Cornell’s Alliance for Science, funded by the Gates Foundation to “depolarize” the GMO debate, hosted its first public event in Ithaca: “Ask Me Anything About GMOs.” This event, however, was nothing if not polarizing. Controversy before the event centered around how it was portrayed (as an open and independent discussion of GMO issues by a panel of unbiased scientists). This illusion was quickly shattered by a New York Times front page article and Jonathan Latham’s follow-up, The Puppetmasters of Academia. Together these exposed the industry links of Kevin Folta (a key panel participant), Sarah Evanega Davidson (director of the Cornell Alliance for Science) and Cornell University itself. The final panel at the event was composed solely of publicly funded academics with clear industry ties.
The panel took questions from the public and from Alliance for Science Fellows and staff. Their answers were less than satisfactory for those wanting an independent, science-informed viewpoint or a thoughtful discussion of GMO issues. The panel scientists evaded questions, gave inaccurate or misleading answers, answered questions that were not asked, reiterated industry talking points or simply had the pubic “gonged” when they did not like where the discussion was going. Much of the audience was composed of the Alliance for Science, its fellows and its Cornell supporters. However thought-provoking and challenging questions were asked by farmers, scientists not linked to industry and other members of the public. For the full video of the Ithaca Alliance Event see: Bioscience Resource Project video of “Ask Me Anything” GMO Event 9-10-15.