A world-famous British scientist failed to disclose that he held a paid consultancy with a chemical company for more than 20 years while investigating cancer risks in the industry, the Guardian can reveal.
Sir Richard Doll, the celebrated epidemiologist who established that smoking causes lung cancer, was receiving a consultancy fee of $1,500 a day in the mid-1980s from Monsanto, then a major chemical company and now better known for its GM crops business.
While he was being paid by Monsanto, Sir Richard wrote to a royal Australian commission investigating the potential cancer-causing properties of Agent Orange, made by Monsanto and used by the US in the Vietnam war. Sir Richard said there was no evidence that the chemical caused cancer.
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It is perhaps tempting to editorialize this case, especially given the amount of money allegedly involved, but cases like this illustrate how even illustrious careers can be tarnished by undisclosed conflicts of interest.