A Public Resource Compiled by the

Union of Concerned Scientists

Two Brattle Sq. Cambridge, MA 02138-3780
501c3 nonprofit

Recipient: Focus on climate change, air pollution and biotech-related topics

Key People

  • Kenneth Kimmell, President
  • Alden Meyer, Director of Strategy & Policy
  • Peter Frumhoff, Director of Science & Policy
  • Marcia DeLonge Sr. Scientist, Food and Environment
  • Ricardo Salvador, Food and Environment Program Director

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) is a prominent environmental nonprofit established in 1968 by a group of MIT researchers. Today, UCS advocates for policies to slow climate change and reduce pollution. But the group also opposes “industrial agriculture,” which it describes as “a dead end, a mistaken application to living systems of approaches better suited for making jet fighters and refrigerators.” UCS also claims that biotech companies “unduly influence federal policies in ways that serve corporate interests rather than the public interest,” and lobbies for farming practices it claims are more sustainable.

In April of 2017, UCS issued a “Call for Public Investment in Agroecological Research,” signed by more than 450 scientists and other supporters. Among other things, the statement  called for “controlling pests and weeds with fewer chemical pesticides.” It made no mention of the fact that insect-resistant GMO crops have cut insecticide use by as much as 90 percent and overall chemical use has declined 22 percent with the introduction of GMO crops.

UCS’s most significant contribution to the GMO debate was a 2009 report called Failure to Yield, which concluded that transgenic crops failed to increase agricultural yields, contradicting promises from the biotech industry promised. The report was not peer reviewed and was superseded by a 2014 study which found that GMOs increased crop yields by 22 percent worldwide. Failure to yield is still prominently displayed on UCS’s website, however.

The two former UCS scientists responsible for the report, Doug Gurian-Sherman and Margaret Mellon, have since moved on to new positions with the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit that “seeks to halt the approval, commercialization and/or release of any new genetically engineered crops until they have been thoroughly tested ….” Mellon also partnered with organic industry-funded agricultural economist Charles Benbrook in a 2014 debate to argue that foods made from GMO ingredients should be labeled. The organic industry group Just Label It also lists UCS as one of its many donor-partners, organizations that “…. support the fight for the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.”Just Label It also relies on UCS’s Failure to Yield report to justify its claim “that [GMO] crops have never lived up to their promise of higher intrinsic yields,” despite expert criticism of the report.

 Financial Data


Annual Revenue: $40,234,396 (2017)

Total Assets:  $7,403,647 (2017)

Major Donors (total contributions 2012-present)

John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation $715,000

Silicon Valley Community Foundation $508,900

Tomkat Charitable Trust $500,000

Schmidt Family Foundation $400,000

Bernard F and Alva B Gimbel Foundation $385,000

Boston Foundation $375,000

David B. Gold Foundation $325,000

David and Lucille Packard Foundation $300,000

Joyce Foundation $250,000

Contribution totals only reflect publicly reported donors and may not include significant contributions from corporations, litigators and governments, domestic and foreign, through percent of sales agreements and allocations through various arrangements such as state lotteries and aid programs. Many claims by nonprofit organizations that they receive no contributions from governments or corporations are misleading or false.

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Note that there are three “levels” of both donors and recipients.

Donations to advocacy groups are sometimes designated to support a specific cause, such as organic agriculture or mitigating climate change. There is no way for us to know from publicly-available documents on what the money will be spent, as we can only see the total amount donated. When we assign the levels below to donors and recipients, we assume that all donations are available to the recipient for all advocacy, including anti-GMO advocacy.

  • Level 1: Donates primarily to dedicated anti-GMO organizations
  • Level 2: A large portion of donations go to anti-GMO organizations; some donations go to organizations without a position on GMOs
  • Level 3: A small portion of donations go to anti-GMO organizations
    * Most donations go to organizations without a formal position on GMOs but which have aligned themselves with anti-GMO activists

For Level 1 recipients, all donations are used for anti-GMO advocacy. For Level 2 and 3 recipients, we don’t know how much of each donation is used for anti-GMO advocacy.

  • Level 1: Dedicated to anti-GMO advocacy
  • Level 2: Involved in anti-GMO advocacy along with other causes
  • Level 3: No specific anti-GMO advocacy, but general support
    * Organizations without a formal position on GMOs but which have aligned themselves with anti-GMO activists
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