Friends of the Earth (FOE) has released a report claiming that so-called food and agriculture industry front groups use covert tactics to influence the public discourse around agriculture, organic production and sustainability, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Titled Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications Are Shaping the Story of Food, the report alleges that these front groups not only co-opt blogs, social media and other seemingly independent platforms to spread PR messages on behalf of industry, but ally with third-party outlets—such as National Geographic and The New York Times—to create “an echo chamber of industry talking points on anti-GMO labeling, attacks on organic agriculture and a defense of agrochemicals.”

“Rather than responding to changing market demands by shifting the way they do business, these companies are trying to preserve market share and win key policy battles by using ‘tobaccostyle’ PR tactics,” opines the report. “While the food industry’s use of public relations to shape popular opinion and policy making is not new, the level of spending, the increase in the use of front groups to promote industry messages and the deployment of covert social media tactics to spin the story of food is unprecedented.”