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The American Council on Science and Health Wants You to Believe It’s Neutral (Key Word: Believe)

The American Council on Science and Health Wants You to Believe It's Neutral (Key Word: Believe)

The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), an “independent research and advocacy group” with a main focus of exposing “junk science” and “science … not hype” has, for many years, claimed its messages for hot topics such as the defense of fracking and the dismissal of claims about the risks of BPA and the pesticide atrazine, were science-driven, with no influence from the corporations and organizations it receives funding from.

On its research report front pages, the ACSH claims, “ACSH accepts unrestricted grants on the condition that it is solely responsible for the conduct of its research and the dissemination of its work to the public. The organization does not perform proprietary research, nor does it accept support from individual corporations for specific research projects.”

But recent documents obtained from the ACSH have exposed that the organization not only depends on funding from corporations with a financial wager in the scientific topics the ACSH covers, but also that the ACSH directly solicits donations from the corporations when a certain issue will be covered.

The documents reveal a call to ACSH staff members to approach potential financial donors with pitches shaped around different issues. For example, when the ACSH planned to “seize opportunities to cultivate new funding possibilities (Prop 37 [California’s GMO labeling bill], CSC [Campaign for Safe Cosmetics], … etc.),” the documents also encouraged staffers to mention CSC in fundraising pitches to companies like L’Oreal, Avon and Procter and Gamble – all of which have a direct financial stake in the result of CSC’s work to expose dangerous chemicals in cosmetics.

And this isn’t the first time the ACSH has purportedly targeted financial backers with a clear agenda in mind.

In an 1992 memo from an ACSH executive, it was reported that ACSH staff would, in preparation for the publication of a research paper plugging artificial sweeteners, solicit funds from the Calorie Control Council, a group backed by many diet food and drink corporations, and McNeil Specialty Products, a company with marketing rights to Splenda.

The ASCH was originally founded in 1978 as a counter to environmental groups such as the Environmental Working Group and the National Resources Defense Council – “unscientifically based” groups “that use ‘junk science’ and hyperbole about risk to promote fears about our food, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, and other environmental and lifestyle factors,” the ACSH states on its website.

From July 2012 to December 2012, the ASCH received almost 60 percent of its donations from large corporations, including Chevron, Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper/Snapper, Bayer Cropscience, McDonald’s, Proctor and Gamble and even tobacco giant Altria.

Dr. Gilbert Ross, the current executive director of ASCH, has claimed that “the sources of our support are irrelevant to our scientific investigations. Only science-based facts hold sway in our publications, even if the outcome is not pleasing to our contributors.”

A current look at ACSH’s website reveals reports on everything from salt intake to pro-flu-shot messages. Based on ACSH’s track record, we’ll take a look at next year’s documents, where it seems likely we’ll discover that these messages were brought to the public courtesy of salt and flu-shot pharmaceutical companies.

Image Source: 401(K) 2012/Flickr

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