My Turn: Who is really behind the Hudson Institute?

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2001

On Sunday, the Empire ran an article by Dennis T. Avery praising a recent television special by ABC's John Stossel on high-tech agriculture. Mr. Avery is certainly entitled to his warm opinion of Mr. Stossel's work but your readers should know he is hardly a disinterested observer.

The impressive sounding Hudson Institute for which Mr. Avery works is little more than a public relations front for the chemical industry. It is founded by corporations such as Cargill, ConAgra, Du Pont, Monsanto and the National Agricultural Chemical Association. Not surprisingly, these are the folks who manufacture the pesticides and genetically engineered foods Mr. Stossel's report was so enthusiastic about.

Mr. Avery's primary occupation is extolling the benefits of the chemicals his sponsors manufacture. To that end, he has authored a book, "Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic." His secondary occupation is spreading negative publicity about critics of the chemical industry who threaten his sponsor's bottom lines.

In his article, Mr. Avery modestly mentions his past associations with Mr. Stossel. He omits mentioning that he collaborated last year with Mr. Stossel on a television report which was billed as an "expose" of organic foods. In his report Mr. Stossel cited falsified studies purporting to show organic foods were contaminated with E. coli. Mr. Stossel was later reprimanded by his employers at ABC and forced to make a rare on-air apology for using phony data to support his conclusions.

This is the second article in a month the Empire has run by Mr. Avery. I appreciate the Empire's desire to publish a wide range of viewpoints. However, if what is essentially a press release from Monsanto is going to be a regular feature in the Empire, I would like to request the you give equal time to someone representing the organic foods industry. Failing that, you should let your reader know who is really behind organizations like the Hudson Institute so they know where the information you are providing is coming from and who is paying to provide it.

David Ottoson owns Rainbow Foods. He has eaten, sold and written about organic foods for 20 years.

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