U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) is a radical anti-biotechnology front group for the organic food industry. Created by Organic Consumers Association (OCA) in 2014, the non-profit claims that they are “working for transparency and accountability in our nation’s food system.” In reality, they are a militant group of dishonest activists with a mission to bully, harass and intimidate scientists who debunk the specious claims of the organizations that bankroll them.
USRTK’s work is universally rejected by the scientific community as activist propaganda.
USRTK Peddles Merchants of Doubt Conspiracy Theory
Following the lead of academic activists like Naomi Oreskes, USRTK promotes the Merchants of Doubt myth about scientists. They conspiratorially claim that powerful food and chemical companies hire prominent academics to block regulation of their products and mislead the the public about the safety of transgenic food. Since little evidence exists to support this outlandish conspiracy, USRTK simply manufactures it.
FOIA as a Weapon: USRTK Copies a Familiar Activist Ploy
USRTK is well known for filing baseless lawsuits and publishing sham research papers, but the group’s favorite ploy is to abuse the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to access the emails of researchers who oppose their political agenda, typically scientists who study plant biotechnology and agriculture.
Once in possession of these emails, USRTK strips them of their context and quote mines scientists to claim that the scientists in question are shills for big corporations. The group then selectively leaks portions of their documents to sympathetic voices in the media, who repeat USRTK’s claims of corruption and cover up with little or no scrutiny.
USRTK has used this strategy many times in the last three years to attack scientists like Kevin Folta, Bruce Chassy, Peter Phillips and others. In each case the accusations have been proven false, and numerous scientists have pointed out that USRTK is ironically copying the dishonest tactics of climate change deniers, global warming being the only science this anti- group considers valid.
USRTK Embraces Quackery of all Sorts
Though best known for their counter-consensus views on transgenic food and pesticides, USRTK also endorses junk science around the safety of processed food, artificial sweeteners, food preservatives and even cosmetics. The group is also sympathetic to the anti-vaccine movement thanks to their funding from the organic industry. USRTK co-director and co-founder Gary Ruskin has refused to explain why his group takes money from organizations that spread myths about vaccines.
USRTK: Industry Front Group EST. 2014
After Gary Ruskin’s California GMO labeling initiative Prop. 37 failed spectacularly in 2012, the industry trade group Organic Consumers Association (OCA) created USRTK and staffed it with Prop. 37 activists that Ruskin deemed reliable. But OCA is not the only corporate group helping promote their fear and doubt. The organization also receives funding from Dr. Bronner’s “magic” soap company, which not coincidentally spreads anti-vaccine hysteria, and the Crossfit Corporation, whose CEO Greg Glassman came under nationwide fire after he claimed that Coca-Cola causes type 1 diabetes. Crossfit funded USRTK after the American Council on Science and Health exposed why Glassman claimed one brand of soda causes any form of diabetes.
Coincidentally no doubt, Ruskin went on a tirade against Coca Cola beginning in early 2018, alleging that the soda company is at “war with the public health community.” Coke’s great crime in this case was paying scientists to educate the public and media about the relationship between exercise and weight loss. To kooks like Ruskin, this action illustrates “…how the company aims to control the conversation over public policy and consumer choices pertaining to obesity.” To everybody in science, Coca Cola is merely stating the obvious. Research shows that exercise plays an important role in preventing diabetes and obesity, and is essential for overweight adults who want to improve their body composition. How lucky the world would be if USRTK promoted such sensible science.
Relationship with Political Operatives
Showing their deep ties to powerful political operatives, USRTK counts partisan lawyer Lisa Graves, a lawyer for the Clinton administration during his impeachment, among its trustees. Graves runs the political attack site Center for Media and Democracy, a dark-money-funded group which hosts anti-science Wiki sites such as Sourcewatch and PRwatch.
For more detailed analysis of the U.S. Right to Know industry front group, please see the entries on their individual staff members: