The Bioscience Resource Project (BRP) is a progressive front group posing as an independent outlet for the analysis of genetic engineering research. Co-founded by Drs. Allison K Wilson and Jonathan R Latham in 2006, BRP exists to provide intellectual support to the anti-biotech movement as it pushes for bans on pesticides and transgenic food. The organization denies the scientific consensus on the safety of genetic engineering and believes that Monsanto and other firms control the entire field of biotechnology. The group has also attempted to hijack their Wikipedia entry to paint their partisan work in a more favorable light.
Independent Science News: BRP’s Propaganda Organ
BRP publishes Independent Science News (ISN), which is little more than an environmentalist propaganda outlet. The site’s writers endorse all sorts of nonsense, including bans on hydraulic fracking and safe pesticide use. Most notably, the site’s co-founder Jonathan Latham denies the efficacy of toxicological testing entirely and supports a ban on all synthetic chemicals. Latham says testing chemicals to determine their toxicity is a pointless exercise “because the potential serious harms from toxic chemicals are essentially endless…”
Actual chemists disagree. They say testing chemicals is essential if they’re going to be used to develop safe medicines and consumer products. Even the most radical environmentalist groups endorse toxicological testing, though they abuse the practice for political purposes.
ISN has also earned the endorsement of Naomi Oreskes, a crank historian who praises scientists until they challenge her leftist cultural views. Oreskes re-tweeted an ISN article predicting that Chipotle would initiate the downfall of Monsanto by pulling genetically modified ingredients out of their supply chain. Two years later, Chipotle has only succeeded in poisoning dozens of their customers. Monsanto (now Bayer) remains in business.
ISN has published the work of prominent anti-biotech mouthpiece Vandana Shiva, the “Rock star” of the anti-GMO movement, according to Bill Moyers. Shiva is a radical political activist who couches her socialist views in environmental causes, a movement she adorably calls “earth democracy.” She has been pilloried by the scientific community for her fallacious claims about transgenic food, especially her assertion that planting genetically modified crops is a crime on par with rape.
Golden Rice Denialism
In May 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Golden Rice, varieties of rice genetically engineered to contain beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A. This biofortified rice, as it’s called, is intended for distribution in southeast Asia, where millions of people rely on the grain as a staple food but often go blind, and sometimes die, because of Vitamin A deficiency.
Led by BRP, anti-biotech activists broke out in hives shortly after the FDA’s announcement, claiming that Golden Rice would yield “no nutritional benefits” because it doesn’t contain enough beta-carotene. The FDA admitted this, the activists claimed, in its letter approving Golden Rice. But this is a misreading of the agency’s statement. The FDA explained that Americans wouldn’t benefit from Golden Rice because they eat very little rice compared to populations in southeast Asia, a point the agency felt compelled to make itself. In a comment on BRP’s website, the FDA’s Dr. Marianna Naum wrote: “It is unfortunate that…our letter…has been misconstrued to suggest that there would be no value of the pro-vitamin A in golden rice for its use in the countries where it is intended for distribution.”
Latham responded to this criticism by mocking Naum, who is a communications lead with the FDA’s Office of Food and Veterinary Medicine, not a scientist. But plant geneticist Chad Niederhuth also weighed in and refused to let BRP get away with an obvious scientific error. “When presented with overwhelming evidence, including a response by the FDA pointing out their error,” Niederhuth wrote on Twitter, “the ethical thing for Wilson and Latham to do would be retract their claim. They refuse and continue to push it despite the evidence.”
Relationship with Center For Media and Democracy (CMD)
ISN collaborated with the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) in 2017 to publish a website called the Poison Papers, which documents some collusion between chemical companies and government regulators. The site is merely an attempt to damage the reputation of firms that pose a commercial threat to CMD’s and ISN’s corporate donors. This bias is readily apparent since the Poison Papers editors pay no attention to health risks posed by so-called organic pesticides and have no interest in the collusion between environmentalist groups, federal agencies and organic food corporations.
BRP says it doesn’t take money from corporations and refuses commercial advertising. Instead, the group is financed exclusively by “individuals and Community Foundations.” However, their close collaboration with CMD on the Poison Papers means that their work is funded, at least in part, by the wealthy political donors and corporations that funnel “dark money” to CMD. Headed by partisan attorney Lisa Graves, CMD collects millions of dollars annually from powerful progressive political interests and eagerly endorses the junk science perpetuated by organic industry front groups. Graves also serves as an advisor to one such group, U.S. Right to Know(USRTK), which is funded almost exclusively by organic food companies.