Kennedy School of Government professor Calestous Juma did not disclose his connection to biotechnology giant Monsanto in a December 2014 paper supporting genetically modified organisms.
The paper, titled “Global Risks of Rejecting Agricultural Biotechnology,” was published on the website of the Genetic Literacy Project, and argues that agriculture should be “viewed as a knowledge-based entrepreneurial activity” and that African policymakers should “consider whether overregulation of GMOs is warranted.”
According to The Boston Globe, Monsanto regulatory policy and scientific affairs head Eric Sachs suggested the topic to Juma in August 2013 email correspondence, including recommendations for the brief’s contents and title.
“The specific goal is to frame some of the important issues facing biotechnology with reasoned thoughtful messages in a way that helps thought leaders and influencers to better appreciate the growing body of knowledge available on the safety and benefits of GM crops,” Sachs wrote in the email to Juma, published by Mother Jones. In the message, Sachs wrote that public relations firm CMA Consulting would oversee the production of the policy papers to avoid any direct involvement from Monsanto.
“We recognize and support the value of faculty engagement with outside organizations—governments, nonprofits, and corporations—in order to understand and solve public problems,” Kennedy School spokesperson Doug Gavel wrote in an emailed statement. “At the same time, as a school devoted to advancing the public interest, we are committed to maintaining the highest standards of academic integrity.”
Gavel said Juma was not paid by Monsanto for his article and that the article published for the Genetic Literacy Project drew from a 2011 book authored by Juma, as well as earlier testimony before a congressional subcommittee in July 2014.
The University’s conflict of interest policy, last amended in 2012, focuses entirely on financial conflicts of interest, defined as “a set of circumstances that reasonable observers would believe creates an undue risk that an individual’s judgment or actions regarding a primary interest of the University will be inappropriately influenced by a secondary financial interest.”
“The HKS administration will continue to work to increase awareness and implementation of this important university policy, and further, to ensure that faculty, scholars and the Kennedy School more broadly maintain public trust,” Gavel wrote in his statement.
Juma did not respond to requests for comment.
—Staff writer Luca F. Schroeder can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @lucaschroeder.