U.S. scientist sues New York Times over Monsanto allegations

Kevin Folta, a University of Florida horticultural scientist, is suing the New York Times for libel.

Folta, a vocal defender of pesticides and genetically modified technology, filed the lawsuit in early September at a U.S. District Court in Florida.

The libel case stems from a front page New York Times story, published Sept. 6, 2015.

The piece began with the headline: Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show.

The emails mentioned in the headline originated mostly from U.S. Right to Know, a group that campaigns for mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods.

Based on those emails acquired through Freedom Of Information Act requests, the NY Times reported that Monsanto provided financial support to Folta and other scientists who publicly talk about GM technology.

“Monsanto and its industry partners have also passed out an undisclosed amount in special grants to scientists like Kevin Folta… to help with “biotechnology outreach” and to travel around the country to defend genetically modified foods,” the article said.

In a document filed for the libel suit, Folta’s lawyers argued that the NY Times and reporter Eric Lipton deliberately portrayed Folta as a Monsanto mouthpiece, rather than a scientist who shares legitimate science about agricultural biotechnology.

“These defendants also mislead the public via its article by falsely claiming that Dr. Folta was in effect a paid operative of Monsanto, and as a covert operative of Monsanto (he) misrepresented the safety, purpose and efficacy of GMOs to advance Monsanto’s corporate goals.”

As well, the document said the defendants “refused to retract, correct or fix the misleading and false article.”

Folta, in the court document, said the article has damaged his reputation as a scientist, as hundreds of online articles have questioned his ethics or labelled him as a biotech industry shill.

The libel suit doesn’t mention a figure for financial compensation. It asks for damages “in an amount that will effectively punish the defendants for their conduct and deter them… from similar acts in the future.”

A New York Times spokesperson told the politically focused news outlet Politico that the paper will “defend the lawsuit vigorously.”

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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  • richard

    As long as academics in key agricultural universities continue to pledge fealty to monothematic, monocultural…….monotonous corporate visions, academic integrity will be viewed as an oxymoron……The NYT is only stating the obvious…..As for the “victim”……Methinks the man doth protest too much…….

    • Harold

      He remains – to date – an unproven victim, and yes I agree, “the man doth protest too much.”

  • Stephen Daniels

    Media detests science would rather people relied on their leftist agenda than science. eg. A&W spin marketing is never challenged by news media facts don’t matter anymore .Organic always equals good in media spin.

  • ed

    Monsanto would be basically the ones who launched this lawsuit. Kevin Folta will most likely be the company bag carrying poster boy for the project and will somehow have undisclosed and unlimited $$ millions of dollars from the profits of selling glyphose and glyphose tolerant GMO seed around the globe to farmers to fight this lawsuit with. The NY Times better be selling papers by the mini-bulk tote loads to fight this one or settle and sign their non disclosure agreement, then just quietly float it out there that they kicked Monsanto’s butt while also quietly advocating that all farmers should grow one acre or GMO seed without a TUA to attempt to break the corruption cycle. Paying a ridiculous price for one switched up gene in a seed that causes cancer when the other million genes are already owned by the farmers and then getting them to spray it with a herbicide known to cause cancer is definately quite a “System”, “Package” or what ever they want to call it. It definately is.

  • WeGotta

    “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas”.

    You used your reputation as a scientist to try and convince the public that they should accept gmo.
    The public now has the right to judge you and your actions.

    Monsanto and other billion dollar multinational corporations don’t care about you, me or Folta. Their only fiduciary obligation is to stock holders who demand a return on investment.