Opinion: Monsanto faces court reckoning on ghostwriting scheme

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Later this year – June 18 to be specific – the Superior Court for the County of San Francisco will hear evidence on whether Monsanto hired and paid supposedly neutral mouthpieces under the table to present false or biased information to the public on the safety of its Roundup chemical glyphosate.

On the surface, written evidence unsealed by the court is damning.

A minority report prepared for members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology released in February is especially enlightening in laying out the case for accusers.

The scheme is tangled and complicated, but here is the rough outline.

  1. Create or find a front-group with a creditable sounding name from which academics could write pieces attacking opponents of the chemical industry and its products.
  2. Secretly pay those academics to spout the corporation line, ideally built on corporation drafts.
  3. Claim that the hired mouthpieces are independent and unbiased and “prove” the company line.
  4. Under no circumstances reveal the corporation involvement in the scheme.
  5. Rinse and repeat

The House Democrat minority report clashes with the views of Republican majority chairman Rep Lamar Smith (R-TX), who held a full committee hearing on the issue on February 6.

Smith thinks it’s the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and not Monsanto that which has been manipulating the data and pulling the wool over the public’s eyes

Is it possible that Monsanto had a long range plant to undermine and undercut IARC research? Or is Smith right?  Questions, questions, questions – and no answers.

At this point I don’t know with certainty whether or not glyphosate is a carcinogen, but I’m not going to take Monsanto’s word for it.  Not in light of the unsealed court documents.

There is plenty of smoke coming out of St. Louis that Monsanto has tried to manipulate public perception.  The court will soon tell us if that smoke is a dumpster fire or not.


About Dave Dickey

Dave Dickey

Dickey spent nearly 30 years at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s NPR member station WILL-AM 580 where he won a dozen Associated Press awards for his reporting. For 13 years, he directed Illinois Public Media’s agriculture programming. His weekly column for Big Ag Watch covers agriculture and related issues including politics, government, environment and labor. Email him at dave.dickey@investigatemidwest.org.

This column reflects the writer’s own opinions and not those of Big Ag Watch.

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