Biotech Industry-Funded Bootcamps for Journalists – A Legit Investment in “Sound Science”?

Paul Thacker’s latest piece on biotech industry efforts to influence media coverage and discredit scientists who raise questions about the impact of GE crops appears in The Progressive and is entitled “Flacking for GMOs: How the Biotech Industry Cultivates Positive Media.”

Thacker tells the story of the genesis and funding of two “bootcamps” for science writers and journalists, one put on in 2014 at the University of Florida, and the second in 2015 at U.C. Davis. Well-known GE advocate Kevin Folta was largely responsible for the one at his home institution (Univ FLA), and two well-known, true believers in GE technology at U.C. Davis played similar roles for the U.C. Davis bootcamp (Pamela Ronald, Alison Van Eenennaam).

The speakers and non-journalist attendees are a good start at a who’s-who list of individuals, organizations, and companies most committed to enhancing the image of GE crops and technology and the companies bringing them to the market.

It is usually very hard to track the flow of money supporting these sorts of PR efforts, and indeed it is rarely possible. That is one reason why this sort of event happens frequently and with impunity. Thacker was able to “follow the money” because of the unsealing of Monsanto emails and documents that had been disclosed in the ongoing glyphosate-Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma litigation.

The odds are good that there will be more such bootcamps, and more disclosures of the way the biotech industry works to sharpen its image.


Paul Thacker, “Flacking for GMOs: How the Biotech Industry Cultivates Positive Media,” The Progressive,

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