But the most egregious and extensive attacks were reserved for Professor Kevin Folta, the chairman of the Plant Science department at the University of Florida . Kevin Folta is a truly nice guy, who will take the time to explain science to anyone that asks, in the clearest imaginable terms. His research is in the effects of various colors of light on strawberries, but he also has created some varieties using biotechnology for these experiments. Because of his involvement in this research and his lack of connection to the biotech industry, he has been a popular speaker and teacher explaining how biotechnology (“GMOs”) works and why all science has shown that is not a safety concern. His debate with Michael Hansen of Consumer’s Union is a model of his clear speaking style.
Because of how clearly he can defuse the fear and emotion of people who are worried about biotechnology, he has been invited to give many talks to farmers on how to discuss what they do and to students at various universities. He also records a weekly podcast called Talking Biotech in which he interviews various players in the field, and writes a blog called Illumination in which he corrects misconceptions and analyzes biotech papers that have been misconstrued. Here’s a clever one, where he shows that the amount of Roundup spread on an acre of farmland is less than would fit in a 12 oz soda can.
But, this outreach work is not part of his actual job, and in order to give more talks, he needed to find a way to pay for the travel expenses and the sandwiches he often provides to the classes. Monsanto, with whom he has no professional relationship, and who does not pay him in any way, offered his university $25,000 to fund his outreach program, which Folta agreed to. In his talks, he gratefully acknowledged Monsanto’s support, but did not take a penny for himself or his research program.