In 1993 Bate founded the Environment Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a London-based free-market think tank. He later became the co-director with Julian Morris of the IEA's Environment and Technology Programme and is still a senior fellow of the IEA.
Bate is also the former executive director of the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF) which he co-founded in 1994.
He is the co-author, with Julian Morris, of Fearing Food: Risk, Health and Environment. The IEA website comments: 'In the latest ESEF book, Fearing Food, new agricultural and food technologies, including genetic engineering, are shown to be generally beneficial both to health and to the environment.' Contributors to the book include Michael Wilson, John Hillman and Dennis Avery.
Bate and Morris drew on Avery's bogus E-coli claims in a publicity stunt to launch the book. This involved telling people that 'according to the United States Centers for Disease Control, people who eat the products of...[organic agriculture] are eight times more likely to contract the strain of E-coli that killed 21 people in Lanarkshire in 1997' ('Unsavoury facts about organic food' August 16, 1999). In a related press release, published via the IEA, ('Londoners demand regulation of potentially deadly organic food'), Bate and Morris wrote, 'organic food may well present a danger to children, the elderly and the sick... such people should be discouraged from eating so-called "organic" or "natural" foods.'
Bate also directed and presented the BBC2 Counterblast programme 'Organic Food: The Modern Myth' (BBC2, 31 Jan 2000) in his role as Director of the European Science and Environment Forum.
In its mission statement on its original website, the ESEF described itself as 'a non-partisan group of scientists' and claimed, 'To maintain its independence and impartiality, the ESEF does not accept outside funding from whatever source, the only income it receives is from the sale of its publications'. (emphasis added)
However, documents released by tobacco giant Philip Morris show that ESEF was established with money from the tobacco industry - solicited by Bate. As Big Tobacco's European front organization, ESEF's task was to smuggle tobacco advocacy into a larger bundle of 'sound science' issues, including 'restrictions on the use of biotechnology.'
Shortly after the Philip Morris revelations Bate suddenly resigned as Director of ESEF and its website was taken down. It has subsequently been relaunched with a different domain name.
Bate contributed a number of articles to the magazine Living Marxism. Both the International Policy Network and ESEF cooperate regularly with members of the Living Marxism network.