Keith Kloor

"GMO opponents are the climate skeptics of the left."
Position: 
Free-lance journalist
Biography: 

Editor at Audubon Magazine, 2000-2009.

Fellow at the University of Colorado's Center for Environmental Journalism, 2008-2009

Founder of Collide-a-Scrape blog, Discover Magazine, 2009-2015

Quotes: 

"Yes, it’s easy to be suspicious about efforts to sanitize the image of a dirty energy. But the actual world we live in requires us to look past the cynical marketing campaign that everyone mocks and accept the fact that the planet’s climate needs clean coal—and the sooner, the better." 

- "Clean Coal Isn't a Joke," Slate, Nov. 28, 2012

"Although there is an overwhelming scientific consensus that genetically modified foods pose no harm to public health, that is not the impression you would get from the tenor of many stories, be they at some respected journalism outlets or on popular TV talk shows. Indeed, much of this coverage suggests that the safety issue is still an open question, debated hotly by scientists, when this is not true at all."

- "GMO's Journalism, and False Balance," Discover, Apr. 24, 2014

"The food movement's demonization of genetically modified crops isn't just scientifically baseless, it's politically stupid."

Referring to GMO food labeling proposals: "If the food movement continues down this road, it will soon be as politically irrelevant as the once-promising environmental movement is now. ... Without subtly stoking ignorant fears about GM food, there would be no way to mobilize the fight against Monsanto and what it stands for." 

- "Delusions of Danger: Why the food movement’s demonization of genetically modified crops isn’t just scientifically baseless—it’s politically stupid," Slate, Nov. 5, 2012

"GMO opponents are the climate skeptics of the left," Slate, Sept. 26, 2012

Referring to climate change denier Marc Morano: "If you think the public discussion of climate change is best served by a free flowing exchange of information and perspectives, then Morano’s Climate Depot is one of your gateways, like it or not."

- "Morano bridges the climate divide," Discover, Aug. 12, 2009

"After I mentioned the PolluterWatch and SourceWatch pages on the organization’s listserv, one SEJ member said, 'seems factual to me.' Another sent me a private e-mail: 'Keith, please, tell me who pays your salary? How can you continue to pretend that you have not succumbed to the allure of spin that began with the pork industry paying doctors to extol the merits of eating dead pigs? Do you or do you not tout the technologies that have yet to be proven truly safe? DO TELL. It is time for you to come clean.'

"After picking up my jaw from the floor, I thought to myself: With colleagues like this, who needs enemies?"

- "Journalism under attack," Issues in Science and Technology, Volume XXXIII, Issue 2, Winter 2017.

Evidence: 

Keith Kloor is a freelance reporter and part time journalism professor at New York University. He has written for Discover, Slate and other outlets. He has promoted "clean coal" and is a regular defender of Genetically Modified Organisms or foods (GMOs) who has attacked the industry's critics as unscientific and "politically stupid." 

Kloor disputes a statement by the European Network of Scientists for Safety and Environmental Responsibility that "no scientific consensus on GMO safety" exists, after it was published in a peer-reviewed journal. Kloor's main argument is that the statement was signed by mostly "known opponents of biotechnology," and that many who signed have no relevant scientific expertise, despite having no such scientific expertise himself.

When journalists writes even slight critiques of GMOs and biotechnology, Kloor tends to react swiftly and aggressively. Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) wrote in 2013, "Keith Kloor makes a beat out of policing frightful coverage of GMOs."

Kloor's recent targets of criticism include: 

  • New York University Professor Marion Nestle
  • UC Berkeley journalism professor Michael Pollan (describing the renowned writer as “irrational”)
  • New York University Professor Nassim Taleb (maligning the professor by calling him “an angry asshole”)
  • Mother Jones reporter Tom Philpott (“climate skeptic of the Left”)
  • New York Times reporter Michael Moss ( calling Moss an “anti GMO activist”)
  • CNN’s Jake Tapper (describing the CNN work as “FrankenJournalism”),
  • New York Times columnist Mark Bittman (decrying Bittman's work as “idiotic or utterly disingenuous”)
  • Reuter’s reporter Carey Gillam (claiming Gillam's reporting exhibited “false balance”)
  • Reporters Paul Thacker and Charles Seife (attacking their investigation on claims of “selective omissions and misrepresentations”)

Kloor has decried public records requests, some of which include his communications with GMO interests, by organizations exposing conflicts of interest between corporations and scientists. Kloor compares the FOIA to coal and oil industry attacks on climate scientists. More background at Corporate Crime Reporter.

Keith Kloor and Jon Entine communicated with each other regularly according to US Right to Know's report on FOIA communications. One email released by USRTK had Jon Entine characterize Kloor as "a very good friend of mine." This contrasts apparent arguments between Kloor and Entine on Twitter following a article by Kloor claiming that Entine misrepresented his work.

The Cornell Alliance for Science

After writing a piece in February 2015 in Science Magazine criticizing the group U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) for using Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to uncover ties between 14 pro-GMO scientists' ties to Monsanto and the GMO industry, Kloor spoke in April 2015 at the Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS), a pro-Agriculture business think tank. Kloor was introduced at the event as the reporter “breaking the issue of attacks on ag-bio scientists for Science Magazine.” 

The Cornell Alliance for Science was launched in 2014 with a $5.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, purportedly to "depolarize the GMO debate." GMO watchdogs noted that from its inception that CAS "partners" included groups like the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, which has taken funding from by Monsanto, CropLife and Bayer. The Gates foundation has invested in Monsanto, and food justice activists say the foundation's approach to solving hunger in Africa involves GMOs and other high-tech agricultural approaches that benefit multinational corporations like Monsanto. Bill Gates is himself an outspoken proponent for GMOs.)  

The 14 scientists targeted by US Right to Know's FOIA request are associated with the industry-funded web site GMOAnswers, which was created for Monsanto and 5 other biotech producers by the PR firm Ketchum Communications. (For more about Ketchum's work for GMO companies, go here. In "Spinning Food," Friends of the Earth reported that Ketchum developed GMOAnswers.com to shift the story about GMOs on social media. A Ketchum video bragging about the campaign was taken offline after U.S. Right to Know called attention to it.)

Breakthrough Institute  

As Think Progress blogger Joe Romm points out, Kloor often flacks for Roger Pielke, a fellow at the Breakthrough Institute known for promoting doubt around aspects of climate change science. 

Bruce Chassy’s Academics Review

Kloor has criticized attempts to label GMOs as “cynical” and “irrational” and is known to regularly quote GMO scientists without disclosing their ties to Monsanto. For instance, in 2014 Kloor wrote for Discover about a talk he gave to a class run by Calestous Jouma of Harvard University. During the class, Kloor discussed the slanted journalism of Reuters reporter Carey Gillam. In a separate article, Kloor attacked Bill Nye with a published letter from scientist Kevin Folta. And in articles he wrote for Discover, Science and Nature, Kloor quoted scientist Bruce Chassy attacking the use of Freedom of Information Act requests to uncover ties to industry.

Based on Freedom of Information Act requests, the Boston Globe later reported that Calestous Jouma wrote a policy paper at the behest of Monsanto; the New York Times reported that Kevin Folta helped Monsanto lobby on GMO labeling; and Alternet reported that Bruce Chassy received Monsanto funding to start the website Academics Review.

Bruce Chassy’s Academics Review front group has sponsored a panel on GMOs where Keith Kloor was an invited speaker, and both Science and Nature have received formal complaints about bias in his reporting on GMOs. Emails released through FOIA have also found that Kloor has a very friendly relationship with GMO advocates. For instance, Jon Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project referred to Keith Kloor in one email as “a very good friend of mine” and suggested Kloor as a contact to broker a meeting between GMO advocates and a blogger at Discover Magazine.