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|(Natural News) A British politician who lobbied heavily for the implementation of “gender neutral” toilets following his election has since been outed as a pedophile who was allegedly charged with nine counts of inappropriately touching underage children. Illustrating once again that the Cult of LGBTQ is often a cover for child-molesting perverts, David Smith was…|
Pesticide and pharmaceutical giant Bayer is facing approximately 18,400 U.S. lawsuits from individuals alleging that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, caused them to develop cancer.1 The retail giants Home Depot and Lowe’s are also being hit by glyphosate’s health risks, as two proposed class-action lawsuits have been filed over the companies’ lack of warnings to their customers.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate is a “probable carcinogen” in 2015. In August 2018, jurors ruled Monsanto (which was taken over by Bayer in June 2018) must pay $289 million in damages to DeWayne “Lee” Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who claimed the company’s herbicide Roundup caused his terminal cancer.2
The award was later slashed to $78 million,3 but it signaled the beginning of a running trend in Roundup cancer lawsuits. The next two verdicts also sided with the plaintiffs, including a $2 billion payout in the third case, which was later slashed to $20 million, from $75 million in punitive damages.4 Whether or not retailers can be held liable for not warning consumers about this probable carcinogen may soon be determined by the upcoming class-action suits.
Home Depot, Lowes sued over lack of Roundup warnings
Plaintiff James Weeks filed two proposed class-action lawsuits against Home Depot and Lowes, alleging that the retail outlets did not do their duty to warn consumers about cancer and exposure risks when using glyphosate-based products. Retailers are given a safety data sheet (SDS) regarding glyphosate, which states that exposure can occur via inhalation or skin contact. According to Sustainable Pulse, Weeks’ complaint states:5
“Despite its knowledge of the SDS, defendant does not warn consumers they may be exposed to glyphosate through inhalation and skin contact. Defendant further omits proper use instructions, e.g. advising consumers to use a gas mask respirator when using Roundup.”
The complaint also alleges that, due to glyphosate’s “probable carcinogenic nature,” Home Depot was in violation of California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act by not disclosing the cancer risk on the label.6 The warning label on Roundup is also deemed inadequate because it only warns of “moderate eye irritation.”
This, the complaint notes, gives a false impression that eye irritation is the only risk when using Roundup, when in fact it could potentially cause cancer and other health risks. The suit further alleges:7,8
“Roundup’s labeling provides certain warnings, such as, “Keep Out of Reach of Children” and “Caution.” But the only identified hazard identified is that it may cause “moderate eye irritation …
This warning gives the false impression eye irritation is the only risk posed by Roundup, when in fact, glyphosate is known to have links to cancer … Defendant thus fails to warn consumers of the potential carcinogenic risks of using Roundup …
Defendant’s conduct is especially egregious considering it also fails to include proper use instructions for Roundup … Reasonable consumers, like Plaintiff, who have purchased Roundup would not have done so had they known of its carcinogenic risks, or had Defendant provided a warning on how to minimize these risks.”
The same complaints are echoed in the class-action suit filed against Lowes.9,10 As noted by GM Watch, “This court action seems to open up a whole new potential class of lawsuits involving Bayer’s Roundup herbicide. Not only is Bayer being sued by thousands of people who believe Roundup herbicide caused their cancer, but now retailers are being sued for selling Roundup without a cancer warning label.”11
They stopped selling treated plants — How about Roundup?
Amid growing concerns that neonicotinoid pesticides were involved in rising bee deaths, Home Depot and Lowes joined dozens of retailers who pledged to phase out the use of neonicotinoids on plants and products.12
They’ve continued to offer other toxic products containing glyphosate, however, even as petitions have called for them to stop. Meanwhile, Costco Wholesale Corp., the membership-only warehouse, reportedly pulled Roundup from its shelves in early 2019.
Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, began a petition several years ago calling for the superstore to stop selling the product — and it reached more than 153,000 signatures before it was closed.13
While no official statement was issued, Honeycutt said she received confirmation by speaking with three people from headquarters. “More than one employee mentioned the lawsuit (Johnson v. Monsanto) for part of the reasoning,” Honeycutt wrote on her blog, referencing the first glyphosate/cancer trial to go to court.
Former NFL player joins 18,400 others suing Monsanto
Merril Hoge, former NFL running back, is one of the plaintiffs suing Bayer, alleging Roundup caused his Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Hoge’s exposure to Roundup began in 1977, when he worked on a farm in Idaho, spraying crops with the chemical.
In addition to causing “physical pain and mental anguish,” Hoge’s suit claims Monsanto was negligent and promoted “false, misleading and untrue” statements regarding Roundup’s safety.14 As a result, “plaintiff is severely and permanently injured,” the suit alleges.15 Bayer, meanwhile, continues to defend glyphosate’s safety. On their website, they state:16
“There is an extensive body of research on glyphosate and Bayer’s glyphosate-based herbicides, including more than 800 rigorous studies submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and European and other regulators in connection with the registration process, which confirms these products can be used safely and that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.”
In a review published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, a team of scientists thoroughly reviewed the research behind the IARC’s glyphosate/cancer ruling and compared it to determinations made by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), which had found “no consistent positive association” between glyphosate and human cancer. Pointing out “serious flaws” in EFSA’s conclusions, reviewers said:17
“The most appropriate and scientifically based evaluation of the cancers reported in humans and laboratory animals as well as supportive mechanistic data is that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.
On the basis of this conclusion and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to conclude that glyphosate formulations should also be considered likely human carcinogens … Specifically addressing the flaws in EFSA’s work, the reviewers added:
“ … [A]lmost no weight is given to studies from the published literature and there is an over-reliance on non-publicly available industry-provided studies using a limited set of assays that define the minimum data necessary for the marketing of a pesticide.” The reviewers concluded:
“IARC WG evaluation of probably carcinogenic to humans accurately reflects the results of published scientific literature on glyphosate and, on the face of it, unpublished studies to which EFSA refers.”
Associations between the chemical and rare kidney tumors, genotoxicity and oxidative stress and even DNA damage in the blood of exposed humans were also revealed. Glyphosate is also an endocrine disrupter, which may “affect our body at extremely low levels,” Sue Chaing, the pollution prevention director at the Center for Environmental Health, said in a news release.18
But industry is working hard to ensure that any science and other evidence not on their side is overlooked, including allegations that Monsanto has long known glyphosate causes cancer and spent decades covering it up.
Bayer continues to use EPA decision to support glyphosate
Allegations that Monsanto colluded with the EPA to hide glyphosate’s toxicity have been churning for years. In 2015, following IARC’s glyphosate cancer ruling, the EPA, rather than taking immediate steps to protect Americans from this probable cancer-causing agent, decided to reassess its position on the chemical and, after doing so, released a paper in October 2015 stating that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.19
In April 2016, the EPA posted the report online briefly, before pulling it and claiming it was not yet final and posted by mistake. The paper was signed by Jess Rowland (among other EPA officials), who at the time was the EPA’s deputy division director of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and chair of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC).
Email correspondence showed Rowland helped stop a glyphosate investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on Monsanto’s behalf.
In an email, Monsanto regulatory affairs manager Dan Jenkins recounts a conversation he’d had with Rowland, in which Rowland said, “If I can kill this I should get a medal,”20 referring to the ATSDR investigation, which was put off for years. The final draft conclusion was finally released in April 2019, stating the chemical “is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”21
Bayer is now using this as a part of its defense, stating the decision “reaffirmed that ‘glyphosate is not a carcinogen’ and that there are ‘no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label.'”22
Could grocery stores be next?
If retailers like Home Depot and Lowes can be held liable for selling toxic chemicals like Roundup, might grocery stores be next in line to be sued for selling glyphosate-laced foods? In addition to residues found in genetically engineered (GE) crops (GE Roundup Ready crops are designed to be doused with Roundup), glyphosate is used as a desiccant, or drying agent, shortly before harvest on many non-GE grains, such as oats.
As a result, popular foods among children, like breakfast cereal and oatmeal, may be among the most glyphosate-contaminated foods on the market, and could be driving up exposures in this vulnerable population.
In testing done by Friends of the Earth (FOE), 100% of oat cereal samples tested positive for residues of glyphosate.23 For the study, 132 samples of house brands were tested from more than 30 U.S. stores in 15 states. Residues of glyphosate and other pesticides — neonicotinoids and organophosphates — were found.
The average level of glyphosate in cereal samples was 360 parts per billion (ppb), which FOE noted is more than twice the level set by Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists for lifetime cancer risk in children. Some of the cereal samples contained residues as high as 931 ppb.
EWG has also commissioned glyphosate testing on oat-based cereal and snack products and found it in all 21 products tested. All but four of them came in higher than EWG’s benchmark for lifetime cancer risk in children.24
Stop spraying glyphosate in your backyard
Given the escalating legal actions facing glyphosate, and the continued verdicts siding with the plaintiffs that glyphosate is, indeed, implicated in NHL, it may only be a matter of time before stores are forced to take glyphosate-based products off their shelves. But you don’t need to wait until that moment occurs to take action to protect your health. Stop using glyphosate-based chemicals in your backyard and garden immediately.
Further, if you want to avoid glyphosate in your food, choose organic or biodynamically grown foods, which are not genetically engineered nor sprayed with glyphosate as a desiccant. You can help to prompt change by reaching out to the companies that make your food.
Let them know that you prefer foods without glyphosate residues — and are prepared to switch brands if necessary to find them. You can also reach out to stores like Home Depot and Lowes and ask them to remove these probable carcinogens from their store shelves.
If you’re curious how much glyphosate is in your body, the Health Research Institute (HRI) in Iowa developed the glyphosate urine test kit, which will allow you to determine your own exposure to this toxic herbicide.
Ordering this kit automatically allows you to participate in the study and help HRI better understand the extent of glyphosate exposure and contamination. In a few weeks, you will receive your results, along with information on how your results compare with others and what to do to help reduce your exposure.
We are providing these kits to you at no profit in order for you to participate in this environmental study. HRI is also in the process of doing hair testing for glyphosate, which is a better test for long-term exposure.
It could soon be declared unsafe to swim in lakes, due to the presence of microcystins and other toxins that can be found in algae blooms. Microsystins are nerve toxins produced by freshwater cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that can cause fever, headaches, vomiting and seizures.
Cyanobacteria and their toxins (which include microsystins and others) can also damage the liver and cause kidney, cardiac, reproductive and gastrointestinal effects.1
The toxic algae are showing up in lakes across the U.S., threatening not only swimmers but also wildlife and those who use the lakes for drinking water. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) created an interactive map showing the location of algae blooms reported from 2010 to the present, and they’ve increased alarmingly.
While there were about 60 news reports of algae blooms in 2010, this jumped to about 440 in 2018.2 “We have been startled to find that these outbreaks are erupting everywhere: from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico,” EWG reported.3
Toxic algae detected in 48 US states
The EPA’s National Lakes Assessment has detected microcystin in freshwater in all 48 contiguous U.S. states.4 The EPA also found that cyanobacteria are on the rise. In 2012, microcystin was detected in 39% of lakes. In comparison to 2007, conditions worsened in 2012, with cyanobacteria detected in 8.3% more lakes. There was also a worsening in microcystin, with a 9.5% increase in the toxin from 2007 to 2012.5
While the report noted that microcystin levels rarely reached moderate or high levels of concern, it’s possible that additional testing later in the season may have yielded higher concentrations. According to EWG:6
“Notably, more than 90 percent of the samples were taken only once during the assessment, and nearly a quarter of the samples were collected during May and June, when conditions are not as conducive to algae growth.
The EPA data show higher monthly averages for microcystin samples collected in the late summer and early fall. In 2007, monthly averages of microcystin in August and September were five times higher than in May, June and July. In 2012, monthly averages were three times higher for August and September compared to the earlier months.”
Many states aren’t monitoring blue-green algae
EWG cited a “lack of standardized data among states [that] makes systematic data collection and analysis extremely cumbersome.”7 In a survey of microcystin data from U.S. states, EWG reported that only 20 had results available online or upon request.
Further, while 30 states post advisories for public beaches to warn of toxic algae, or maintain maps of areas where toxic algae blooms have occurred, 20 states post only basic information, without advisories.8 What EWG did analyze, using microcystin data from lakes in 14 states and Lake Erie, revealed cause for concern. EWG explained:9
“Eight of the 14 states — Iowa, Washington, Nebraska, Kansas, New York, Illinois, Florida and Ohio — tested regularly and accounted for 97 percent of the results. The remaining states tested only a few times a year or during an active advisory.
Of the more than 10,400 samples collected by states, EWG found almost 9 percent, or over 900, exceeded the EPA’s 2016 4 µg/L draft advisory level. In eight states — Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Oregon, Florida, New York, Wyoming and California — samples exceeded the World Health Organization’s 1 µg/L drinking water advisory more than 20 percent of the time.”
Further, while the EPA’s 2016 draft assessment recommended recreational or swimming advisories be issued if microcystin levels reached 4 µg/L, the advisory was revised in May 2019 to 8 µg/L10 — a level that’s higher than public action levels set by several states to protect public health. According to EWG:11
“In 2016 the EPA drafted a study on “Human Health Recreational Ambient Water Quality Criteria or Swimming Advisories for Microcystins and Cylindrospermopsin” to establish advisory guidelines for recreating in water with the presence of microcystin.
The study notes that some state health and environmental agencies, including those of Indiana, Ohio, Washington, Vermont and Virginia, recognize 6 µg/L6 as a public action level for recreational waters and that a handful of states have beach and lake test programs.”
What happens when toxic algae invade drinking water?
Surface water, which includes water in rivers, lakes, streams and reservoirs, is a major source of drinking water in the U.S.12 — one that can become contaminated by toxic algae. In 2014, citizens in Toledo, Ohio, were warned not to drink their tap water as it was found to contain significantly elevated levels of microcystins, caused by algae blooms in Lake Erie.13
It was the first time microcystin was implicated in contaminated drinking water, but it wasn’t the last. In Salem, Oregon, algae blooms in Detroit Lake triggered a drinking water advisory in 2018.14 In Rushville, New York, residents were also warned not to drink or cook with tap water due to blue-green algae blooms found in Canandaigua Lake.15
Pet owners also need to be on the lookout for toxic algae, as dog deaths have been reported in Texas, Georgia and North Carolina in 2019, after dogs came in contact with the algae.16
In Austin, Texas, an alert was issued warning people to “keep pets away from Lady Bird Lake” after toxins were detected in algae near Red Bud Isle. People were also warned to “minimize their exposure to the water and avoid all contact with algae.”17
Outside the U.S., meanwhile, algal blooms spanning thousands of miles have been recorded in China and Australia, while microcystin has been detected in more than 240 bodies of water in Canada. In Greece, Italy and Spain, algal blooms are also a problem and reported to cost the economy $355 million annually.18
Toxic algae cause both short and long term health risks
In the short term, exposure to toxic algae can cause acute symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, neurological symptoms, irritation to your skin, eyes, nose and throat, vomiting and headache.19 In the long term, toxic algae may cause liver and kidney damage, as well as promote the growth of tumors20 and induce neuroinflammatory effects.21
You can be exposed to blue-green algae by swimming or wading in contaminated water (even if you don’t see a bloom), eating contaminated seafood, drinking contaminated water or even by breathing in contaminated mist from the water, such as may occur during recreational activities.
It’s also been suggested that toxic biological material from algae blooms may aerosolize into the air when waves break against the shore,22 representing another potential route of exposure. Study author Andrew Ault from the University of Michigan said in a news release:23
“Harmful algal blooms have been expanding as an important issue we’re dealing with, particularly for the Great Lakes.
We’ve realized that not only are these important for water quality issues, but that you also generate atmospheric pollutants from these harmful algal blooms. We’re the first to show that wave-breaking of these blooms can release material into the atmosphere, which can have impacts on people breathing it in.”
What’s causing the rise in toxic algae
Algae are common to fresh and saltwater environments and provide food and oxygen to marine life, such as fish, as long as they’re in proper balance with the ecosystem around them. However, when provided with an excess of nutrients, such as occurs when fertilizer runoff from farms contaminates waterways, algae can quickly grow out of control.
According to the EPA, harmful algal blooms require sunlight, slow-moving water and nutrients (i.e., fertilizers such as nitrogen and phosphorus) to occur. “Nutrient pollution from human activities makes the problem worse, leading to more severe blooms that occur more often,” they state.24
These human activities include industrial agriculture and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). For instance, fertilizer runoff was blamed for toxic algae taking over Florida coastlines in 2016. It got so bad in some areas that the blue-green algae could be seen from space.25
The algae bloom started in May 2016 in Florida’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Okeechobee, which serves as a catchall for runoff from surrounding farms and neighborhoods.
In a report released by environmental group Mighty Earth, massive manure and fertilizer pollution churned out by meat giant Tyson Foods is also blamed for the largest dead zone, caused by toxic algae blooms, on record in the Gulf of Mexico.26
How to spot toxic blue-green algae
The name blue-green algae is somewhat misleading, as toxic algae can be green, blue red or brown. Further, some green algae are harmless. The fact is, you can’t determine if algae floating on a water surface is toxic just by looking at it, but if you see dead fish in the water, it’s a red flag that the algae could be dangerous.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Public Health also recommend avoiding contact with water that:27
- Looks like spilled, green or blue-green paint
- Has surface scums, mats or films
- Is discolored or has green-colored streaks
- Has greenish globs suspended in the water below the surface
In addition to avoiding contact with lakes, rivers and other surface waters that could be contaminated (and keeping your pets out of the water as well), you can help protect yourself by installing a water filter on your tap to help reduce or remove cyanobacteria.
On a larger scale, stopping the source of pollution by cutting excess runoff of fertilizer will be necessary. Better land-use management that addresses fertilizer runoff, along with dramatic reductions in synthetic fertilizer use, would be a good start. You can help on an individual level by choosing organic or biodynamically grown foods instead of those produced on CAFOs.
As for whether or not to swim in a lake or river that has green algae, it’s best to avoid it. Even if the local health department hasn’t issued any advisories, it’s not a guarantee of safety, as not all waterways are tested. If you think you’ve come into contact with toxic algae, rinse off your skin and seek medical attention.
In what Democracy Now!1 refers to as an “explosive report” by The Guardian,2 documents obtained during the discovery process of lawsuits against Monsanto reveal the company has been engaged in a coordinated campaign to discredit critics of the company.
Among them are journalist Carey Gillam, the nonprofit U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) and singer-songwriter Neil Young, whose 2015 album, “The Monsanto Years,” was an artistic critique of the company.
“The records … show Monsanto adopted a multi-pronged strategy to target Carey Gillam, a Reuters journalist who investigated the company’s weedkiller and its links to cancer,” The Guardian writes.3
“Monsanto, now owned by the German pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, also monitored a not-for-profit food research organization through its ‘intelligence fusion center,’ a term that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use for operations focused on surveillance and terrorism.
The documents, mostly from 2015 to 2017, were disclosed as part of an ongoing court battle on the health hazards of the company’s Roundup weedkiller.”
Monsanto records show organized plan to silence journalist
According to The Guardian,4 the records obtained reveal how Monsanto planned to discredit Gillam’s book, “White Wash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science,”5 ahead of its release in 2017 by instructing “industry and farmer customers” to post negative reviews and paying Google to promote search results critical of Gillam and her work.
In all, the attack on Gillam’s book, dubbed “Project Spruce,”6 (an internal code name for Monsanto’s defense directive to protect the company against all perceived threats to its business7) had more than 20 activity points, including the engagement of regulatory authorities and providing “pro-science third parties” with talking points.
Gillam told The Guardian the documents are “just one more example of how the company works behind the scenes to try to manipulate what the public knows about its products and practices.”
According to The Guardian, staff at Monsanto’s PR firm also appear to have pressured Reuters to prevent Gillam from reporting on Monsanto and its products, saying they “continue to push back on [Gillam’s] editors very strongly every chance we get.”
In an August 9, 2019, article in The Guardian, Gillam is more forthcoming with her sentiments, stating that:8
“As a journalist who has covered corporate America for more than 30 years, very little shocks me about the propaganda tactics companies often deploy. I know the pressure companies can and do bring to bear when trying to effect positive coverage and limit reporting they deem negative about their business practices and products.
But when I recently received close to 50 pages of internal Monsanto communications about the company’s plans to target me and my reputation, I was shocked … I never dreamed I would warrant my own Monsanto action plan …
One Monsanto plan involved paying for web placement of a blogpost about me so that Monsanto-written information would pop up at the top of certain internet searches involving my name … In addition, Monsanto produced a video to help it amplify company-engineered propaganda about me and my work …
The documents show that Monsanto enlisted Washington DC-based FTI Consulting to help it with its plans. FTI was in the news earlier this year after one of its employees posed as a reporter at the Roundup cancer trial held this March in San Francisco.
The woman pretended to be reporting on the Hardeman v Monsanto trial, while suggesting to real reporters covering the trial certain storylines that were favorable to Monsanto.”
USRTK targeted by Monsanto’s surveillance center
Monsanto’s surveillance center also produced written reports on Young’s anti-Monsanto advocacy efforts and USRTK’s activities, along with a detailed plan9 for how to deal with USRTK’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
“Monsanto officials were repeatedly worried about the release of documents on their financial relationships with scientists that could support the allegations they were ‘covering up unflattering research,'” The Guardian writes. 10
Indeed, among the many action steps listed in Monsanto’s USRTK response plan11 are “Edit existing copy” to “Bolster language on transparency and collaboration,” and “Write post that tells the story about the impact of a project (one that resonates well with a societal audience) that was made possible through the collaboration of Monsanto and Academia … ” The Guardian adds:12
“Government fusion centers have increasingly raised privacy concerns surrounding the way law enforcement agencies collect data, surveil citizens and share information.
Private companies might have intelligence centers that monitor legitimate criminal threats, such as cyberattacks, but ‘it becomes troubling when you see corporations leveraging their money to investigate people who are engaging in their first amendment rights,’ said Dave Maass, the senior investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation …
Michael Baum, one of the attorneys involved in the Roundup trials that uncovered the records, said the records were further ‘evidence of the reprehensible and conscious disregard of the rights and safety of others’ … ‘It shows an abuse of their power that they have gained by having achieved such large sales,’ he added.”
In an August 9, 2019, press release, USRTK comments on the documented campaign against the organization:13
“USRTK has made public records requests to taxpayer-funded universities since 2015, leading to multiple revelations about secretive industry collaborations with academics …
The documents, which were made available through discovery in the Roundup cancer litigation, show that Monsanto was worried that the public records requests had the “potential to be extremely damaging” and so crafted a plan to counter the USRTK investigation …
‘The story of the Monsanto Papers is that the company acts like it has an awful lot to hide,’ said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know, who led the investigation. ‘Whenever scientists, journalists and others raise questions about their business, they attack. We are just the latest example. This has been going on for years.'”
The press release goes on to list several key findings from the documents, detailing how Monsanto intended to safeguard its “freedom to operate.” One way of doing that was to “position” USRTK’s investigation into its dealings as “an attack on scientific integrity and academic freedom.”
The documents also show Monsanto would have the right to review any documents released by FOIA before their release to USRTK, “even though USRTK requested the documents by state FOI,” the press release notes. Monsanto’s campaign plan also specified the use of third parties to counteract USRTK.
Again, this tactic is purposely used to make it appear as though Monsanto has nothing to do with the critique against USRTK, when in fact it’s the driving and coordinating force behind it.
Third parties to be employed include Forbes and other third party content creators, GMO Answers contributors, Sense About Science, the Science Media Center, Center for Food Integrity, International Food Information Council, various farmers groups, Jon Entine with the Genetic Literacy Project, Henry Miller (previously caught publishing articles ghostwritten by Monsanto, which led to Forbes firing him and deleting his articles).
AgBioChatter member advises deleting emails
That USRTK is seen as a threat to industry’s business as usual is also made clear in a September 2015 email exchange14,15 between several Monsanto employees, including Monsanto scientist Eric Sachs.
The discussion centered around “unfortunate” language used by an unnamed individual associated with GMO Answers in his or her correspondence with academics on AgBioChatter — described by USRTK as “a private email listserver used by the agrichemical industry and its allies to coordinate messaging and lobbying activities.”16
There was some question about whether AgBioChatter was confidential or private. In an email to AgBioChatter members (forwarded in the email exchange), Karl Haro von Mogel,17 media director of Biofortified, a GMO promotion group, advised:18
“It seems that there has been a leak of mentioning AgBioChatter, and it is inevitable that it will become a target for future FOIAs. It sounds like Ruskin did not include it in his last round of FOIAs but likely will in the future. If anyone here has not taken the Ruskin Cleanse of these private emails it will mean more content for them to twist and string into a false narrative.”
In other words, it appears as though Haro von Mogel was advising people to delete their emails — to get rid of the evidence — to prevent the behind-the-scenes truths from being known, were USRTK to file a FOIA request for AgBioChatter correspondence.
Monsanto accused of mishandling personal data in Europe
The information about Monsanto’s targeted attacks on Gillam and USRTK comes on the heels of Bayer’s admission that Monsanto kept lists of hundreds of lawmakers, scientists and journalists and their views on GMOs in France and other European countries.19,20
According to Reuters,21 the files were kept “in hopes of influencing positions on pesticides.” And, while Bayer denied that Monsanto’s procurement of the lists violated any laws, Reuters reported that:22
“French public-sector research institutes Inra and CNRS … said they would file criminal complaints over mishandling of personal data, after finding that some of their researchers and executives featured on the Monsanto stakeholder lists.”
Reuters’ report23 also included a quote from Matthias Berninger, head of public affairs at Bayer, saying “When you collect nonpublicly available data about individuals a Rubicon is clearly crossed, regardless of whether data privacy laws were actually violated.”
Documents shed light on GMO Answers
Yet another cache of documents released to HuffPost shed light on GMO Answers, a front group created by Monsanto’s PR company, Ketcum PR, in an effort to polish Monsanto’s tarnished image. As reported by Paul Thacker:24
“To reboot the national dialogue, Ketchum created a campaign called GMO Answers, and used social media and third-party scientists to offer a counternarrative to allay concern about Monsanto’s products.
HuffPost has acquired 130 pages of internal documents from an anonymous source that detail the campaign and its tactics for enhancing Monsanto’s public image …”
By answering any and all basic questions about GMOs and perfecting their SEO strategy, GMO Answers is now among the top results of most GMO-related web searches. The problem, again, is that the “experts” answering the questions are not independent experts. They work for Monsanto and are defenders of the biotech industry. You cannot tell that this is the case, however, as those relationships are purposely hidden.
Captured journalists help shape public opinion
Thacker also details the influence of Tamar Haspel, “an oyster farmer living on Massachusetts’ Cape Cod,” who writes blogs and articles favoring the GMO industry and chemical agriculture, who became a strong voice for GMO Answers.
“Behind the scenes, Ketchum’s documents show a reporter eager to collaborate with the firm and promote its new [GMO Answers] campaign ? and Ketchum happy to foster that relationship,” Thacker writes.25
“Another page discusses … a plan for ‘ongoing development of relationships’ with Haspel — the only media person mentioned by name — as well as outlets The Motley Fool and Politico …
Haspel began her [Washington] Post columns in October 2013, promising to ‘negotiate the schism and nail down the hard, cold facts’ about GMOs. These columns have been sympathetic to the agrichemical industry, promoting GMO products and commodity crops, downplaying the dangers of toxic substances and pesticides, and finding fault with organic agriculture.”
Thacker goes on to list examples of Haspel’s biased reporting, which includes downplaying the hazards of glyphosate and failing to disclose that one of her sources was a Monsanto consultant, and minimizing the risks of synthetic food additives to children, quoting a professor of religion as an expert source.
“For many who have been suspicious of Haspel’s relationship with agrichemical giants, the documents are further evidence that she’s too close to the industry she writes about and that her prominent column at The Washington Post provides a perch to spread misleading information about agriculture and the food we eat.
At the very least, they offer a behind-the-scenes look at how public relations specialists work to shape public perception through their interactions with journalists …” Thacker writes.26
“Pages of Ketchum PR documents that discuss Haspel are labeled, ‘Success! A Strategy That Embraces Skepticism.’ For Monsanto, any story that muddies the water on the science critical of its products is a win, and Haspel’s have been arguably the most prominent in national media.
The company’s touting of those articles is part of a mutually beneficial loop — she promotes its science; it promotes her on industry sites and social media.”
Who are Monsanto’s emissaries?
As Thacker points out, Monsanto has perfected several of the strategies initiated by the tobacco industry decades ago to hide the dangers of smoking. One key strategy is to undermine the public’s confidence in science showing there are problems.
This is done in two parts: First, create your own science that contradicts findings showing a problem. Next, influence and shape public discussion by maligning the critics and emphasizing the lack of scientific consensus. This engineered doubt is what keeps the public from turning their back on the products and prevents regulatory interventions.
Another tobacco tactic employed by Monsanto is the development of relationships with scientists and nonprofit organizations who, while maintaining an aura of independence, act as “corporate emissaries to the press,” to use Thacker’s term. Who are some of Monsanto’s most well-known emissaries? Aside from Haskel, Thacker’s article names:
- Nina Federoff, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of biology at Penn state27
- Jon Entine, founding director of the Genetic Literacy Project28 — another front group that, despite having been repeatedly exposed as such, continues to be promoted to the top of internet search results for GMO topics
- Bruce Chassy, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois29,30
- Kevin Folta, University of Florida professor
- The American Council on Science and Health
What’s particularly disturbing is the idea that academics working for publicly funded universities have been captured by industry and are promoting an industry agenda on the taxpayers’ dime, while simultaneously benefiting financially from their corporate masters.
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One of the key take-home messages from all this that the organized silencing of critics using immoral tactics is standard practice, and has been standard practice for a long time.
In fact, these underhanded strategies are precisely what have allowed Monsanto (now Bayer, as well as many other dangerous companies operating with a similar playbook) to continue selling toxic products for so long.
Using third-parties pretending to be independent to publicize the corporate agenda is grossly misleading to the public. What Monsanto has been doing is social engineering — making you think a certain viewpoint predominates among the general population and among journalists, scientists and academia when in fact this “consensus” is a wholly engineered artifice, bought and paid for by corporate interests.
USRTK has done a tremendous job bringing these kinds of industry conspiracies into broad daylight. They’re a tiny operation with just four employees, and depend on donations to keep this work going. So, please, consider making a tax-deductible donation to USRTK today. Your help is urgently needed and your donation will ensure USRTK can continue unearthing the truth, one document at a time.
By Anna Von Reitz
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