Proof that University of Florida plant scientist Kevin Folta lied when he claimed to colleagues and on social media that he had not consulted for Bayer (plus everything else you need to know about one of the most dishonest, conflicted individuals in science)

Folta has tried to suppress documentary evidence that this is true, including publication of this one sent to the former home of his secretary (possibly to avoid exposure. I have included the address because I have been able to confirm that it was indeed that of his former secretary at the time this contract was sent. It is no longer her address.)

For more background about Folta and his serious conflicts of interest while posing as an objective "science communicator" on biotech issues, please see here, here, here, here, and, for details about his relationship with Bayer and the conflicts of interest that posed, here (this last one from some of his own former colleagues in the biotech world.)

For additional documentation, reimbursement from Bayer for a trip during the time of the above consultation for them. I have left the bank account number unredacted in part because it is my understanding that this account is no longer active, and in part because I am opposed to redactions other than to protect someone's life or safety. But most importantly: Folta's privacy in this case is superseded by the public's interest in knowing that a publicly funded scientist is lying and hiding his conflicts of interest.

And for details about Folta's resignation as chair of the horticulture department at University of Florida in the wake of abuse allegations by his ex-wife, please see the link.

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Anonymous said…
Is it true that you doxxed Dr. Folta? Specifically, did you exposed his bank account information on twitter on 21 May 2019? If this is true, please explain your motive(s). Also, please explain how this is responsible journalism. You appear old enough to remember when you could believe in different things than another without hating them or wishing them harm. So many of us now go beyond hating ideas and hate the person espousing the idea.
Michael Balter said…
Dear "Anonymous"--

I'm not a big fan of anonymous comments on my blog, but thanks for writing anyway.

You are commenting on a blog post in which I explain explicitly why I decided not to make any further redactions on the documents I provided to show that Kevin Folta has consistently lied about his consulting for Bayer. Please read them again.

I don't hate Folta, I don't know him personally. But I do hate the act of lying about conflicts of interest by a "science communicator" whom we should be able to trust to provide objective evaluations of science and biotech in particular. He can't do that and take $600/hour from Bayer while trying to hide it. It's called conflict of interest and this is a particularly egregious case of it.
Dear "Anonymous" aka Dr Folta - that is off topic and classic Whataboutum Russian troll tactic.
Anonymous said…
I'm sorry that I have to post this anonymously, but I see what happens to scientists that discuss these topics. I work at the same university as Folta and it is horrible what has happened to him. He is the first to step up for a student, he speaks to elementary schools all the time and has been important in across-campus training of faculty, students and postdocs in communications. He has innovative research and is a leader in his field. It is sad that he has become the lightning rod because he does simply tell the truth, and some people can't handle that.

You have to understand something. Sometimes when scientists take on contracts (especially when they are not work related as in this case) they sign agreements to keep information confidential. He was an expert witness in a private dispute. That's not consulting. Faculty do this all the time because we are independent experts. He can't divulge who was involved. I respect that.

The fact that you have non-work, private documents and distribute them freely is deeply disturbing. This is like the hacking done on the East Anglia climate scientists. You have someone's personal documents and distribute them with the intent to harm. That is not ethical, especially for someone that claims to be a journalist.

I wish that he'd just do his work here at the university and get out of the public view. That would be the opposite of what the National Academies and AAAS say we need to do. But as long as people are going to obtain and distribute private documents and use them to harm reputations, scientists should stay away from these conversations. You and your cohorts have managed to silence a very effective voice for science and a decent man that cares.
Michael Balter said…
My response to the last commenter: You have made a false statement that undermines everything else you said. You say Folta was not “consulting” (his own claim as well) but the letter from the Bayer lawers says specifically that he is consulting. So you can’t even use semantics here to evade that basic fact. It does not matter whether Folta did this consulting work as part of his university job or as a private arrangement: Science communicators have absolutely no business entering into confidential contracts of this kind with a company whose products they directly, and almost daily, endorse the safety of (GMOs, glyphosate, etc.)

This is so basic that your comment makes me wonder if researchers at UF somehow missed the memo about what conflicts of interest actually consist of.
Anonymous said…
The problem is that you don't care what he actually did, you only care about the evidence that you want to believe because it fits what you want to believe. Yes, it says consulting. To me, I know what consulting is and what he claims does not look like consulting. I've done both consulting and expert witness work, and I would never call one they other. But again, you will believe the print because you can use it to criticize someone you disagree with. Instead of debate and discourse, you post private documents to harm someone speaking from the best evidence. Where are we? This is exactly what happens to climate scientists.

And I don't know the science like Folta does on this topic, but I do know that the National Academies of Science tell us that GMOs have no identifiable health risk. As a scientist, that means a lot. Again, it does not fit what you want to believe, so that's why you go after him.

We understand COI and have training in the area. But you tell me, how can you disclose outside activities (non-university, on your private time) that are confidential? Please help me with that one.

Again, you are outing someone that does tremendous good because you don't like that he supports science. It is why I generally stay out of these discussions.
Michael Balter said…
I'm not quite sure why I am bothering to respond to this last Anonymous comment other than to point out the absurdity of it.

If you are paid $600/hour directly by Bayer, to a total of about $200,000 for this particular single contract, that is relevant to evaluations of your role as a science communicator and the validity of the supposedly objective "scientific opinions" you express. That is obvious to almost everyone except Folta and those who leap to his defense, apparently without realizing the basic principles they are violating in the process.

And your last comment, that I don't like that Folta "supports science" and that is why I am antagonistic to science? Again, I can't believe you are so gullible as to take those very words out of Folta's mouth. I have been a science communicator since Folta was in high school, and I still am. I was a correspondent for Science for 25 years, covering all sorts of topics, and I continue to write for Scientific American, The Verge, SAPIENS, Yale E360, Undark, and other publications. In addition, I taught science journalism at NYU for six years, and a year at Boston University before that.

This is the last response from me. But why don't you came out from behind your "Anonymous" curtain and be brave? No one is going to hurt you, and no one would have given Folta a hard time had he not lied and pretended to be something he is not.
Michael Balter said…
antagonistic to Folta, I meant to say, not to science of course.
Curt Hannah said…
First, let me say that I am a colleague of Dr. Kevin Folta at the University of Florida

Second, I find your posting of private banking information despicable.

Third, i find your conjecture that one cannot expert witness/consult and do science education absurd. I have no idea why you think that.

I, like many scientists, have consulted, done expert witnessing and public outreach. This is what we do. We present science based information in all three arenas. There is no conflict of interest and your inference that there is simply wrong.

I hope the proper authorities are aware of your posting of private banking information. There is no other reason for this than an attempt to silence and harass Dr. Folta. You failed and ended up activating other people to become more active in fighting your anti-science, anti-GMO campaign.

Game on!!
Anonymous said…
This is grasping at straws. The first letter is an engagement to serve as an expert witness in legal proceedings, probably related the glyphosate trials. An actual journalist would pair it with similar engagement letters address to Christopher Portier, the IARC member who has already working for a law firm when he rendered the opinion that glyphosate is probably harmful to humans (in the absence of genuine supporting evidence.

The second letter is simply reimbursement for travel expenses that Folta would not have shouldered of his own accord.

Your agenda is clearly to puff yourself up by making mountains of molehills. It's no wonder Science magazine fired you..
Kevin Folta said…
This is Kevin Folta and I'm addressing the last comment by Anonymous. The work had nothing to do with glyphosate. It was analysis of some data from the 1990's and early 2000's to settle a long-standing issue, and I figured it out. There were dozens of experts on this case (none that have been harassed like me, and I disclosed much more than they did, this was to be confidential work) that could not figure it out. I did. Unfortunately I'll never find expert witness work again for this law firm or any other. I'm recommended all the time, but do not get calls. The reason is because the confidential nature of that work cannot be upheld when I have people poring though my personal records and making them public. So Balter can scream about me being paid for my expertise, but it is people like him and Karl Haro Von Mogel and Anastasia Bodar that consider themselves the gatekeepers of my private, vacation time work, and find it necessary to break my confidential agreements. In essence, they cost me tens of thousands of dollars of opportunities using my skills to find the truth. It is awesome to have opportunities to supplement my income. I got my first paycheck after 13 years of post-high school education, paid student loans until I was into my 40's. I work for a state institution. Supplemental income from a separate job on my vacation time WAS a good thing, and I'm glad I was able to help two parties solve a long-standing dispute.
Michael Balter said…
As the moderator of my own blog, I am letting Folta have his say in his comment above because it clearly demonstrates the severe pathology that fuels his gaslighting and dishonesty. Folta cannot bring himself to say, even after it has been publicly revealed, that he was consulting for Bayer, and that his fee and expenses were paid by Bayer. The issue is conflict of interest and transparency, as I have indicated in the original blog post and as the BioFortified colleagues themselves pointed out. Folta lied about this consulting work on multiple occasions, because as a scientist he knows the meaning of conflict of interest even as he tries to mislead his followers about it. That is the greatest sin. He lied about all this out of greed, to make money, and now he laments that he can't do it anymore. Transparency means that he had absolutely no business signing an NDA with Bayer and its lawyers, and transparency means that he cannot now use that NDA to excuse his actions.