Stories: The Heartland Study Exposé
David Zaruk and Kathleen Hefferon unravelled how the Heartland Health Research Alliance (HHRA) was created by tort lawyers and activists from the organic food industry to fund scientists who would manufacture research beneficial to their campaigns. What this three-part exposé reveals is the extent that these activist scientists would go to hide their special interest funding, distort their research methodology and create artificial partnerships. It is a snapshot of the type of malignant activities going on daily by integrity-challenged opportunists who are destroying public trust in science and public health regulators.
The first part of the Heartland exposé looks at how the organization has been funded by tort law firms and organic food companies to try to deliver research results they can use to further enrich themselves. It also shows the cavalier way the non-profit has been managed, how scientists could come in and take large amounts of funds to use for other projects without scrutiny and how their total lack of transparency reflects on everything a scientific organization should not be.
Researchers should be guided by the scientific method. The second part of the Heartland Study exposé shows how these researchers are breaking all of the rules. As activist scientists, they started with their desired conclusion (to link herbicides to neonatal health issues) and then looked for the evidence. To achieve this conclusion, they designed their research around the false cause fallacy (confusing correlation with causation). Taking the hazard-based approach, they ignore realistic exposure levels and simply link the two in a causal relationship (because that’s what they were paid to do). This is not science, not ethical and not genuine.
Part 3 looks at how the HHRA claims they have institutional partnerships but they are simply relationships with a scientist or activist from each organization. The purpose of this is to create a fog of deception to hide the special interest funding sources they are giving to these institutions, allowing the scientists to pretend their research and publications are funded internally. This section also looks at some of the less reliable organizations the HHRA partners up with, like the Maharishi cult or the Ramazzini Institute.
Postscript: Integrity Among Thieves and Liars
HHRA executive director, Russell King, responded to the Heartland exposé with the tired Monsanto shill catcall while demonstrating how ethically superior their campaign is. The Firebreak responded showing how the HHRA is the organization captured by special interests and is anything but ethical. Russell King, new to the raucous agri-science debate, is being fed biased information from a hardened activist tribe. The perfect useful idiot, he is naively singing from their songsheet.