Thursday, June 23, 2011

Science for Sale

Big tobacco was able to muddy the scientific waters for years by hiring scientists to produce "data" to obfuscate the truth regarding the dangers of cigarette smoking and second hand smoke.

The technique worked so well (by delaying the inevitable), that it was quickly picked up by Big oil to cloud the truth about climate change.

Now, with the increasing awareness of the negative health effects of obesity, we have a new industry willing to find sciencists to obfuscate.  Big Sugar has now become the Sugar Daddy of any scientist willing to say that their products won't make you fat

In a nutshell, a scientist who has taken money from Kraft, McDonald's, General Mills, Kellogg's, Mars and Nabisco, is now taking a position entirely contrary from every other "honest" (i.e., non-purchased) scientist that soda is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic in the US.   Kind of like what Big Tobacco and Big Oil's scientists did, this guy is claiming that there is no "clear evidence."

Here's what they do:
In a recent commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, respected food researchers asserted that the industry has participated in "deceptive science and advocacy." They say "the food and beverage industry has created or funded front groups reminiscent of the tobacco institute that give the appearance of grassroots support."

The groups, they say, include Americans Against Food Taxes and the Center for Consumer Freedom, organizations that are largely funded by the food and beverage industries.

"Big tobacco, big sugar," food researcher Popkin said, "identical in the way they treat scientists."

Popkin admits he has taken some industry money for research but, he says, turned down many of big food's most tantalizing offers.

"I've been offered $5,000 to go speak to this meeting or that meeting," he said. "You get $2,000 to $5,000 a day. They'll fly you on business class tickets to exotic places. They'll take you to Paris or Rio. They'll take you to places in Brazil."

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was criticized for taking $10 million for obesity research from the soda industry, and after the American Association of Family Physicians took money from Coca-Cola, some members ripped up their membership cards.
In a way, I can't blame Big companies for doing this. After all, they have businesses to run. But I do blame the "scientists" and organizations that take their money.  It's plainly obvious that the scientific community needs higher ethical standards, and needs to enforce those standards stringently.

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