European Science and Environment Forum

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ESEF was established in 1994 to "inform the public about scientific debates", by Roger Bate, then Director of the Environment Unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs, Dr John Emsley, then science writer in Residence at Imperial College and Professor Frits Bottcher, then Director of the Global Institute for the Study of Natural Resources in The Hague. [1] Analyses of its work and the tobacco documents show that the organisation was a vehicle to get across tobacco industry messages.

Background

Mission Statement

ESEF said it was

an independent, non-profit-making alliance of scientists whose aim is to ensure that scientific debates are properly aired, and that decisions which are taken, and action that is proposed, are founded on sound scientific principles. The ESEF will be particularly concerned to address issues where it appears that the public and their representatives, and those in the media, are being given misleading or one-sided advice. In such instances the ESEF will seek to provide a platform for scientists whose views are not being heard, but who have a contribution to make.[1]

Only Funded by Charities

ESEF argued that "To maintain its independence and impartiality, ESEF accepts funding only from charities, and the income it receives is from the sale of its publications."[1]

Third Party Techniques

Right wing, pro-corporate activists such as Bate wanted a new organisation to promote a pro-tobacco / pro-oil / pro-pesticide agenda. His ideas dovetailed perfectly with those of the tobacco industry, especially Philip Morris, BAT, and RJ Reynolds. Writing in The Lancet in 2000, Elisa Ong and Stanton Glantz offered this analysis:

Philip Morris [PM] planned a variety of programmes to deliver and reinforce the industry's perspective on second-hand initiator or sponsor of these programmes described in the September, 1993 "Action Plan" ...PM used third-party vehicles that recruited other participants and funders and expanded its "sound science" discussion to issues beyond second-hand smoke, masking the industry's role as the initiator or sponsor of these programmes.
From 1993 to 1994, PM and public relations firm APCO Associates worked to launch The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC), a "grassroots" organisation advocating "sound science" in policy decision-making. PM wanted a similar organisation in Europe at the end of 1994, with potentially sympathetic European scientists invited to a conference hosted by TASSC. However, Burson-Marsteller research indicated that potential European members wanted independence from any corporate sponsors; two people specifically mentioned PM as typical of questionable corporate sponsors. It appears that the outcome was the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF).[2]

A Tobacco-Funded Science Watchdog

In 1996, Bate circulated ESEF's up-and-coming activities for the next few months to British American Tobacco, including various tobacco or health-related projects. It included, among other things, the idea that a think tank covertly funded by the tobacco industry would be seen as a "science watch-dog":

  • piece on the source of science funding. The source is now more important than the science. Bring in the furore over British American Tobacco donations for scientific research. (Target for before the CRC gives - or not - the £2.25m to Cambridge for Sheehy Chair). Refer to Terence Kealey's book ... and criticise the media's presentation of only government-funded science as 'objective'. Target 25/9/96
  • US/EU paper: Why regulate nicotine when caffeine is more addictive? A follow-up to the work done by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in US where they petitioned the FDA to regulate caffeine. The aim was to show that the reason for the regulation of nicotine has nothing to do with the science and a lot to do with empire building by the FDA. The message: - don't let the EU do the same thing. Needs careful handling - may work best as a news article by Roger Bate.
  • All the science papers from the proposed risk book, as well as follow-on papers for a second volume on climate change.
  • Work with media to establish the name of ESEF as a scare watchdog. Get key UK journalists to do pieces on why ESEF "the science watchdog" is necessary. Encourage the media to contact us when health scares occur. Work with Richard D. North on a piece on the defects (or improper use) of epidemiology. Target for mid-September.
  • Roger Bate to increase presence on the think tank/business lecture circuit to promote sound science. Help from business essential for this. Great way to recruit support from business and disseminate the message to them. And visit Brussels regularly to brief (and be briefed by) lobbyists.
  • Organise low-dose risk conferences for Brussels, London and Paris. Significant funding required.[3]

Funded by BAT

Internal BAT documents show that ESEF were receiving significant tobacco money by the late 1990s. By that time, ESEF was becoming more of a vehicle for pro-tobacco work than the Institute of Economic Affairs. BAT's CORA plan for 1998 included the funding of ESEF, rather than the IEA.[4] Under "Raising the debate" it said:

Support public policy groups (Social Affairs Unit, the Cato Institute and European Science and Environment Forum) and academics associated with such groups to produce book and articles on issues such as risk evaluation and social policy on tobacco issues.

The amount was £150,000.

In August 1998 Bate appeared on the BBC's Today programme, to talk about "junk science", including passive smoking. The audience was not told about his association with Big Tobacco.[5] One BAT document from 1999 recorded that ESEF received:

  • £67,788.00 for "Consultancy and Books / pamphlets" for BAT's WHO Project
  • £50,000 for Consultancy for International consumer issue - included in "Reputation".[6]

Attacking WHO

In September 1998, ESEF published a Working Paper by Robert Matthews entitled "Facts versus Factions: the use and abuse of subjectivity in scientific research", that attacked the WHO's position on environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) risk.[7]

Another undated BAT document outlined action points to attack the WHO International Convention Meeting on Tobacco. Two BAT executives, Chris Proctor and Paul Richmond, were to "make [contact] with Roger Bate at European Science and Environmental Forum to see what action can be achieved.[8]

Undermined Science of ETS

Earlier in the year, in March 1998, ESEF had issued a pamphlet that undermined the evidence linking ETS to disease and cancer. [9]

Dissolved

According to Companies House, ESEF was dissolved on 17 May 2005.

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 ESEF, Mission Statement, undated, accessed June 2011
  2. Elisa Ong and Stanton Glantz, "Tobacco industry efforts subverting International Agency for Research on Cancer's second-hand smoke study", The Lancet, Volume 355, 8 April 2000, accessed September 2011
  3. ESEF, Work for Coming Months, Undated, accessed June 2011
  4. BAT, CORA Centre Plan 1998, 26 September 1997
  5. Broadcast Monitoring Programme, Today Programme, 19 August 1998, accessed June 2011
  6. BAT, Science and Regulation Forecast, 16 September 1999, accessed June 2011
  7. Robert Matthews, Facts versus Factions: the use and abuse of subjectivity in scientific research, Working Paper, ESEF, September 1998, accessed September 2011
  8. Simon Millson, Action Points from the WHO International Convention Meeting on Thursday 14 January, Undated, accessed September 2011
  9. Robert Nilsson, Environmental Tobacco Smoke Revisited: The reliability of the evidence for risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, ESEF, March 1988, accessed June 2011