[...] over the past 30 years, as public funding for university research has dried up, private industry money has poured in. And with industry money comes industry priorities. #agribusiness has funded research that has advanced its interests and suppressed research that undermines its ability to chase unfettered growth. The levers of power at play can seem anecdotal – a late-night phone call here, a missed professional opportunity there. But interviews with researchers across the US revealed stories of industry pressure on individuals, university deans and state legislatures to follow an #agenda that prioritises business over human health and the environment.
Take Iowa, a state that is, in both identity and capacity, American farm country. According to data released by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in October 2018, the state produces more commodity corn and hogs – and in many years, soybeans – than any other US state. In Iowa, pigs outnumber people by nearly eight to one.
For decades, deep relationships have existed between the agriculture industry and the state’s politicians – and increasingly those alliances are catching the state’s universities in their crosshairs. In 1980, when the federal government passed the Bayh-Dole Act, encouraging universities to partner with the private sector on agricultural research, leaders at academic institutions were incentivised to seek money from agribusiness. Two of the state’s universities in particular seem to have felt the reach of this policy: Iowa State, which is a land-grant institution, and the University of Iowa, which doesn’t have an agriculture school but feels the pressure of agribusiness #influence. Researchers at both institutions told us they had felt the direct impact of agribusiness dollars on their work.