Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Conflict Resolution

Magazine article Nutrition Action Healthletter

Conflict Resolution

Article excerpt

Industry's influence on science is a growing problem, as this month's cover story interview with New York University nutritionist-provocateur Marion Nestle makes clear.

Scientific research provides the foundation for government policies and advice to the public. That has led many industries to hire their own experts. But we know who they are, so we can subject their findings to a little "extreme vetting."

The problem is that industry's influence extends far beyond deploying its own scientists, as Nestle notes.

For example, companies sponsor research by scientists whose published papers don't always disclose the industry links. Or scientists who conduct independently funded research are paid (or unpaid) advisors to food, drug, tobacco, or other companies.

When those scientists publish a paper or are quoted in the media, the ties to industry are often kept secret. The researchers aren't stupid: They know that disclosing a conflict of interest could undermine their credibility.

Some companies go further. They give grants to nonprofit health, environmental, and other organizations. Generous, yes. But the funding makes it harder for those groups to criticize the people who are handing them checks.

Or companies set up their own wholesome-sounding, but far from independent, organizations. Names like the Global Energy Balance Network or American Council on Science and Health or Center for Consumer Freedom have a nice ring to them. But they're often just shills for industry. And the public hasn't a clue. …

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