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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Comments

  • 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

      Like the Oracle in the movie the Matrix said, “things are just as they should be”. Good points.

    • Mark Smith

      nice post, snowfloke. Need a tissue?

  • 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.

    • Harold

      Monsanto can fund the Law Suit if they wish (so can anybody) but they cannot launch it; only the individual or corporation who has been harmed can, and in this case it is Folta with the Claim. The Court can subpoena any document relevant to the Case making non-disclosure agreements irrelevant. Simply, if you don’t disclose your case – you lose it. If you have a claim against a defendant – you have to prove it. All Court cases are public domain and public record unless a Judge orders otherwise due to a demonstrable future harm owing to the exposure. (Children for example) Furthermore, The New York Times, along with other media, has many times in the past retracted false news and corrected their mistake to remain creditable as a News Source. The worst damage that the Media can do to themselves is to print a story, retract, then reprint, retract, and reprint the same story. (unreliable) The New York Times is not a Church; it is a news paper and an advertiser and they are supposed to be unbiased when they report because that is their fundamental duty. That being said, I am not saying this because I support any media; in my view they have all been corrupted away from that duty by monetary rewards; they are corporate and political shills and unworthy of title.
      What is striking in this case is that the New York Times are not standing down. What they earn from “winning” this case is far greater than the money: it is news reliability and their future vs Folta and he in the same regard, reliability and future: hence Law Suit. Both sides may claim damages to their reputation. If the New York Times subpoenas any revealing documents that Folta does not want the world to know, or documents of proof that Folta does not have, then before going to court, Folta will withdraw his claim or risk the penalty perjury. It is a pretrial lawyer’s game now. (What evidence does each have?) By action, it seems that on the surface the New York Times has a very strong and supportive Case. That being said, the reason this “nothing burger” Article is in the news today, and is not after Trial news to facts, is because it gains an unearned positive publicity for Falta and the GE camp and negative against The New York Times and the organic sector – before the facts under oath are even heard – and they milk it. It Is a GE publicity stunt and the game towards. The one being sued is always the bad guy in the public’s eye, right? The one calling you a bad guy without providing you with fact and evidence is always correct – right? I know when I am being snowed by Folta and his GM camp and I know that the media is not a court room. Is the Media reading from Falta’s sworn and signed affidavit or do they report only Folta’s public ranting and crying hearsay? News? People who are “right” don’t go crying to the media; they talk to the Judge and afterward the wrongs are clear (proof) and then corrected. News?

  • 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.

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