The New York Times has spent years releasing one-sided coverage of modern agriculture, raising red flags among farmers and helping to stifle honest discussion about the realities of our food chain. The poisonous fruit from the Big Apple’s newspaper of record, it seems, may finally be catching up to it.
The science-driven Facebook page AgBioWorld has brought to public attention a lawsuit that plant scientist and biotech advocate Dr. Kevin Folta has filed against The New York Times and reporter Eric Lipton, which states that the defendants “intentionally misrepresented the actions of a pure academic scientist to push their own agenda.” At issue is a September 2015 story titled “Food Industry Enlisted Academics in G.M.O. Lobbying War, Emails Show,” which Folta says misrepresented his work on genetically modified crops and his relationship with Monsanto.
Folta, who works for the land-grant University of Florida in the Horticultural Sciences Department, has long been open about any money he receives as part of his writing or speaking engagements, down to noting the dollar amount for cab fare he was given to get to the airport. The lawsuit argues that steps taken by the newspaper damaged his reputation and opened him and his family up to abuse. Key points of the suit state:
- These defendants — to further their own “anti GMO” agenda and in disregard of the truth — manipulated an interview with Dr. Folta and then misrepresented him as a covertly paid operative of one of the largest and controversial companies in America, Monsanto, a company that produces GMO products.
- In order to ensure maximum effect and to best propagate their subjective agenda, these defendants placed this lengthy article above the fold on Sunday, 6 September 2015, the day after posting this scandalous article on the New York Times’ website, with false and misleading headlines and bylines, to draw readers into the manifestly false and misleading content.
- These defendants furthered their mischief by using a large photo of Dr. Folta, juxtaposed with more misleading and inflammatory text.
- As a result of the defendants’ knowingly false and misleading article. Dr. Folta, his laboratory, and his family have been the subject of verbal attacks and death threats; his credibility and reputation have been damaged.
The suit was filed on Sept. 1, and Folta is seeking unspecified damages. It states that the scientist, who works across the nation as an agvocate, has no financial ties to Monsanto — personal or professional, and that the “reporting” therein was driven by an activist agenda, even after Folta made clear to Lipton certain distinctions, such as the difference between an “unrestricted gift” to a university and the fictional “unrestricted grant” cited in the article.
The entire lawsuit can be read here.
In a statement to Politico Pro, which is behind a paywall, a spokesperson for The New York Times said that the paper will “defend the lawsuit vigorously,” though whether the accusations themselves have been denied is not yet clear.