get personal info…after he tracked down another post I made on a different website, and on completely unrelated subject, when his comments were purged from GLP.
            I only glanced at Richards comments here before they were removed, but he was way out of line.

          28. “Peter Harris did the same thing with me. In that case, he keeps trying to get personal info…”
            Not at all, I don’t want your personal info, I just want you to substantiate your grandiose claims of being a scientist who has 3 degrees, and who is a respected peer reviewed researcher…
            That is your claim, but you cannot back it up with any evidence.

          29. That is personal info, as it would provide institution, major, date, and name Petey.
            So rather than focusing on something irrelevant to the validity of the compliant data, how about providing some compliant data to support your assertions regarding GMOs and the relevant pesticide data?

          30. You don’t know the difference between personal information, and publicly disclosed professional information.
            I just want to see you make an attempt at validating your claim that you are a peer-reviewed scientist with 3 Degrees.
            So far, you have displayed a masterful exhibition of avoidance.

          31. As you have displayed an absent level of logic, particularly surrounding causation.
            How does my professional status alter the data from the OECD compliant studies cited Petey?
            It’s a very simple question, but one that destroys your entire argument.
            Face it; you have no counter, you have no compliant data, and all of this is just continued evidence of your irrelevant fixation.

          32. Here we go again, reinforcing my previous comment.
            The only thing absent here, is your much lauded scientific credentials.

          33. And how does that affect the data presented in the OECD- compliant studies Petey?
            That’s the real question here. Rather than addressing the toxicology data from the primary literature, you have based yournposition entirely on there being some causal link between my status, and their content, but there is no logical reason for this.
            More banal deflection from you tonight?

          34. Can you show how my credentials influence the OECD-compliant data from the primary data?
            Come on Petey. In case you missed it, causal relationships are quite important to toxicology. You need to show causation for both adveerse health affects in GMOs at or below the current NOAEL, as well as how said data is afffexred by my status.

          35. I don’t need to show, that you have no credentials, you seem to be successfully doing that yourself.

          36. No, what you need to show is how my credentials affect the validity of the data from the OECD-compliant studies.

          37. Easy, by keeping you on this topic of your delusional belief that you are a peer-reviewed scientist who has 3 degrees.

          38. So still not going to clarify how any of my credentials alter the validity of the OECD-compliant data Petey?

          39. In that case, I’ll just continue to ignore your claims that you are a peer-reviewed scientist with 3 degrees.

          40. Fine, that makes no difference to the data presented in the OECD-compliant studies, so you’ve just made it even more obvious that you lack the capability to rebut them.

          41. It does, it makes a big difference, but you cannot see it.
            Which peer reviewed journal have you been published in?

          42. When you can show a causal relationship between my credentials and the OECD-compliant studies, perhaps I will.
            As a note, as there is no causal relationship, any attempts you make will be for comedic relief only.

          43. The more you resist, disclosing your much bragged about credentials of a scientist, with 3 degrees, the more you make yourself look silly.

          44. No, the more I try to get you to justify the reason why it affects the data it the relevant inquiry to deal with.

          45. Ha ha… I’m not the one on this blog, demanding I be heard, because I’m a scientist with 3 degrees, and then refusing to provide evidence of such a claim.

          46. No, you’re tho one who seem to think that my credentials affect the validity of the OECD-compliant studies that have been previously cited.

          47. On the contrary, myself and other people on different threads, are sick of being approached by you, with your boasting and Appeal to Authority attitude, when you don’t have either, authority or the credentials you claim to have.

          48. So you only have your opinion, and no other support for your conflation of my credentials and the OECD-compliant data.

          49. I’m not seeing any data Petey.
            It’s all that matters, and I know full well that you have no supporting data, as there hasn’t been a compliant study to date that has shown harm at real world exposure levels.

          50. You wrote that there were other individuals who, “…are sick of being approached by you, with your boasting and Appeal to
            Authority attitude, when you don’t have either, authority or the
            credentials you claim to have”
            My reply was quite simple; they (and you) must meet the exact same bar, and back up your assertions with appropriate sources.
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5611de8a1bb27ab1a54061dcc05674adba729cb68daceb4c03a0774d548996d1.png

          51. “So rather than focusing on something irrelevant…”
            Like you demanding everyone listen to you, because as you claim, you are a peer-reviewed scientist with 3 degrees???

          52. How does that matter Petey?
            The data is all that matters, and you have yet to address any of it.
            I thought I pointed this out…many times. My status has no bearing on the data from the OECD-compliant studies. They are independent, and are more than capable of standing on their own merits. This isainly because, as you have repeatedly shown, you have no data to rebut them.
            Over two decades, and not a single OECD-compliant chronic toxicity and/or carcinogenicity study, has shown any indication of additional risk, and certainly not that there is a risk at or below the current ADI.

          53. Not really. It more shows rhatbyku cannot show a causal link, and instead continue to sea-lioning instead of countering the safety data from the primary literature.

          54. “…rhatbyku…”
            ???
            And you call yourself a respected researcher, peer reviewed researcher with 3 degrees?

          55. Yes, yes I do, I am, and I have.
            You don’t get a second glance, as you have yet to show any causation between me and the validity of the OECD data.

          56. More funny yet sad ravings.
            Maybe you have confused me with somebody else, who has also demanded to see your credentials, but I never even had a first “glance.”

          57. So still not going to clarify how any of my credentials alter the validity of the OECD-compliant data Petey?
            Considering that you couldn’t even remember who responded to who in previous threads, I wouldn’t put much faith in your ability to recall any information.

          58. Apparently, when you brag to people, It does count.
            You bully people who dare question your lack of knowledge, with unsupported claims that you are a scientist who is peer reviewed.
            Now you’re saying it’s not important.
            Backpedaling much?

          59. I’ve been consistent throughout this Petey.
            The data is all that matters, and when I’ve made a point, I’ve backed it up with the primary literature.
            I even presented you with multiple OECD-453 compliant studies for glyphosate (For review see Griem et al., 2015), as well as three EU compliant studies completed since 2016 that looked for adverse effects from GMOs (GRACE, G-TwYST, GMO90Plus).
            You’ve been all over the place, doing everything BUT addressing the relevant data.
            Your latest deflection attempt has been particularly amusing to watch, as somehow you thought that asking for my credentials would affect the validity of any of the studies brought up to date.
            Do you not see the sheer idiocy of your position? The entire concept is illogical and utterly laughable. Somehow, I possess the capability to alter the results of multiple independent research studies conducted over decades worth of time, and from completely disparate groups. Not one single common author or institution can be found throughout these, and yet, my citing them alters their findings?
            You are one of the greatest fools I have ever come across, and yes, I have made some additional screenshots. Be it in the weekly lab meetings, in lectures dealing with public interactions and scientific literacy, and even during conferences if the material meshes well, I can assure you that you will be used for comedic relief for at least the next year or so.
            Given your behavior to date, I know that you’ll have new stuff for me to use in the future.
            Please continue Petey. I truly am amused by how you’ve abandoned logic, and causality.
            I look forward to the next post asking for my credentials and forgetting the relevant data…again.

          60. You have been consistently inconsistent.
            Still no attempt to make conversation with one of your so-called “peers?”

          61. Why would that be needed? You haven’t given any indication why such an interaction is expected, let alone required. My research only has minor applications on fruit research, and Kevin’s work doesn’t really have much overlap with mine.
            I have two Illumina V3 MiSeq kits that are close to their expiration date, so if he was interested, I could generate some short read data for him, but that’s about the only overlap I can see.

          62. “Why would that be needed? You haven’t given any indication why such an interaction is expected, let alone required.”
            Your, dare I say, obfuscation is just hilarious.

          63. So no support regarding your hypothesized causal relationship between my credentials and the data?

          64. In order to manage that feat, you would need to back up your assertions with the relevant OECD-compliant trials.

          65. Sorry Petey, I do have three degrees, and am a scientist. You sputtering endlessly does nothing to rebut any of the OECD-compliant safety data.

          66. I fail to see how being a “housewife” is something that needs to be disclosed like it is a conflict of interest? This is a pointless interaction. If you have a specific, constructive suggestion on how to improve our disclosures, please feel free to suggest it, publicly or privately through our contact form and we will consider it.

          67. So my private funding and activities apart from the university for a private mediation with a law firm are your business, but your public funding and a 501(c)3 are not relevant? How can your (public) academic work be kept separate when my private off-clock puzzle breaking is a website scandal on BFI? Richard is right. Insane hypocrisy.

        1. This is the entirety of BF’s funding disclosure:
          * In 2016, BFI received a grant of $2,300 from the Winkler Family Foundation.
          * In April 2013, BFI was awarded a $500 New Arts Venture Challenge grant from the Arts Enterprise at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to support our Cooking with Frank N. Foode™ educational video project.
          * In 2012, BFI was awarded a $10,000 peer-reviewed Education Foundation Grant from the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) for the proposal, “Communicating Risk with Genetic Engineering Risk Atlas (GENERA).” This grant supports our efforts to stimulate accurate science communication, a goal shared by ASPB. However, views expressed on our site might not align with all ASPB position statements and might not be supported by ASPB.
          * In November 2009, BFI was awarded a $1,500 grant from Ashoka Changemakers in the GMO Risk or Rescue contest (We won!).
          That scarcely covers a month’s living expenses for the principals.
          If you have nothing serious to offer, don’t fill the discussion with garbage.

          1. It also states personal donations. By the way, the link there to contribute seems to be broken/

          2. Mine is $5/month. I’ll have to look at my records but i believe i also gave a $100 or so one time donation a few years back, maybe two. I guess you are looking for an annual total?

          3. This is a very good point. Seems like a lot of non-disclosure. If my payments on my free time, out of the university are for public consumption, then certainly they should put up all sources of their income.

  15. Oh my goodness. He said, she said. And what was at risk? A very poorly designed backyard feeding trial? Best to get your scientific house in order first. Learn to design good trials. People will be more concerned over design than consulting fees. I commented previously on what improvements were needed for a good trial design and no changes were made. The opportunity was there and it was ignored. I think that is a greater flaw to the science and science integrity being presented by Biofortified than semantics over COI.

  16. I’m not a lawyer but can it be insisted upon that there be a clause in Non Disclosure Agreements to allow disclosure of certain details on need to know bases?
    I.e. “Your agreement states that i cannot disclose which companies this work is for, but my University, Organization, etc, requires me to disclose any and all outside work relationships, including the names of the parties involved. Can i disclose to them?”

    1. No attorney here either. But an old guy who has been around. All agreements are negotiable. The attorneys almost always pretend that what they write is written in stone and only God can make changes. That is simply an attempt at intimidation. When one starts to walk away when one side is unreasonable. It is amazing how such things suddenly become negotiable. Especially if on has asked Why and received no logical answer.

        1. In this case there may have been a logical reason why they refused. But I am not privy to it. Also, I have no way of knowing if you asked questions regarding what specifics you could or couldn’t reveal. I do remember being asked to sign an easement for the electric company when I bought this place. The way it was written they could have allowed anyone from cable companies to pipelines to use the easement with no compensation for me. they also head it written so that I couldn’t cancel it even if I no longer needed the power company. I kept asking to speak to a supervisor until I got a guy who read the thing. He said that I should simply write and easement that allowed for needed maintenance to their lines and that I could rescind it when service was cancelled. This after having been told this was simply not negotiable.

          1. This week I was asked to work with a ma & pa startup in light work for indoor agriculture. They didn’t want their identity made public because the have new ideas in a crowded space. I told the third party intermediary that I could not work with them without fully disclosing how they are and what they are doing, or else Biofortified will make it public after FOIA requests.
            They moved on to work with other researchers. Sad, because I’m out of money and could use a Sponsored Research Agreement about now. No chance. So the best expert in their area can’t work with them. Sad.
            FWIW, the other six public university experts that contributed to the private mediation have not declared anything on their websites and have not been outed by Biofortifed. I’m not going to say who they are, but you’d think that transparency sleuths would be all over this. Nope, just me. It shows that this is personal and malicious, and a lot about their character.

          2. Sorry that got away. But as there is no longer any connection between you and biofortified. It seems to me there would be no legitimate motivation to file any Sunshine act request.

    2. No. This was a private matter between parties, on my vacation time, like I was going to Vegas. I was asked by the law firm if I could keep details confidential. I agreed. It was analysis of old data that resolved an ancient disagreement between parties. No relevance to my research, etc. But Karl and Anastasia feel this is their business. Nobody knows the parties involved, the data analyzed and the results obtained except for the people in that room. That’s what the parties agreed to, and why I cannot discuss details.

      1. I simply do not understand how this being done on vacation time has anything to do with disclosures. I’m not sure, given if there was disclosure, it would have any practical affect on anything or whether you would still have to recluse yourself, but disclose what you can, as per Anastasia’s comments. After all, you were able to disclose to UF. Or, not take the job.
        I don’t believe though, that you would skew your analysis either way as Thacker, et al would have us believe.

        1. I met with university attorneys and spoke with COI experts in law schools. I did exactly the right thing by honoring my confidentiality agreement that covered work performed in my own personal time. The note on my website that stated that I was a compensated subject matter expert in a private arbitration was “above and beyond” what I’d have to do. They told me that General Counsel would demand to know the companies/entities involved in the outside work in order for them to make a correct judgment on COI and overlap with university duties.
          So this is the conundrum. We have to disclose that info internally to our supervisors in order to get permission to perform outside work. That information is readily obtained, confidentiality is broken, and the information is used unethically to harm reputations and blindside others with widespread release.
          It means that we can’t take on confidential work– no such thing. On Wednesday one group I was going to work with decided to not go forward with an NDA, and I am an expert in their (competitive) subject area. The FOIA Police are now costing us opportunities to serve the industries that we are meant to serve in the Land Grant Mission (and this was a ma & pa startup in light space, not a multinational seed company). Great job, BFI.

          1. It is a conundrum and that satisfies UF’s COI disclosure and outside work requirements but why couldn’t Biofortified also be informed internally? Again, i’m not a lawyer, but does COI disclosure also means disclosing technical details that’ll tip one’s trade secret’s hand?

          2. It is awful, and confidential means confidential. When I think back to it now, I got permission to participate from my university before I signed any contracts. To your second point, I guess that’s hard to say. If I had an agreement with a small company and maybe a few thousand bucks to hire a student for the summer, that might be protected under NDA until publication/embargo. That’s common. But now that I must report all details of what I’m doing in sponsored research to Karl and Anastasia or else they’ll get it by FOIA and spread it everywhere, i can’t in good faith do any work that requires confidential participation prior to publication. Huge loss for me, for students and for the industries (I work in LED light and horticultural plant growth, hot area) that I support.

    3. Kevin was absolutely able to disclose it to us, in accordance with our conflict of interest policy, which has been in effect since it was adopted in 2013. It was clear that Kevin was able to disclose it to the University of Florida without violating the agreement, so there was nothing preventing him from disclosing it to us.

    4. Yes. Here are some example NDAs for expert witnesses, you can find many more. The non-disclosure applies to content of the case, such as confidential business information, not necessarily to the parties involved. Regardless, one could state there is a potential conflict of interest, and recuse themselves without giving any details of who, what, etc.
      From the Assoication of Corporate Counsel: http://www.acc.com/_cs_upload/vl/membersonly/SampleFormPolicy/1318242_1.pdf
      From the University of Utah:
      http://www.ped.med.utah.edu/…/expert_witness_template.docx

  17. This statement seems disingenuous considering that Biofortified board member David Tribe co-founded Academics Review, an agrichemical-industry funded front group that has been repeatedly dishonest about its funding. Also it seems arbitrary to suggest that Folta’s connection with Monsanto could “impact” the taxpayer funded (USDA) research grant to UF/IFAL to study consumer perspectives about GMOs, without also noting that the University of Florida receives millions in undisclosed chemical industry funding via the UF Foundation.

    1. Hi SDCald, we are aware of David’s COI and are acting on it. One difference is that this COI related specifically to an ongoing research project and was kept hidden even when asked about specifically.

  18. I got a free Corvus ball cap from Bayer Crop Science yesterday at the Farm Progress Show.
    I just thought I should reveal that fact before I read the rest of this truly disappointing thread.

    1. Yeah, the ball caps, pens, and notebooks I’ve snagged from Pioneer, Monsanto, and Symgenta have obviously compromised my objectivity.

        1. Submit an abstract to the conference you want to attend, pay the fee, show up and present your research, and then visit the vendor’s section and grab some swag.
          So I take it conferences aren’t quite as important for your field.

          1. Comparative genomics mainly, as has been stated several times over the past few months.
            Currently, I’m interested in measuring the genomic rearrangement that follows interspecific hybridization over time.

          2. I see, and there is a very simple test here, to prove that claim to be make-believe nonsense.
            Can you see what it is?
            Or do you need me to point it out?

          3. Are you going to show how my credentials has any affect on the OECD-compliant data?
            If not, it stands on its own quite nicely, and you have yet to provide anything to counter it.

          4. If you were such a highly respected peer reviewed scientist, with 3 degrees, I would have expected by now, that you would have spoken at length with Mr Folta.
            Instead, you’ve gone out of your way to avoid him.
            How come?

          5. Why would that be?
            We’re both biologists, but I’ve only met him about 2 times over the past decade. The last one was in 2016, at the University of Guelph, as I didn’t see him at ASPB last year.
            His focus is strawberry genetics, mine is comparative genomics.
            Do you automatically engage with anyone sharing the same degrees?

          6. Hahaha, you’re delusional rantings are just so comical, yet so sad.
            So delusional, your response has no basis in reality or common sense.
            You would be the first person to talk to him on this thread, if indeed, you were a real scientist.
            “…mine is comparative genomics.”
            And where have you been published exactly?
            Apart from your colouring in book I mean.

          7. Again, why would I want to talk with him?
            Do you think that there is some kind of social clique associated with being a scientist?
            You’ll only get answers when you can explain how my publication record can have a directs causal effect on the OECD-compliant data. Keep in mind that there are quite a few reviewed from Griem et al., 2015 alone.

          8. “Again, why would I want to talk with him?”
            For you to even frame that question like you have, shows that you are totally avoiding the fact that you are perpetuating some fantasy in your mind, that you are a peer-reviewed scientist with 3 degrees.

          9. No, it shows that I have no need to interact with him at this time. If in the future…and somehow we end up as collaborators, either he or I are asked to be on an advisory or examination committee, or we are asked to serve as an external examiner for a comprehensive exam, then I will have a reason to interact directly with him.
            Is this such a difficult thing to comprehend, or is your professional circle so small that you need to interact with anyone and everyone within it.
            Given the membership of just ASPB and SOT, that’s not really possible for our field.

          10. “No, it shows that I have no need to interact with him at this time.”
            😅😃😂😅😃😂
            In other words, if you did carry out a public conversation with Mr Folta on this thread, you’ll be exposed for what you are, and intellectual fraud and a weirdo.

          11. No, that’s what would happen to you if you were to engage in such conversation. If I were to engage him, I’d probably ask something along the lines of he and his collaborators account for the variable ploidy seen in strawberry crop when performing NGS assays using Illumina, PacBio, or Oxford Nanopore platforms.
            Note: This is an actual hurdle that we face. Try TAG for some ideas why.

          12. The incoherent ramblings of somebody who is unhinged. Where is your data?
            Where is your link to your peer reviewed studies?

          13. For review, see Griem et al (2015), Zeljenková et al., (2014 and 2017).
            There you go.
            Now care to address how the data is affected by my status or qualifications?

          14. Come on, you just being a bigger fool.
            You need to provide the link, not for me to go searching for it on Google.

          15. Given the fact, it’s your research, allegedly, it would be so easy for you to simply provide a link.
            And that infantile comment, provides evidence that you are not a scientist, and not even a rational human being.

          16. You’re right, I could.
            It is far more amusing however, to know that you either cannot or will not look for an article that has been cited 42 times in the literature.

          17. Unfortunately not.
            Mr. Harris has engaged in stalking behavior, and shows no signs of stopping. As an example, this was a dormant comment thread that he actively searched out on a different website, and an entirely unrelated topic after his posts were removed from the Genetic Literacy Project (and where he was probably banned, but I cannot confirm this).
            So now I have a pet stalker (who is also spamming a second thread I commented in), and he’s not going to stop of his own volition.
            As he had been the one to consistently barge in to these discussions, I’m not going to allow his libel to go unchallenged. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fff6604acad4075e33f1c0502f9f7eb85998c537cc8f9a50dfbc3081260f77fe.png

          18. Thank you…I’m about 99% sure he’ll track down another thread I’ve commented in, but at least this place will be free.
            I haven’t checked to see which ones were removed, but if you want me to delete any remaining posts, just let me know. I can’t completely remove them, but at least I can at least change them to say “Comment Deleted”.

          19. From what I can gather, it is cited 0 times, which proves you are unhinged and living in a world of fantasy, separate from reality.

          20. And you cannot even supply a link to the specific NCBI web page?
            Because your unhinged, you fail to see, that you are making the argument for me, which is, that you are a fake and an intellectual fraud.
            If you were indeed a peer-reviewed scientist, with 3 degrees, you would have simply posted the link by now.

          21. Actually I have a great deal of material that can back me up. Just using “glyphosate toxicity”, and “GMO safety” lists over 1,000 different studies. The majority of these show no treatment effects, and there isn’t a single OECD-compliant study that backs up your position.

  19. In this post, I linked to Credibility is Our Currency, an article about conflicts of interest and research ethics. I do encourage everyone to read that before assuming that failure to disclose is acceptable. Disclosure of potential COI is incredibly important in science. Scientific journals require disclosure of potential COI so that both editors and the public can evaluate how a researcher could possibly be influenced by funding or other relationships they might have – both in their work and in their personal lives. For example, here is the disclosure policy for Nature journals. https://www.nature.com/authors/policies/competing.html This case hits two of the disclosure requirements, as it was paid work and it was serving as an expert witness. They even specifically list a way to deal with NDAs, pasted below.
    We recognize that some authors may be bound by confidentiality agreements. In such cases, in place of itemized disclosures, we require authors to state: “The authors declare that they are bound by confidentiality agreements that prevent them from disclosing their competing interests in this work.”
    For whatever reason, Kevin did not disclose any of that to his collaborators, and we would have headed to publication without proper declaration of COI, which is research misconduct and could have consequences up to having the paper retracted. This issue is separate from the issue of activist groups finding this information (it’s as easy as a records request) and saying the entire project is a sham, invalidating all the hard work of the volunteers. I hope most reasonable people can see that we were between a rock and a hard place.

    1. I find it remarkable how the concept of potential conflicts of interest seems to be so difficult for people to understand despite it being an ethical cornerstone in many fields for decades. What’s more is that it is easy to satisfy. You just have to disclose them. Most will be found to be non-issues so long as they are disclosed.

      1. How do you disclose something that you are bound by contract to keep confidential? My university and its attorneys approved my disclosure. I’m curious as to if legal action will be pending because the contract and confidentiality was broken.

    2. So this is where you pick up a phone, contact the person, and suggest that they adopt a different way to express their confidential non-disclosures. Instead, you make yourself (and BFI) look horrible by unilaterally blindsiding someone with a highly negative and politicized, misrepresented website. You could have spoken with the person that told me exactly what to do. She would have been glad to have a conference call with all of us and we could have sorted it out. Instead, you NEVER said anything, and Karl just asked pointy questions that I could not answer under NDA, and refused to talk to me in person when I saw him at ASPB. If I did something wrong, then let’s fix it and move on. However, in the age of socially inept retaliation you guys go nuclear. The bad guys have not even started up yet.
      I’ve learned a lot in the last few days and have had some great conversations about this topic. Mostly I’ve learned that as long as I have NDAs I won’t be able to participate in science communication without the bad guys and the ‘good guys’ from screaming foul. It is interesting that the majority of the calls I’ve received on this have been from academics that do Subject Matter Expert work all the time and never disclose it on a website, etc. Even the others that were involved in this case (there were a few) don’t even mention it. It is outside work, separate from our jobs, so that complicates things. I say this only to illustrate that there are conventions that you don’t understand because you and Karl are not actively publishing or operating as faculty in university space. The rules we’re following might need updating, but they are what they are, and I followed that guidance.
      So say what you want about this, but when the dust settles it will show that you blindsided someone actually working hard in public education of science, and removed him from a conversation over something that could have been solved with a phone call. Nice job.

  20. This makes me frown. As a retired biomedical technician with a certificate in aquaculture I have no expertise in GMOs but grasp the language of science and have run across the rabidly ignorant attacks on science by the millions on the web and decided to make defending the integrity of peer reviewed science my hobby in retirement. My pension is so low I can’t even afford a car, the solar vehicle in my avatar photo is my wheels. I know many of you have run across my amateur but cited comments in many venues, estimated at 100,000 comments by now, 5 hours a day for 6 years. I do send modest support to the GLP and own an ‘I heart GMOs’ t-shirt from MAMyths. I can’t criticize Kevin nor can I defend his issue here, I just wish it was all done by phone conferences or face meetings and not a permanent web record for you-know-who to dig up and distort to the hilt because there is no clear cut evidence of a gross violation of professionalism or conflict of interest as presented here. I have learned a ton of stuff while defending GMO science but wish this was not part of my lesson. Rather than chasing our tails we should be creating a task force to deal with organic farmer funded bribery of the IARC, Russian anti-GMO trolls and the Turd Miner virus. My gut tells me there is a good chance the final conclusion of the Monsanto Roundup lawsuits is it’s all the fault of a 30 year long propaganda campaign of the organic foods cartel, Russian trolls and Greenpeace. The age of enlightenment is near.

  21. I’m happy with this rating of the GLP – “These sources consist of legitimate science or are evidence based through the use of credible scientific sourcing. Legitimate science follows the scientific method, is unbiased and does not use emotional words. These sources also respect the consensus of experts in the given scientific field and strive to publish peer reviewed science. Some sources in this category may have a slight political bias, but adhere to scientific principles. See all Pro-Science sources.Factual Reporting: HIGH
    Notes: According to The Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) they “explore the intersection of DNA research and real world applications of genetics with the media and policy worlds in order to disentangle science from ideology.” The GLP has been accused of accepting funding from corporations that are involved in the agriculture genetics business due to their acceptance of the consensus of science as it relates to GMO’s. On the GLP website they offer a full disclosure of their funding which indicates they do not receive funding from Pro-GMO companies such as Monsanto. (12/15/2016)
    https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/genetic-literacy-project/

  22. Karl, Anastasia, David, what were you thinking by issuing such a statement?!
    You have made serious public accusations about the integrity of one of your scientific and professional colleagues. This is bad enough, but you made it worse by apparently not offering him the courtesy of responding in the same statement. If this is true, I find it cowardly.
    Does Biofortified really want to sink to the level of tabloid journalism, with its half-truths an lurid innuendos? There are plenty of anti-science and anti-technology websites out there already doing hatchet jobs without your help. (The Non-GMO Project reportedly has already taken in about $100M in compensation for its effort to frighten the public about modern plant technology.)
    Over the years, BFI has made important contributions to the cause of objective science/technology communication, and has benefitted in the past from the gravitas of two well-respected life-science professors, Dr. Pamela Ronald and Dr. Kevin Folta, who have generously offered their precious time to support your project as board members. This has helped set a tiny organization like yours apart from the numerous anti-science groups and websites that have few or zero academic credentials.
    What’s going one here? My hunch is that the real topic is a private squabble that should have been kept private.
    I am saddened by the damage that you have done to your group, and the cause of objective science/technology communication; I think that you have betrayed and undermined the hard work that many colleagues and fellow crusaders have done.
    The U.S. is in a perilous situation where facts and truth itself are under attack, egged on by our current administration and President (e.g. the Orwellian “alternative facts”, and “truth is not truth”). This science denialism ranges from the far right, with its political and religious fanatics, to the far left, with its pseudoscience and and “complementary” medicine.
    Running a science advocacy group is often an amazingly exhausting and thankless endeavor. BFI members should be proud of the contributions they have made in the past, using only their precious spare-time and very limited resources.
    This statement is from the board, which, until recently included Dr. Folta. Has he resigned? In which case, the professional way to handle this situation would be to announce that he has stepped down “for personal reasons”, and to keep internal squabbles private. Or was he forced to resign? it’s puzzling that neither Dr. Ronald nor Dr. Folta appear to have served their full 2-year terms on the board. Or perhaps the board has declared a vote of no confidence, and used one of the by-laws of the corporation to force his ouster?
    I estimate that the readership of anti-science and anti-technology websites from activists, groups, and woo-peddlers is at least 1000-fold that of BFI, and that these activists and groups are correspondingly well-funded. Frankly, I think the way you handled this situation has offered the anti-science activist community a huge gift that will last for years.
    The landscape of truth-tellers is remarkably barren, but Dr. Folta is one of the remarkably few academic scientists who is willing to publicly explain and defend modern plant science and technology. What a shame to lose someone of his caliber and courage. I cannot imagine that anyone would be willing (or qualified) to take his place on your board.
    A little professional advice: if you have a gripe with someone, meet face to face with them, or at least speak on the phone. Written complaints are notoriously prone to provoking damaging and unpredicted negative outcomes. Doing this in public is folly.
    Note that I have not addressed the specific topic of COI at all. COI is an important factor in science advocacy, but there are no definitive black/white rules: it’s dependent on specific circumstances, on the audience receiving information and statements, and is highly subjective. Ironically, Dr. Folta would have been eminently qualified to discuss this topic as it relates to science communication.
    I seriously doubt whether I, or other readers of this thread, have sufficient information to offer a valid opinion on the specifics of your squabble with Dr. Folta. Frankly, I’m only mildly interested, since this distracts from the important work of BFI.
    The fact that you make strong, damaging allegations about Dr. Folta on your website, without offering him the opportunity to clarify and defend what happened, calls into question the ability of BFI to perform objective analysis of complex topics. This is certainly not the kind of writing that I would expect from a scientist.
    If I’m being generous, I could conclude this incident might have just been a youthful indiscretion from people early in their careers (Karl, Anastasia)—we all do things in our youth that we regret in later life—but I’m puzzled that David did not provide more of a moderating influence.
    It’s hard to imagine how (or if) BFI will be able to restore its tarnished reputation after this incident: however, a good start would be for the board to publish a letter of apology; to resign; and then consider finding a way to re-invent BFI, with a new mission statement and fresh board members.
    And some advice: if you really feel like trashing a fellow scientist’s reputation, just ponder the consequences of your action, and what it might say about you. There’s an old saying,
    “When you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you.”
    https://cdn.psychologytoday.com/sites/default/files/styles/article-inline-half/public/blogs/68127/2011/09/74342-64837.jpg?itok=oHoBUEQb

      1. That’s the problem, Karl. One should not make claims in public if they can’t make the evidence public. That’s a sure way to diminish your own credibility and integrity regardless of how all of this turns out.

        1. I think the careful statements based on well-documented evidence that we have made will compare well against his responses. For those who are genuinely interested to know more, we are talking to people individually.

          1. No, I don’t think your statements were careful or well-documented, especially considering the risk of harm. I think the evidence for that is that you have found it necessary to offer a more complete explanation one-on-one and in private.

          2. I feel good about the information we have presented, and no falsehoods have been identified in our statement by anyone. I’m looking forward to you applying your logic consistently against the many varied and reckless statements being made by Kevin, and seeing your criticism of him making public threats against us both on the Friday before we posted this statement and afterward in multiple places, including here.
            I understand that many people were upset by this, and for that the only remedy I can propose is time and careful thought.

          3. >I feel good about the information we have presented
            Obviously you do, but if you find yourself having to explain, in private, to someone like Peter, sounds like there are reasonable people who disagree for reasons other than being upset.

    1. Peter, well put. This was a personal attack on me because of a problem one of their friends has with me, and the fact that I’ve been persistently asking for some action to be taken on a crowdfunded effort that has gone nowhere. Period. It was unprofessional, unnecessary, and damaging to everyone– especially science communication.
      The good news is that I’ll just have to ramp it up to continue to rehabilitate the reputation that Karl and Anastasia felt it was necessary to trash in such a public, blindsided and brazen way.
      The bad news is that they just committed career suicide by doing something so brash and stupid, without picking up a phone or engaging in adult resolution. They used to be folks many trusted. I’ll never trust them again, and never should have. These are not people I’d ever want on my team, on my faculty, or in my lab group.

  23. For whatever it’s worth, I think you’ve made a principled decision. I wouldn’t worry about making community rifts; I don’t know how much unity there was to begin with. And I wouldn’t be concerned with ‘giving ammo’ to the anti-GE proponents either. They will do what they will do anyway.

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