Foodwatch launches manifest against the sale of science
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Foodwatch launches manifest against the sale of science

  • 16 June 2020

Foodwatch launches a manifesto against the sale of science as the start of a large-scale campaign. This is in response to the increasing public-private partnership and the risks this entails. Foodwatch has formulated concrete measures to protect independent food science, such as the establishment of an independent research fund and better compliance with and monitoring of the code of conduct for scientific integrity.  

Selling out the science

Scientific research in the Netherlands is increasingly dependent on investment by industry. While public investment in scientific research has only been decreasing since 2015, private sector spending is increasing, as evidenced by the Science letter of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2019). According to the objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy, 3% of Gross Domestic Product should go to Research & Development each year. In order to achieve this 3% GDP in the coming years, the government is once again looking primarily at companies. "The government is investing up to a total of €400 million extra in research and innovation from 2020 and earlier this year indicated that it will focus on increasing private spending and strengthening public-private partnerships", according to the Science letter. According to the 'Association of Universities' (VSNU) and the 'Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research' (NWO), the increasing dependence on external funding is causing excessive competition and pressure on the system. Both organisations are therefore sounding the alarm. According to research by the Rathenau Institute (2018), the strong public-private partnership leads to risks of conflicts of interest, the accessibility of public knowledge, the balance between the various academic, social and economic agendas and academic freedom. 

Who pays determines

Several studies show that the food industry influences nutritional research. Funding by food companies often results in favourable research results for the sponsor, distracts attention from unfavourable results and leaves less room for social and fundamental research (such as on fair, safe and healthy nutrition). The interests of the industry often take precedence over those of society.

Now that scientific research is becoming increasingly dependent on industry funding, the cash register is taking precedence over knowledge. This has to change. The food watchdog calls for the manifesto to be signed en masse, so that the various players take action to guarantee independent food science.

Source: © Foodwatch