is an American author, photojournalist and attorney who writes about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, science and health issues. He has travelled to Al Anbar
in Western Iraq on three occasions and to Zabul Province
in southeastern Afghanistan at his own expense to embed
with U.S. troops. He is extremely critical of most journalists reporting from Baghdad.
Michael Fumento was a graduate of the 12 week course in extreme business-oriented, right-wing journalism offered by the National Journalism Center
and he worked for much of his early life with Investor's Business Daily/
Fumento's writing on science have covered topics such as global warming, AIDS, ADHD, obesity, the health dangers of breast implants, teen drug use, and Agrarian utopianism. He has been highly critical of what he considers extreme alarmism over such diseases as SARS, and the potential of a human avian flu pandemic. Fumento argues that many reports of threats to society are based on bad science and egregiously misused statistics.
A common theme is his claim that many liberal environmental groups have a hysterical response to most man-made chemicals. He writes that naturally occurring food chemicals are often every bit as toxic as artificial compounds, and there is no scientific reason to view natural compounds as inherently safer. Environmental groups, he holds, will willingly accept claims that man-made compounds cause cancer, but gloss over the fact that the toxicity tests often involve quantities millions of times larger than any human being would ever ingest. Several of his articles deal with the agricultural chemical Alar, banned as a carcinogen in the United States; Fumento notes that the dosages in one Alar study were the equivalent of almost 30 thousand apples a day for life. In his view, it is impossible to test megadoses of chemicals on mice or rats and extrapolate the results to conclusions about small doses on humans. Fumento's critics counter that such extrapolation is well supported by existing evidence, and the only practical testing method for many toxic chemicals. The statistical nature of these studies, often analyzed by non-statisticians, leaves them vulnerable to extrapolation error. Researchers remain divided on the utility of such tests and on the safety of Alar in particular.
He also has been a frequent critic of activist Erin Brockovich since her eponymous movie first appeared in 2000.
Fumento describes himself as a political conservative. He has drawn criticism from liberal and veterans' activist groups for his views on Gulf War Syndrome, (His Reason Magazine article “Gulf Lore Syndrome” was a National Magazine Award Finalist in 1998) and for his writings since 1987 which stated that the threat of AIDS to the heterosexual population was greatly overstated. He promotes a position of "skepticism" towards claims that man-made chemicals cause cancer in humans.
Fumento has been outspoken in his support of adult stem cell research and critical of embryonic stem cell research, criticising what he regards as a liberal and corporate bias in favour of the latter.
Fumento also supports hydrogen fuel cell technology.
On January 13, 2006, Scripps Howard News Service
announced it would terminate its business relationship with Fumento and cease carrying his column. At issue were opinion columns Fumento had written promoting the biotechnology firm Monsanto
while working at the Hudson Institute
. The connection between Fumento and Monsanto
was first revealed by an investigative reporter in Business Week
. General manager Peter Copeland explained that Fumento
- did not tell SHNS editors, and therefore we did not tell our readers, that in 1999 Hudson received a $60,000 grant from Monsanto. [...] Our policy is that he should have disclosed that information. We apologize to our readers.
After the story was published, Fumento acknowledged that he benefited from Monsanto's grant to Hudson:
- It was a $60,000 book grant to my employer, solicited back in 1999, which was applied to pre-established salary and benefits.
However, Fumento argued that because the grant was to his employer, rather than to him personally, he was being unfairly targeted with made-up ethics rules by Javers:
- Javers then took it upon himself to establish, right then, a completely new set of rules regarding columnists disclosure of the receipt of corporate money. All previous standards were null and void. Under Javers’ Rules, there’s absolutely no distinction from a book grants to an employer and pay-for-play for individual columns. Further, once you’ve benefited from a grant you are considered forever in the donor’s debt.
- In a letter published in the Rocky Mountain News Fumento noted that his column didn’t begin until four years after the Monsanto grant. He wrote weekly for the news service from 2004 to 2006 he said, yet “Of my three Scripps columns mentioning Monsanto, one did so in a single sentence.”
Fumento has been affiliated with the following organizations:
- The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS (1990, revised 1993)
- Science Under Siege: Balancing Technology and the Environment (1993). For Science Under Siege he received two awards, including the American Council on Science and Health's "Distinguished Science Journalist of 1993"
- The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS: How a Tragedy Has Been Distorted by the Media and Partisan Politics, Regnery Publishing, 1993, ISBN 0-89526-729-2
- Science Under Siege: Balancing Technology and the Environment, William Morrow & Company, 1993, ISBN 0-688-10795-8
- Polluted Science: The EPA's Campaign to Expand Clean Air Regulations, AEI Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8447-4041-1
- The Fat of the Land: The Obesity Epidemic and How Overweight Americans Can Help Themselves, Viking, 1997, ISBN 0-670-87059-5
- BioEvolution: How Biotechnology Is Changing Our World, Encounter Books, 2003, ISBN 1-893554-75-9