Organic Group Challenged to Remove Former Board President/SpeakerMarch 6th, 2012
Celebrity Doctor, Alan Greene, Accused of Unethical Conduct
ANAHEIM, CA: On the heels of an emerging corporate influence peddling scandal that has undermined the integrity of the federal organic rulemaking process, The Cornucopia Institute, an industry watchdog, has requested that a speech by Alan Greene, a well-known pediatrician, be canceled at the Natural Foods Expo, being held this week in Anaheim, California.
The speech is part of a $175 per plate fundraiser, on behalf of The Organic Center, a research group launched by the Organic Trade Association and funded by corporate agribusiness. Dr. Greene is the Center’s former president.
Greene, a well-known author, media celebrity, and corporate spokesman, took part in a coordinated effort this past December that allegedly misled the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) into approving the use of synthetic nutritional oils in organic foods. The additives are manufactured by Martek Biosciences Corporation, part of the $12 billion Dutch-based multinational firm Royal DSM.
“In the infamous tradition of physicians who sell out their moral high standing by testifying on behalf of tobacco companies, or PhDs that question established science confirming global warming while collecting fees from oil companies, Dr. Greene, without disclosing relevant financial conflicts, challenged the preponderance of scientific studies that find that the Martek oils, derived from fermented soil fungus and algae, have no discernible health benefits,” said Will Fantle, Research Director at the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute.
Greene, who was at the now-controversial NOSB meeting in Savannah, was representing one of his largest clients, the dairy giant Dean Foods that controls 50 milk brands around the country including Horizon and Silk (“soymilk”). The company markets products, priced at a premium, with Martek’s DHA algal oil.
“Although Greene told the NOSB, while testifying, that he was a ‘consultant’ to Dean Foods’ WhiteWave subsidiary, and answered their questions about DHA (Martek oils), he failed to disclose that he had, for years, acted as a publicity agent for the company starring in numerous videos including telling parents that the best way to get DHA in the diet of their children was to serve Horizon brand milk,” Fantle added. “More egregiously, he failed to tell the board he had other economic interests directly tied to promoting Martek’s DHA, including with a major pharmaceutical company and selling DHA supplements under his own name.
Cornucopia’s call to oust Greene, on ethical grounds, comes on the heels of a recent investigative report by The Center for Media and Democracy.
Who Is Doctor Greene?
Greene, who owns and operates Greene Ink, Inc., has interests in numerous websites and has made his living publishing books, making paid public appearances and contracting with major pharmaceutical companies, supplement manufacturers and food marketers to “partner” in their promotional activities.
Among Greene’s clients, who were not disclosed during his official testimony at the USDA’s NOSB meeting, is Mead Johnson, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the country’s largest brand of conventional infant formula. Greene’s work for the Pharma giant helped them introduce Martek oils into their conventional infant formula products by promoting them to other physicians and consumers.
Dr. Greene received the wrath of activists in the breastfeeding movement by helping execute a marketing campaign that resulted in discouraging mothers from breastfeeding.
“It is completely unacceptable and unethical for a pediatrician who masquerades as a breastfeeding advocate to enter into a financial relationship with Mead Johnson for the promotion of their formula with DHA,” stated Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC Executive Director, National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy. “The addition of DHA and ARA into their formula resulted in marketing claims that have made it much harder for mothers to understand that infant formula is not equivalent to breastmilk and that their babies will not see better or be smarter if they consume this formula.”
Greene also did not declare his conflict being involved in directly marketing Martek DHA products. In a partnership with the supplement manufacturer Twin Labs, Martek products are sold under the “Dr. Greene” brand name (with labels including his name and likeness).
Author John Stauber, an authority on corporate public relations, told Cornucopia, “Established, peer-reviewed scientific research demonstrates that these Martek products do not deliver on their primary marketing claim of aiding brain development in infants and children. Dr. Greene is an advocate for industry positions who is not adequately disclosing his own economic conflicts.”
Stauber is co-author of Trust Us We’re Experts and other books exposing industry front groups.
Although Dr. Greene represents himself as a practicing physician, his purported affiliation with Stanford University and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital seems to be nothing more than periodically making rounds with physicians in training seeing critically ill patients (as opposed to his purported expertise in wellness care).
According to Cornucopia, numerous attempts to contact his office, through the switchboard at University and the hospital, were unsuccessful. There is no listing for Dr. Greene on the hospital website. Finally, calls were transferred to an individual handling his for-profit website (unaffiliated with the hospital or university).
In addition to the lack of scientific support of Greene’s claims, a number of governmental agencies have also challenged both DSM/Martek and Dean Foods marketing. The European Union has banned all marketing claims suggesting DHA supplementation aids in brain development. In response to a formal complaint by Cornucopia, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently sanctioned Dean Foods, forcing them to modify their unsubstantiated marketing claims for Horizon DHA milk.
Dean Foods also faces a consumer class-action lawsuit alleging false and misleading advertising of Horizon milk with DHA.
In a letter, dated March 6, to the Executive Director of The Organic Center, The Cornucopia Institute suggested replacing Dr. Greene at its annual fundraising banquet in order to insulate the organization, and the organic industry as a whole, “from questions of ethical improprieties.”
In addition to problems with Dr. Greene’s testimony, The Cornucopia Institute has filed a formal complaint with the USDA’s Office of Inspector General claiming that Martek and Dean Foods attorneys and executives intentionally lied to and misled federal policymakers during the meetings and in public testimony about the propriety of the DHA oils. The District of Columbia Bar is also currently investigating the incident.
“Consumers have chosen organics specifically to stay away from unproven and potentially dangerous novel ingredients in their food,” said Fantle. “And this industry has always been assumed to be acting on a different ethical plane than traditional industrial agriculture and food production. The behavior by Martek, Dean Foods, and their minions, including Dr. Greene, needs to be publicly rebuked to maintain the integrity of the organic label and rulemaking process.”
The full dossier on Dr. Greene’s extensive pharmaceutical and corporate agribusiness entanglements can be found at:
A story outlining the alleged improprieties at the last USDA National Organic Standards Board meeting, that resulted in a recommendation to include heretofore illegal synthetic substances in organics, can be found at: http://www.cornucopia.org/2012/01/largest-corporate-dairy-biotech-firm-and-usda-accused-of-conspiring-to-corrupt-rulemaking-and-pollute-organics/