Science for Sale

| March / April 2003

It appears that industry now exerts such influence over scientific research that even the most reputable organizations can?t seem to find scientists without conflicts of interest. As reported in Onearth (Fall 2002), published by the Natural Resources Defense Council, even the prestigious International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyons, France, may have fallen prey to the trend. After inviting a scientist with ties to PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and the maker of Sweet ?n Low to serve on one of its highly respected review panels, the IARC favorably revised the status of the sweetener saccharin from a ?possible? carcinogen to a substance whose risk was undetermined. Other recent IARC panels have favorably reassessed the pesticide atrazine and the manufacturing chemical 1,3-butadiene. These revisions come on the heels of the New England Journal of Medicine?s loosening its rules against publishing articles by authors with ties to companies manufacturing the products being reviewed. (The journal claimed it was getting hard to find authors without conflicts.)