Russia is funding online articles that question the safety of genetically modified crops and biotechnology in an effort to hurt U.S. agricultural interests and sow public divisions, according to Iowa State University researchers.
The researchers said that if Moscow was able to turn U.S. public opinion against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it could hurt the U.S. agricultural industry, which relies heavily on genetically engineered crops, the Des Moines Register reports.
The researchers found articles mentioning GMOs in the U.S. versions of the Russian-backed news sites RT and Sputnik than five other American news organizations — Breitbart News, Huffington Post, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC — combined.
Among the seven news sites, the two Russian news sites produced than 50 percent of all GMO-related articles and usually portrayed GMOs negatively. RT published “nearly all” of the articles where the term GMO appeared as “click bait,” the researchers said.
The researchers said the anti-GMO effort was part of Russia’s push to grow its own agricultural sector, which is the country’s second-largest industry behind oil and gas, the researchers noted. Russia banned growing genetically engineered crops in 2016.
They also said the anti-GMO articles appeared to be trying to create divisions in the U.S. similar to efforts during the 2016 election.
Earlier this month, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups for their alleged involvement in efforts to meddle in the 2016 election.
There is a large consensus in the scientific community that genetically modified food is safe to consume, yet a majority of the American public still has doubts.