If you’ve ever wondered why there isn’t more outrage over the dangers of pesticides and herbicides, even as environmental consciousness seems to be rising, the answer is simple: Manufacturers like Monsanto have entire departments devoted to discrediting journalists who expose their corrupt ways and paying off Google to censor search results.
A report from The Guardian exposed how Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, operated what was known as a “fusion center” to gather intelligence on journalists who dared to speak the truth about their products. One of their biggest targets was Reuters journalist Carey Gillam, who has done some excellent reporting on the links between Monsanto/Bayer weedkiller Roundup over the years. She now works as a research director for U.S. Right to Know, another target of Monsanto investigations.
The firm reportedly paid Google to promote search results criticizing her work when people searched terms such as “Monsanto glyphosate Carey Gillam.” The company also strategized to put pressure on Reuters, saying they needed to “continue to push back on [Gillam’s] editors very strongly every chance we get.”
They also launched a concerted attack against a book Gillam wrote prior to its release, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, drafting talking points that third parties could use to criticize her work and instructing farmers and other industry customers on how they can post negative reviews about the book.
“I’ve always known that Monsanto didn’t like my work … and worked to pressure editors and silence me, but I never imagined a multi-billion-dollar company would actually spend so much time and energy and personnel on me. It’s astonishing.” Gillam told The Guardian. She said that her book received a slew of negative reviews on Amazon just after it was officially published and many of them repeated identical talking points.
Monsanto kept a file with the names of around 200 journalists and lawmakers whose influence they hoped to win over. They also launched an investigation into singer Neil Young and wrote a memo about his anti-Monsanto social media activities and music. They were so worried about his influence on the public that they had their legal team keeping tabs on him.
Although some companies do have intelligence centers that look out for legitimate criminal threats like cyberattacks, “it becomes troubling when you see corporations leveraging their money to investigate people who are engaging in their first amendment rights,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Investigative Researcher Dave Maass pointed out.
These acts by Monsanto were revealed by documents that were disclosed in the court battles over the company’s deadly Roundup weedkiller. They have already been found liable in three of these cancer-related cases; more than 11,000 more Roundup lawsuits from landscapers, home gardeners and farmers are currently pending.
Glyphosate, which is listed as a carcinogen by the state of California and considered a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, is used on at least 70 food crops in the U.S., including vegetables, nuts and fruits, in addition to being sprayed on conventional crops like oats, wheat and barley prior to harvest. Its reach is tremendous, and residues of the chemical can be found in much of the food being sold and eaten in the U.S.
Monsanto also paid off researchers, ghostwriting studies to be published in their names that cast their products in a favorable light. The have also interfered with regulatory agencies and refused to conduct long-term safety studies on their products. Perhaps if they had devoted less time and energy to attacking their critics and more time to making their products safer, they would not be in this position right now.
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