SciBabe says eat your pesticides. But who is paying her?

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SciBabe’s bad science tries to make the pesticide industry look good.

Blogging under the name SciBabe, Yvette d’Entremont defends toxic chemicals in food products and promotes pesticides as safe. She does not disclose all her funding sources. The manufacturer of the artificial sweetener Splenda discloses here their partnership with SciBabe to “debunk junk science” about Splenda.

SciBabe has been a featured speaker at various chemical and food industry sponsored events such as the 2017 Atlantic Farm Women conference sponsored by CropLife and Monsanto, and the 2015 Suppliers Showcase where her talk was sponsored by DuPont. In interviews, she frequently cites her former job in a pesticide lab as the basis for her knowledge about pesticide safety.

Worked for a controversial pesticide company that had agreement with Monsanto to promote GMOs

Before becoming a full time blogger, Yvette d’Entremont worked as an as an analytical chemist at Amvac Chemical Corporation, which “does a booming business selling some of the world’s most dangerous pesticides,” according to a 2007 story in the Los Angeles Times:

“Amvac has fueled double-digit revenue growth through an unusual business practice: It has bought from larger companies the rights to older pesticides, many of them at risk of being banned or restricted because of safety concerns. The company has fought to keep those chemicals on the market as long as possible, hiring scientists and lawyers to do battle with regulatory agencies. Amvac’s focus on older pesticides has come at a cost to human health and the environment, according to federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state records, regulatory investigations and a string of lawsuits. Accidents involving the company’s pesticides have led to the evacuation of neighborhoods and the poisoning of scores of field workers in California and elsewhere.”

Amvac Chemical Corporation has an exclusive agreement with Dow Chemical Corporation to sell Lorsban made with chlorpyrifos, a controversial pesticide that decades of science strongly suggests harms children’s brains. The EPA has said chlorpyrifos should be banned, but it is still widely used on apples, oranges, strawberries and broccoli, and Amvac markets it as “the right choice!” Amvac also has an agreement with Monsanto to promote Roundup Ready GMO crops.

False statements about pesticides and GMOs, and Amvac influence

SciBabe makes false claims about the health risks and safety protocols of pesticides, GMOs and chemicals in food:

  • “We’ve proven very, very carefully that, once they get into the food supply, [pesticides] are safe for people … because we’re in such a heavily regulated environment, the odds of you getting something in your food supply that’s unsafe at this point is very, very low. I mean, extraordinarily low.” (podcast with University of Florida professor Kevin Folta)
  • Artificial sweeteners are safe with no evidence of harm. (SciBabe blog; here are facts about the health risks of aspartame)
  • For GMOs, “There are serious testing standards in place from the EPA, FDA, and USDA. GMOs are basically tested down to the last strand of DNA.” (article for Genetic Literacy Project)

SciBabe credits her former job at the Amvac lab for inspiring her to get involved as a science communicator:

  • “When I was working there, that was when I started really getting into the fray of this kind of battle that we have on the Internet with people who say there is no research done into these pesticides before the hit the market. And I’m like yes, I really just lick the vile and say it’s probably not going to kill your kids before approving it for sale – which, I promise you, that’s not how it works.” (podcast)
  • “I started the blog when I was working there, and it’s partially because I kept seeing really bad information online about pesticides.” (Popular Science Q&A)
  • “Whenever I saw the argument online that (GMOs) aren’t tested for safety, I realized in my own pesticide lab that I was working in, we were. I’m like, ‘How can these not be tested for safety when my exact job is testing for safety?’ And sometimes I spent two weeks calibrating one instrument, and I’m just one cog in a machine. And I know the other sides are just as meticulous as I am.” (Popular Science)

Front group friends

SciBabe’s work is regularly promoted by chemical industry front groups, such as the American Council on Science and Health (which has received funding from Amvac Chemical Corporation) and the Genetic Literacy Project.

The “Kevin Folta Fan Club” is a who’s who of Monsanto friends and pesticide defenders.

SciBabe is part of what she calls the “Kevin Folta Fan Club” defending the University of Florida professor who has repeatedly made false and misleading statements. The fan club photo features d’Entremont with Julie Gunlock of the Independent Women’s Forum, a Koch-funded group that partners with Monsanto to downplay fears about pesticides; pesticide propagandist Julie Kelly; and Monsanto’s social sciences lead Cami Ryan.

More on Yvette d’Entremont:

  • “SciBabe is Neither a Scientist Nor a Babe: She’s Bullshit,” Medium
  • “Response to Gawker ‘The Food Babe Blogger is Full of …,” FoodBabe
  • “SciBabe, paid by Splenda, touts its product,” by Jerry Coyne, PhD, professor at Univ. of Chicago.

Doctors, scientists recommend reducing exposure to pesticides 

Resources to learn more about pesticide risks and weak regulations that fail to protect health:

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reducing children’s exposure to pesticides. Here is the AAP’s 2012 science position paper.

“Epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems. Related animal toxicology studies provide supportive biological plausibility for these findings. Recognizing and reducing problematic exposures will require attention to current inadequacies in medical training, public health tracking, and regulatory action on pesticides.”

The President’s Cancer Panel Report recommends reducing children’s exposure to cancer-causing and cancer-promoting environmental exposures.

“The American people—even before they are born—are bombarded continually with myriad combinations of these dangerous exposures. The Panel urges you most strongly to use the power of your office to remove the carcinogens and other toxins from our food, water, and air that needlessly increase health care costs, cripple our Nation’s productivity, and devastate American lives.”

The President’s Cancer Panel chapter on pesticides starts on page 43:

“Nearly 1,400 pesticides have been registered (i.e., approved) by the EPA for agricultural and non-agricultural use. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to brain/central nervous system, breast, colon, lung, ovarian (female spouses), pancreatic, kidney, testicular, and stomach cancers, as well as Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma. Pesticide-exposed farmers, pesticide applicators, crop duster pilots, and manufacturers also have been found to have elevated rates of prostate cancer, melanoma, other skin cancers, and cancer of the lip.”

The 2016 European Parliament Science and Technology Option Assessment recommended reducing dietary intake of pesticides, especially for women and children.

Pesticide risk assessments “disregard evidence from epidemiological studies that show negative effects of low-level exposure to organophosphate insecticides on children’s cognitive development, despite the high costs of IQ losses to society. While the intake of fruit and vegetables should not be decreased, existing studies support the ideal of reduced dietary exposure to pesticide residues, especially among pregnant women and children.”

Journal of American Medical Association commentary by Phillip Landrigan, MD, recommends eating organic food.

  • “our current laissez-faire attitude toward the regulation of pesticides is failing us”
  • “multiple lines of evidence suggest that human fertility is on the decline and that the frequency of reproductive impairment is increasing.” These trends are “almost certainly” linked to environmental exposures to chemicals
  • See also Harvard pesticide/infertility study in JAMAHarvard researchers followed 325 women at an infertility clinic for two years and reported that women who regularly ate pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables had lower success rates getting pregnant with IVF

Consensus statement from leading scientists: Concerns over the risks of glyphosate-based herbicides and risks associated with exposure, Environmental Health Journal

Recent news on pesticides

Dow’s insecticide chlorpyrifos has been shown to harm children’s brains and EPA’s own scientists said in 2016 they could no longer vouch for safety of the pesticide in food or water, but it remains widely used in farming due to political pressure from the agrichemical industry.

A Strong Case Against a Pesticide Does Not Faze E.P.A. Under Trump, By Roni Caryn Rabin New York Times

This is what a common pesticide does to a child’s brain, By Nicholas Kristof New York Times

Are You Ready for the New Wave of Genetically Engineered Foods?

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A version of this article was first published in Common Ground Magazine March 2018 (PDF version).

By Stacy Malkan

Everyone loves a feel-good story about the future. You’ve probably heard this one: high-tech foods enhanced by science will feed the 9 billion people expected on the planet by 2050. Food made in labs and crops and animals genetically engineered to grow faster and better will make it possible to feed the crowded world, according to stories that spin through our institutions of media and education.

“6th grade students brainstorming big biotech ideas to #Feedthe9″ touted a recent tweet tagged to the chemical industry’s promotional website GMOAnswers. Student ideas included “breed carrots to have more vitamins” and “corn that will grow in harsh winter conditions.”

It all sounds so promising until you look at the realities behind the rhetoric.

For starters, in a country that leads the world in growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), millions go hungry. Reducing food waste, addressing inequality and shifting to agroecological farming methods, not GMOs, are the keys to world food security, according to experts at the United Nations. Most genetically engineered foods on the market today have no consumer benefits whatsoever; they are engineered to survive pesticides, and have greatly accelerated the use of pesticides such as glyphosate, dicamba and soon 2,4D, creating what environmental groups call a dangerous pesticide treadmill.

Despite decades of hype about higher nutrients or heartier GMO crops, those benefits have failed to materialize. Vitamin-A enhanced Golden Rice, for example – “the rice that could save a million kids a year,” reported Time magazine 17 years ago – is not on the market despite millions spent on development. “If golden rice is such a panacea, why does it flourish only in headlines, far from the farm fields where it’s intended to grow?” asked Tom Philpott in Mother Jones article titled, WTF Happened to Golden Rice?

“The short answer is that the plant breeders have yet to concoct varieties of it that work as well in the field as existing rice strains…When you tweak one thing in a genome, such as giving rice the ability to generate beta-carotene, you risk changing other things, like its speed of growth.”

Nature is complex, in other words, and genetic engineering can produce unexpected results.

Consider the case of the Impossible Burger.

The plant-based burger that “bleeds” is made possible by genetically engineering yeast to resemble leghemoglobin, a substance found in soybean plant roots. The GMO soy leghemoglobin (SLH) breaks down into a protein called “heme,” which gives the burger meat-like qualities — its blood-red color and sizzle on the grill — without the environmental and ethical impacts of meat production. But the GMO SLH also breaks down into 46 other proteins that have never been in the human diet and could pose safety risks.

As The New York Times reported, the burger’s secret sauce “highlights the challenges of food tech.” The story was based on documents obtained by ETC Group and Friends of the Earth under a Freedom of Information Act request – documents the company probably hoped would never see the light of day. When Impossible Foods asked the Food and Drug Administration to confirm its GMO ingredient was “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), the Times reported, the agency instead “expressed concern that it has never been consumed by humans and may be an allergen.”

FDA officials wrote in notes describing a 2015 call with the company, “FDA stated that the current arguments at hand, individually and collectively, were not enough to establish the safety of SLH for consumption.” But, as the Times story explained, the FDA did not say the GMO leghemoglobin was unsafe, and the company did not need the approval of FDA to sell its burger anyway.

The arguments presented did not establish safety – FDA

So Impossible Burger is on the market with the company’s assurances of safety and most consumers are in the dark about what’s in it. While the GMO process is explained on the website it is not marketed that way at the point of sale. On a recent visit to a Bay Area restaurant that sells the Impossible Burger, a customer asked if the burger was genetically modified. He was inaccurately told, “no.”

Lack of government oversight, unknown health risks and consumers left in the dark – these are recurring themes in the unfolding narrative about the Wild West of genetic engineering experimentation that is galloping toward a store near you.

A GMO By Any Other Name …

Synthetic biology, CRISPR, gene editing, gene silencing: these terms describe the new forms of genetically engineered crops, animals and ingredients that companies are rushing to get onto the market.

The old method of genetic engineering, called transgenics, involves transferring genes from one species to another. With the new genetic engineering methods – what some environmental groups call GMOs 2.0 – companies are tampering with nature in new and possibly riskier ways. They can delete genes, turn genes on or off, or create whole new DNA sequences on a computer. All these new techniques are GMOs in the way consumers and the U.S. Patent Office consider them – DNA is altered in labs in ways that can’t occur in nature, and used to make products that can be patented. There are a few basic types of GMOs 2.0.

Synthetic biology GMOs involve changing or creating DNA to artificially synthesize compounds rather than extract them from natural sources. Examples include genetically engineering yeast or algae to create flavors such as vanillin, stevia and citrus; or fragrances like patchouli, rose oil and clearwood – all of which may already be in products.

Some companies are touting lab-grown ingredients as a solution for sustainability. But the devil is in the details that companies are reticent to disclose. What are the feedstocks? Some synthetic biology products depend on sugar from chemical-intensive monocultures or other polluting feedstocks such as fracked gas. There are also concerns that engineered algae could escape into the environment and become living pollution.

And what is the impact on farmers who depend on sustainably grown crops? Farmers around the world are worried that lab-grown substitutes, falsely marketed as “natural,” could put them out of business. For generations, farmers in Mexico, Madagascar, Africa and Paraguay have cultivated natural and organic vanilla, shea butter or stevia. In Haiti, the farming of vetiver grass for use in high-end perfumes supports up to 60,000 small growers, helping to bolster an economy ravaged by earthquake and storms.

Does it make sense to move these economic engines to South San Francisco and feed factory-farmed sugar to yeast in order to make cheaper fragrances and flavors? Who will benefit, and who will lose out, in the high-tech crop revolution?

Genetically engineered fish and animals: dehorned cattle, naturally castrated pigs, and chicken eggs engineered to contain a pharmaceutical agent are all in the genetic experimentation pipeline. An all-male “terminator cattle” project – with the code name “Boys Only” – aims to create a bull that will father only male offspring, thereby “skewing the odds toward maleness and making the (meat) industry more efficient,” reported MIT Technology Review.

What could go wrong?

The geneticist working on the terminator cattle, Alison Van Eenennaam of the  University of California, Davis, is lobbying FDA to reconsider its 2017 decision to treat CRISPR-edited animals as if they were new drugs, thereby requiring safety studies; she told the MIT Review that would “put a huge regulatory block on using this gene-editing technique on animals.” But shouldn’t there be requirements for studying the health, safety and environmental impacts of genetically engineered foods, and a framework for considering the moral, ethical and social justice implications? Companies are pushing hard for no requirements; in January, President Trump talked about biotechnology for the first time during his presidency and made a vague declaration about “streamlining regulations.”

The only GMO animal on the market so far is the AquaAdvantage salmon engineered with the genes of an eel to grow faster. The fish is already being sold in Canada, but the company won’t say where, and US sales are held up due to “labeling complications.” The urge for secrecy makes sense from a sales perspective: 75% of respondents in a 2013 New York Times poll said they would not eat GMO fish, and about two-thirds said they would not eat meat that had been genetically modified.

Gene silencing techniques such as RNA interference (RNAi) can turn genes off to create particular traits. The non-browning Arctic Apple was engineered with RNAi to turn down the expression of genes that cause apples to become brown and mushy. As the company explains on its website, “when the apple is bitten, sliced, or otherwise bruised … no yucky brown apple left behind.”

Are consumers actually asking for this trait? Ready or not here it comes. The first GMO Arctic Apple, a Golden Delicious, began heading for test markets in the Midwest last month. Nobody is saying exactly where the apples are landing, but they won’t be labeled GMO. Look out for the “Arctic Apples” brand if you want to know if you’re eating a genetically engineered apple.

“I am confident we’ll see more gene-edited crops falling outside of regulatory authority.” 

Gene editing techniques such as CRISPR, TALEN or zinc finger nucleases are used to cut DNA in order to make genetic changes or insert genetic material. These methods are faster and touted as more precise than the old transgenic methods. But the lack of government oversight raises concerns. “There can still be off-target and unintended effects,” explains Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist of Consumers Union. “When you alter the genetics of living things they don’t always behave as you expect. This is why it’s crucial to thoroughly study health and environmental impacts, but these studies aren’t required.”

A non-browning CRISPR mushroom escaped US regulation, as Nature reported in 2016. A new CRISPR canola oil, engineered to tolerate herbicides, is in stores now and may even be called “non-GMO,” according to Bloomberg, since the US Department of Agriculture has “taken a pass” on regulating CRISPR crops. The story noted that Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Chemical have “stepped through the regulatory void” and struck licensing deals to use the gene-editing technology.

And that raises another red flag with the narrative that new GMOs will provide consumer benefits that the old transgenic methods didn’t. “Just because the techniques are different doesn’t mean the traits will be,” Dr. Hansen pointed out. “The old method of genetic engineering was used mostly to make plants resist herbicides and increase sales of herbicides. The new gene editing techniques will probably be used in much the same way, but there are some new twists.”

Corporate Greed Versus Consumer Needs

The Atlantic’s “transforming food” summit was sponsored by DowDuPont. See our reporting on that story.

The world’s largest agrichemical companies own the majority of seeds and pesticides, and they are consolidating power in the hands of just three multinational corporations. Bayer and Monsanto are closing in on a merger, and the mergers of ChemChina/Syngenta and DowDuPont are complete. DowDuPont just announced its agribusiness unit will operate under the new name Corteva Agriscience, a combination of words meaning “heart” and “nature.”

No matter what re-branding tricks they try, these corporations have a nature we already know: all of them have long histories of ignoring the warnings of science, covering up the health risks of dangerous products and leaving behind toxic messes – Bhopal, dioxin, PCBs, napalm, Agent Orange, teflon, chlorpyrifos, atrazine, dicamba, to name just a few scandals.

The future-focus narrative obscures that sordid past and the present reality of how these companies are actually using genetic engineering technologies today, mostly as a tool for crops to survive chemical sprays. To understand how this scheme is playing out on the ground in leading GMO-growing pesticide-using areas, read the reports about birth defects in Hawaii, cancer clusters in Argentina, contaminated waterways in Iowa and damaged cropland across the Midwest.

The future of food under the control of big agribusiness and chemical corporations is not hard to guess – more of what they are already trying to sell us: GMO crops that drive up chemical sales and food animals engineered to grow faster and fit better in factory farm conditions, with pharmaceuticals to help. It’s a great vision for the future of corporate profits and concentration of wealth and power, but not so great for farmers, public health, the environment or consumers who are demanding a different food future.

Growing numbers of consumers want real, natural food and products. They want to know what’s in their food, how it was produced and where it came from. For those who want to be in the know about what they are eating, there is still a surefire way to avoid old and new GMOs: buy organic. The Non-GMO Project verified certification also ensures products are not genetically engineered or made with synthetic biology.

It will be important for the natural foods industry to hold the line on the integrity of these certifications against the wild stampede of new GMOs.

Stacy Malkan is the co-director of US Right to Know and author of the book, “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry.”

Report from the Glyphosate Daubert Hearings

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Update 3/19: Judge Chhabria ordered an additional hearing for two of the plaintiffs’ witnesses. Follow Carey Gillam on Twitter for more updates about the legislation and we continue to post documents on our Monsanto Papers page.

Court Transcripts from Daubert Hearings 

Friday March 9 transcript

Thursday March 8 transcript

Wednesday March 7 transcript

Tuesday March 6 transcript

Monday March 5 transcript

Oral arguments and other court documents posted here

Science Week Blog 

U.S. Right to Know Research Director Carey Gillam reported from U.S. Federal Court in San Francisco during the March 5-9, 2018 Daubert Hearings, where Judge Vince Chhabria heard expert testimony about the science regarding the safety of glyphosate and Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer. Some reports were filed by USRTK Co-Director Stacy Malkan.

For updates, documents and analysis from the litigation, see the Monsanto Papers page. More more information about glyphosate, see our science fact sheet, Carey Gillam’s reporting on glyphosate and Gillam’s book, “Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science” (Island Press, 2017)

Reports in chronological order.

Updated: 03/05/2018 10:09

Farmers Vs. Monsanto: Glyphosate Showdown Comes to US Court in San Francisco:
“Science Week” in a federal court will decide if farmer cancer lawsuits move forward

US Right to Know News Release, March 5, 2018 — A federal court hearing in San Francisco this week will turn a spotlight on the science surrounding the world’s most widely used pesticide, glyphosate, and will determine whether farmers and their families will be able to proceed with legal action against Monsanto Co. over cancer concerns.

More than 365 lawsuits are pending against Monsanto in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, filed by people alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto covered up the risks.

The court has dubbed the March 5-9 events as “science week” because the only evidence to be presented will come from experts in cancer science, including epidemiologists, toxicologists, and biomedical statistical analysts called to analyze relevant research. The scientists will present their best scientific evidence to U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria, who will decide if the lawsuits move forward or are halted in their tracks.

Journalist and author Carey Gillam of U.S. Right to Know will be live blogging the event from the court house. Follow her posts here: https://usrtk.org/live-updates-monsanto-hearing/

See also:

03/05/2018 10:39 by Carey Gillam

Michael Baum of Baum Hedlund, counsel for the farmers and their families who are suing Monsanto over cancer concerns explains what’s at stake in this week’s hearings. https://www.facebook.com/USRightToKnow/videos/1662246967174627/

Updated: 03/06/2018 10:10 by Carey Gillam 

Showdown in San Fran underway 

The showdown is underway in San Francisco.

Teams of dark-suited attorneys filled the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria on Monday morning to wrestle over the science surrounding cancer concerns and Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

With more than 365 lawsuits combined in the multi district litigation under the purview of Judge Chhabria, there were more plaintiffs attorneys than seats at the plaintiffs table, so they spilled out into the rows set aside for the public.

Laptops and yellow, lined legal pads crowded the tables for the opposing counsels as many furiously took notes and kept track of the time, well aware that each side has a limit of 11 hours to present their scientific case to the judge in a hearing that runs through Friday. The plaintiffs must demonstrate that they have scientific evidence to back their claims that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

The hearings are an interim, but very important step in the litigation as these hearings allow for Chhabria to determine if the expert scientists plaintiffs have lined up to testify regarding causation will be permitted to testify at trial. The focus in those determinations is whether the experts used a recognized, reliable methodology for arriving at their opinions. If the judge the litigation can proceed to trial, a jury would then decide whether the evidence more likely than not shows Roundup caused the individual’s NHL.

First up to testify is plaintiffs’ expert witness Beate Ritz, Chair of the Epidemiology Department at UCLA, of Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH).

Under the questioning of plaintiffs’ attorney Kathryn Forgie, Ritz walked the judge through a series of epidemiology studies conducted over the years that show statistically significant risk factors linking glyphosate to cancer. The literature shows that the risk to individuals considered “routine users” of glyphosate was significant, she testified.

Judge Chhabria quizzed Ritz on several aspects of the scientific research and appeared concerned about whether or not studies were adjusted for exposure to other pesticides.

When asked about a study Monsanto has pointed to as critical evidence that there is no non-Hodgkin lymphoma link to glyphosate, Ritz explained that the study – a cohort called the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) – had several short-comings.

Among the problems, she testified, the AHS data on glyphosate relied heavily on memories of individuals filling out questionnaires to asses usage. It also is smaller than desired and has not followed people long enough, she said. “Recall error” is “really the enemy of exposure assessment,” she said.

03/05/2018 13:25 by Carey Gillam 

Getting Interesting 

A lawyer sitting next to me in first row describes this as the “post -lunch sag.”

But it’s just starting to get interesting – After a brief lunch break, epidemiologist Beate Ritz resumed testimony with a detailed discussion of meta-analyses. She says that with respect to glyphosate, there is animal data but “more importantly“ human data that shows an association between lymphoma and glyphosate. She said “DNA breaks have been shown to occur when individuals are exposed.” She says that her conclusion is that glyphosate and glyphosate based herbicides “do indeed cause NHL.”

But when Judge Chhabria asks her to be more specific – does she believe the pesticide is currently causing NHL or is “capable” of causing NHL, she said it was the latter. “We know that the toxicology is in the dose,” she said. That prompted some whispering among plaintiffs’ counsel and further questioning under which Ritz  said it would depend on the individual’s cases.

Monsanto attorneys now get their shot at Ritz.

03/05/2018 15:29 by Carey Gillam 

Ritz Concludes Testimony With Congrats from Judge

Whew – Five hours of testimony featuring plaintiffs’ expert witness, epidemiologist Beate Ritz, concluded in chuckles all around as Federal Court Judge Vince Chhabria told Ritz “congratulations” for her enthusiastic, though sometimes-prickly, testimony regarding her views of multiple studies looking at glyphosate and connections to cancer, specifically non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Chhabria had to admonish Ritz more than once during her cross-examination by Monsanto attorney Eric Lasker to stop asking Lasker questions and telling him what questions to ask. The judge offered – in jest – to set aside time later in the week for Ritz to do her own cross-examination of Lasker in what was a rare light moment in the otherwise serious scrutiny of the science.

Before she exited the witness chair, Chhabria asked her if she believes that current levels of glyphosate exposures is causing or has caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Ritz said that good exposure quantification data is lacking but when pressed by the judge to say whether or not the studies she reviewed show that glyphosate has caused NHL in people she replied: “Yes I think they do.”

Next up: Dennis Weisenburger, a physician and pathologist who specializes in the study of NHL, takes the stand. He is Chair of the Pathology Department of the City of Hope Medical Center, Omaha, Nebraska.

03/05/2018 17:02 by Carey Gillam

“There is biological plausibility”

A long day of testimony presented by plaintiffs’ witnesses concluded with strong statements by NHL expert Dennis Weisenburger laying out multiple studies that lend support to the plaintiffs’ allegations that Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide causes non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

As he did with prior witness Beate Ritz, the judge asked Weisenburger if he believed not just that the pesticide was capable of causing NHL but if it is at exposures people are currently experiencing. Weisenburger answered affirmatively.

“The body of evidence is strong evidence,” said Weisenburger. Glyphosate and the glyphosate-based formulations, including Roundup can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), he told Judge Chhabria.

Weisenburger spent time walking the court through studies that show DNA damage in people exposed to glyphosate, including through aerial spraying. Research shows that both glyphosate and formulations cause genetic damage, the type that leads to NHL, he said.

“There is biological plausibility.”

He testified that both animal studies and studies of human exposed to glyphosate showed connections between the chemical and cancer.

In one study, the North American Pooled Project (NAPP) the risk for NHL increased almost two fold when for people who used glyphosate more than two days per year. In animal studies, Weisenburger said there were “dose-related effects for multiple tumors.” As well, one mouse study showed rare tumors in exposed animals.

“There is a body of evidence that is pretty compelling that glyphosate and the formulations are genotoxic in living cells,” he testified.

Like Ritz, Weisenburger was dismissive of new results recently published as part of the Agricultural Health Study that showed no connection between glyphosate and NHL.

Though Monsanto has sought to portray this research as definitive evidence of no relationship between cancer and its weed killer, both scientists who testified today said the research has several flaws that made it unreliable for a determination on glyphosate, including that its span was too short, recall bias concerns, and lack of actual data on increased glyphosate usage over years.

Monsanto’s attorneys will get their chance to cross examine Weisenburger on Tuesday.

Stay tuned…..

Updated: 03/06/2018 10:58 by Stacy Malkan 

Transcript March 5, 2018 

Here is the link to the transcript of testimony from Monday, March 5 in the Roundup Products Liability litigation. This document and all court and discovery documents from the litigation are posted on the US Right to Know Monsanto Papers page.

Updated: 03/06/2018 11:20 by Carey Gillam 

Science Week, Day Two 

Testimony was about to get underway for the second day of “science week” with plaintiffs’ expert witness Dennis Weisenburger due to get back on the stand. Weisenburger, Chair of the Pathology Department of the City of Hope Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska, specializes in the study of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

Weisenburger spent much of Monday afternoon summarizing for Judge Vince Chhabria his belief that analysis of many research studies provides strong evidence that glyphosate and glyphosate-based weed killers like Monsanto’s Roundup can cause exposed individual’s to develop NHL.

Monsanto attorneys will get their chance to cross examine Weisenburger Tuesday afternoon after he completes his direct testimony.

Each side is claiming they have science on their side: “The question before this Court is all about the science,” Monsanto attorneys wrote in a pre-hearing court filing. “The science at issue consists of actual studies and data, not conjecture and speculation.” Monsanto argues that plaintiffs’ evidence is “littered with carefully selected, out-of-context, e-mails, memoranda, and other internal Monsanto documents which, according to plaintiffs’ allegations in their briefing, show purported ghostwriting of review articles (not original studies themselves) or allegedly improper corporate conduct.

Plaintiffs’ counter to that argument is this: “The methodology applied by Monsanto’s experts turns not on sound science but rather on whether the evidence at issue is favorable or unfavorable to Monsanto’s position. Where the evidence is favorable, it receives minimal scrutiny and Monsanto’s experts often fail to find any flaws or shortcomings. Yet when the evidence shows a positive association between exposure to glyphosate-based formulations (GBFs) and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL), Monsanto’s experts concoct an inquiry that consistently leads them to disregard the positive evidence in its entirety. Inconsistencies or controverting evidence do not curtail this approach. Rather, when confronted with reliable positive evidence of causation, Monsanto’s experts develop novel methods to discount findings, including manufacturing new theories or facts.”

Plaintiffs’ initial exhibit list totaled 252 listed items, while Monsanto’s listed more than 1,000 total items.

One of many sticking points in the presentation of evidence has been Monsanto’s fierce objection to the potential use of an estimated 1,500 pages of data from a controversial 1983 mouse study that EPA scientists initially saw as concerning evidence of the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate. Monsanto was eventually successful in convincing EPA that its analysis was flawed and that the study actually reflected no reason for concern.

Plaintiffs have sought to dig into that study data, which Monsanto has opposed. “The hundreds of pages of raw data that plaintiffs seek to have de-designated are inarguably confidential,” Monsanto wrote of the plaintiffs’ desire to discuss the mouse study in the hearings this week.

One issue that the experts must address for Judge Chhabria has to do with studies that make connections between glyphosate exposure and NHL but do not adjust for exposure to other pesticides. The judge stated multiple times that he sees that as a concern and wants a better understanding of the issue as the hearing progresses. “This continues to be an issue for me,” he said shortly before court concluded on Monday.

The judge also has warned attorneys that he needs a better understanding of the issue of “recall bias” in epidemiology research and how that may impact findings.

Following Weisenburger’s testimony, plaintiffs’ plan to present testimony from Alfred Neugut and then Charles “Bill” Jameson.

Neugut is a practicing medical oncologist, a professor of cancer research and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University.

Jameson has participated as a member of the working group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer and is a member of the American Chemical Society and the Society of Toxicology and he participates in peer reviews for six scientific journals.

Updated: 03/06/2018 15:56 by Carey Gillam

Rough and Tumble 

It was a tough cross-examination for plaintiffs’ expert Dennis Weisenburger, who was grilled on multiple areas of his analysis by Monsanto attorney Kirby Griffis. After leaving the witness stand and taking a seat in the front row of the public seating area, he expressed relief to be finished, remarking, “It’s like going to hell and coming back.”

Monsanto’s attorney opened his cross by showing a slide with text from a deposition that showed Weisenburger answering affirmatively to a question asking if his standard for offering opinions in published articles was more rigorous for offering his opinion in litigation matters. He accused Weisenburger of not presenting a full picture of the available data regarding glyphosate, and Griffis elicited testimony from Weisenburger confirming that a wave of NHL was identified in the 1950s, a time long before glyphosate was introduced to the market by Monsanto in 1974, underscoring there are other causes for the cancer.

Toward the end of this testimony, even questions from Judge Chhabria were hot to handle. The judge wanted to know how was it possible to connect glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma in people diagnosed in the late 1970s and early 1980s given glyphosate only came on the market in 1974 and given expert testimony that NHL can take more than two decades to develop from pesticide exposure. The judge suggested it should be “assumed” that something other than glyphosate caused the NHL in those people who were part of early studies.

“That is obviously what the defense is trying to say,” Weisenburger replied, but acknowledged that there are other pesticides associated with non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Next on the stand- Alfred Neugut. a practicing medical oncologist who is professor of cancer research and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University. In his opening direct testimony he says there is great specificity with research showing a connection between glyphosate and NHL.

Scientists do not see repeated evidence of ties between glyphosate and several other types of cancer, but commonly see non-Hodgkin lymphoma. “Every time you look what comes up? Glyphosate and NHL,” he said.

Neugut testified that there is no perfect scientific study but consistency in study findings cannot be ignored.

He spoke so rapidly that the judge and court reporter had to caution him to slow down. “I’m from Brooklyn,” he replied, drawing courtroom laughter.

03/06/2018 16:05 by Carey Gillam

“Shit Happens” 

Expert witness Alfred Neugut, testifying for plaintiffs Tuesday, addressed a study that Monsanto has claimed is significant evidence backing its claims that says glyphosate and Roundup do not cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). The Agricultural Health Study (AHS) is an “excellent study for many things,” Neugut said, but for understanding any association – or lack of – between glyphosate and NHL, the study fails, he testified. An extraordinary increase in the use of glyphosate that started in the late 1990s dramatically changed the exposure level of farmers to glyphosate from the beginning of the study when baseline exposures were established. There are other flaws with the study, including a “loss to follow-up,” he said.

“You have an error on top of an error on top of an error… the AHS study is basically not so useful,” he said

When asked how a study that was so poorly done could get published as the AHS study was in November 2017, he shrugged and said “shit happens.”

Next up: Monsanto attorney Eric Lasker to begin his cross examination.

03/07/2018 10:33 by Carey Gillam 

Day 3 – Notes and Gift & a Shift to Toxicology 

Day three of the Roundup cancer “science week” hearing opened with a gift from Judge Chhabria to plaintiffs – a gift of time. The plaintiffs will have an extra 60 minutes to present their expert witness testimony added to the total of 11 hours each side has been allotted for this week’s events. The judge said because he has frequently taken up some of plaintiffs’ time with questions of witnesses, he decided the extra time was warranted. Plaintiffs had requested an additional 90 minutes. Monsanto is not due any extra time, he said.

The judge also noted that he had received an email message from a “citizen” regarding the proceedings, but that he had elected not to read the message. He did pass copies of it to both plaintiffs’ and Monsanto’s attorneys.

The hearing Wednesday began with a continuation of Monsanto’s cross of plaintiffs’ witness Alfred Neugut, an expert in epidemiology who is a practicing medical oncologist and professor of cancer research and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia University.

Monsanto attorney Eric Lasker pushed Neugut on his position on the science, and repeatedly challenged the scientist’s memory regarding previous statements and analysis that the attorney portrayed as conflicting with his testimony in these events. Neugut at one point said he must have been mistaken before but was now correct.

Following Neugut’s testimony, the focus of the hearing today will move from epidemiology to toxicology research that plaintiffs’ cite as evidence backing their claims that Monsanto’s weed killer causes cancer.

The first toxicology expert to take the stand will be Charles Jameson (who goes by Bill). Jameson has served as program leader for the National Toxicology Program at the NIH’s National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences for 12 years. He was a member of the working group for the International Agency for Research on Cancer that found glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen in March 2015.

With the turn to toxicology will likely come a turn to discussion of the 1983 mouse study that initially prompted EPA scientists to say the study showed evidence of glyphosate’s cancer-causing potential. It was only after pressure from Monsanto and a report from a pathologist hired by Monsanto – and years of discussions with EPA – that the official assessment of that study was changed to reflect no sign of carcinogenicity.

Monsanto sought to keep much of the data from that study out of court after plaintiffs said they would be introducing it, but the judge has said the study data will be allowed as evidence.

03/07/2018 10:49 by Carey Gillam 

Transcript from Tuesday’s Hearing 

03/07/2018 11:59 by Carey Gillam

Testimony About Animal Tumor Data 

Testimony by toxicology expert Bill Jameson on Wednesday sparked early objections from Monsanto attorneys as the former government scientist explained the body of research that led him to conclude that glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides (like Roundup) can cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma at real-world exposures – levels farm workers and others face when using the weed killer. Judge Vince Chhabria overruled Monsanto’s objections.

Jameson was a member of the working group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer  (IARC) which analyzed research on glyphosate and declared it to be a probable human carcinogen in March 2015.

Judge Chhabria posed several questions to Jameson about that IARC finding, noting that in human studies the IARC group concluded there was “limited” evidence of carcinogenicity, compared to “sufficient” evidence in animal research.

That led Jameson to explain that some scientists on the IARC working group thought the evidence was stronger than limited but others disagreed. Jameson joked: “If there are three epidemiologists in a room and you ask them their opinions you’ll get four opinions.”

He, like the scientists who testified Monday and Tuesday, said it is the weight of the combined animal and human data that demonstrates the carcinogenicity of the herbicide.

There are many animal studies on glyphosate, Jameson testified, saying that it is “extraordinary” to have so many animal studies to evaluate a chemical due to the cost of such studies. The fact that researchers have as many animal studies as they do for glyphosate adds to the strength of his conclusion that the chemical causes cancer, he said. Importantly, the animal research shows there is replication of several tumor sites, including liver tumors and malignant lymphoma, he said.

“We had a lot of replication for malignant lymphomas in the mouse,” he said. The same tumors were seen in different studies in different labs at different times, which underscores strength of conclusion of carcinogenicity, he said.

In her questioning of Jameson, plaintiffs’ attorney Aimee Wagstaff at one point presented a slide showing a page from an eight-hour deposition of Jameson, pointing out that Monsanto had only provide the judge with one small segment of Jameson’s actual statement regarding the data. The entire statement provided the needed context for the court, she said.

Updated: 03/07/2018 14:38 by Carey Gillam 

After lunch break, Monsanto crosses Jameson 

Following a short break for lunch, Monsanto attorney Joe Hollingsworth stepped up to cross examine plaintiffs’ expert witness Bill Jameson.

Hollingsworth launched his cross by pressing Jameson about distinctions between hazard and risk assessments, and comments Jameson made in a deposition.

They judge admonished Hollingsworth and suggested that rather than continuously asking Jameson about what he said in a deposition, the attorney should ask him about what he actually thinks.

“Why don’t you ask his about his opinion now, the judge told Hollingsworth. “That’s normally how we do it,” the judge said.

Hollingsworth did adjust his inquiry but when again asking Jameson about comments he made in a deposition led Jameson to reply that in his depositions taken by Monsanto “I’ve been misquoted and things have been taken out of context so many times… ”

When Hollingsworth continues to press Jameson to address comments Hollingsworth says Jameson made in a deposition, the judge again interrupts to admonish Hollingsworth, say that if Hollingsworth wants to ask Jameson questions about prior deposition testimony in the way that he is asking then Hollingsworth must provide him the full transcript of the deposition and the page number that contains the comment.

The Monsanto attorney say he has the comment available on a slide to show Jameson and the court. The judge tells him that is not good enough. The witness has to be able to see the comments in context, not pulled out on a slide, the judge tells Hollingsworth. Jameson is then allowed to find and read aloud his full comment.

Repeatedly the judge seems to take issue with Hollingsworth’s style of questioning, including saying it is “his fault” for talking over Jameson as the witness tries to answer questions.

Updated: 03/07/2018 15:47 by Carey Gillam

Little Bit of Legal Drama

A little bit of legal drama in afternoon testimony by plaintiffs’ expert witness Bill Jameson as Judge Vince Chhabria repeatedly admonished Monsanto lead attorney Joe Hollingsworth over his tactics in cross examining Jameson.

Chhabria seems especially vexed by Hollingsworth’s effort to open a line of questioning by asking Jameson about statements he made in a deposition. The judge told Hollingsworth multiple times throughout the cross examination to ask Jameson directly what his opinions about the science are now, and then if that contradicted something he said earlier Hollingsworth could explore the contradiction. He also criticized Hollingsworth for talking over Jameson as he tried to answer questions.

The judge showed noted concern over the possibility that Monsanto might be taking expert statements out of context. That concern was underscored when, in a particularly stern move that left plaintiffs’ attorneys giddy with delight, Judge Chhabria ordered Monsanto’s attorney to read aloud into the record two pages of testimony from a deposition that supported the expertise of Jameson’s analysis before he would allow Hollingsworth to introduce a separate example from a deposition that undercut Jameson’s expertise.

Hollingsworth protested the action but finally capitulated as the judge insisted. He then ended his cross examination of Jameson.

As Jameson’s testimony ended and he stepped down from the witness stand, he turned to the judge: “Thank you for the honor, your honor,” he said.

Following Jameson, Chris Portier, another in the line-up of plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, took the stand. Portier, who traveled from his home in Switzerland to testify, expressed a bit of nervousness before beginning his testimony under direct examination from New York-based attorney Robin Greenwald.

Portier introduced his expert view that the probability that glyphosate cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma is “high.”

In his testimony, Portier tacked the Greim 2015 study, which Monsanto and supporters have said supports their position that glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer. ( Internal Monsanto documents state the Greim paper was ghost-written by a Monsanto scientist.) Portier said the work was poorly documented, providing only summary data and not providing individual animal data, among other short-comings.

Updated: 03/07/2018 16:54 by Carey Gillam  

Court Adjourns for the Day 

UPDATE – Dust up after court adjourns: Plaintiffs’ had provided Monsanto attorneys with a copy of the slide deck they were using for Portier’s direct testimony. But when court adjourned in the middle of testimony, they wanted the slide deck back – or at least the portions they had not yet covered. Monsanto attorneys having their game plan overnight was “prejudicial” plaintiffs’ attorneys protested. But Monsanto attorney Eric Lasker shrugged off the request from plaintiffs’ attorney Aimee Wagstaff that they return the slide deck. A Monsanto attorney had already walked out with the documents and Lasker was not inclined to try to retrieve them. A frustrated Wagstaff requested “judicial assistance” from the judge but retreated after Lasker said they had written notes on the slide deck and refused to give them back.

A long day of testimony wrapped up with plaintiffs’ expert witness Chris Portier laying out for the court detailed and highly technical methodology and analysis that he said supports his views that glyphosate has a strong causal connection to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Monsanto has criticized Portier for pooling results from multiple research studies in ways that are aimed at intentionally generating data that favors plaintiffs’ claims against Monsanto, but Portier denied that bias in his testimony Wednesday.

The scientist explained such things as “latency” to the court, and discussed his “sensitivity analysis” of studies done in rats and mice in the 1980s and 1990s.

More direct testimony is slated for Thursday morning from Portier and then his cross-examination. After that, Monsanto will likely get its turn to present its own experts to the judge. The company has said they will present four witnesses.

After this week’s testimony, lawyers for both sides will get their chance to make oral arguments to the judge sometime in the next two weeks. The judge will make a ruling on whether or not the plaintiffs’ witnesses who are providing their scientific opinions regarding causation will be permitted to testify at trial.

The focus for the judge’s decision is whether the experts are using recognized, reliable methodology to arrive at their opinions. If he determines any or all of the witnesses are not relying on this proper scientific foundation he can exclude them from testifying, a move that would be a powerful blow to plaintiffs’ case and a win for Monsanto.

I am sorry to say I have to head to New York City on Thursday, and so will miss the final two days of testimony. But USRTK will be making transcripts available and the video recording of the full hearing when the web link becomes available after the conclusion of this week’s events.

Updated: 03/09/2018 09:50 by Carey Gillam

Transcripts from March 7 & 8 hearing 

I had to jet off to another city but here is the transcript from March 7’s hearing, https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Transcript-hearing-March-7-2018.pdf and here is the transcript from Thursday’s events https://usrtk.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Transcript-for-Daubert-Hearing-March-8-2018.pdf

Colleague Stacy Malkan is headed to court today to keep you all informed!

Updated: 03/09/2018 14:43 by Stacy Malkan

Last Day of Daubert Testimony 

Entering the final inning of Science Week as the plaintiff’s attorney is about to begin cross examination of cancer epidemilogist Dr. Lorelei Mucci, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Last witness! More updates soon from the testimony of Dr. Mucci and earlier testimony by plaintiff’s witness Dr. Chadi Nabhan, a board certified clinical medical oncologist and past assistant professor at the University of Chicago.

Updated: 03/15/2018 10:45 by Stacy Malkan

Science Week Concludes in Federal Court 

(updated)

Dr. Mucci’s cross exam is complete, and that’s a wrap for testimony for glyphosate Science Week. Judge Chhabria calls for a round of applause for the court reporter; “we can all agree she had the hardest job in the room this week.” Oral arguments are set for Weds at 10 a.m.

Today, the last two witnesses presented: Dr. Chadi Nabhan for the plaintiffs (he couldn’t get here until today) and Dr. Lorelei Mucci for the defense. Dr. Nabhan is an oncologist who serves as medical director of Cardinal Health and has 17 years of clinical practice and academic research focused on lymphomas.

Dr. Nabhan discussed the process by which the International Agency for Research on Cancer conducts its monographs to determine whether chemicals cause cancer. The agency has a high bar to consider what it reviews, he said – exposures must be high and animal data strong. Since 1965, IARC has reviewed 1003 agents and found 20% to be carcinogens; 120 classified as carcinogenic and 81 classified as probably carcinogenic, including glyphosate.

“In my opinion, the (NHL) risk (of glyphosate exposure) is clinically significant enough that patients should be aware of it,” Dr, Nabhan said. “The IARC report is very convincing.”

Dr. Nabhan does not have a high opinion of the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) that was the topic of much of today’s discussion. “There are so many flaws in this study that it’s impossible to draw any conclusions,” he said. He shrugged off the updated analysis is “an updated analysis of an already flawed study.”

Last up was Dr. Lorelei Mucci for the Monsanto defense. Dr. Mucci is an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Her major research and teaching area is cancer epidemiology.

Dr. Mucci discussed in her view the strengths and limitations of four epidemiological studies (transcript here with details) in particular the AHS study. Investigators of the AHS cohort analysis reported no evidence of association between exposure to glyphosate and risk of NHL, accounting for both short and long term exposures.

Much of Dr. Mucci’s testimony focused on questions from the judges about the validity of self reporting in the questionnaires filled out by pesticide applicators about their exposure to glyphosate. Dr. Mucci explained why she believes the reporting was reliable, and is confident in the study findings of no evidence of positive association between exposure and NHL risk and no evidence of dose response.

In cross examination, Dr. Mucci clarified that her expert opinion was based on epidemiological data that IARC looked at and that has come out since, the updated AHS and updated analysis of the North American Pooled Project. She did not consider toxicological data or animal data.

Updated: 03/12/2018 11:58 by Stacy Malkan

Transcripts and What’s Next? 

Testimony is complete in five days of Daubert Hearings to review the scientific evidence linking glyphosate, the key chemical in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, to a type of cancer found more commonly in farmers than the general population. Closing arguments are set for Wednesday March 14 (time TBD). U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria will then decide whether there is evidence to support the plaintiffs’ claim that exposure to Roundup can cause non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL), and if the experts providing scientific opinions regarding causation will be permitted to testify at trial.

The events, dubbed “Science Week” by the court because all the testimony came from experts in cancer science, marked the first time that the body of research relating to glyphosate and NHL was analyzed under oath. The stakes are high for the farmers and their families suing Monsanto, and for the company that derives nearly a third of its revenue from glyphosate-based products.

Below are the transcripts from glyphosate Science Week. Other court and discovery documents from the glyphosate trails, along with reporting and analysis, are posted on the USRTK Monsanto Papers page.

Friday March 9 transcript

Thursday March 8 transcript

Wednesday March 7 transcript

Tuesday March 6 transcript

Monday March 5 transcript

Updated: 03/13/2018 12:22 by Stacy Malkan

Videos of Daubert Hearings Now Posted 

The US Court, Northern District of California has posted all video footage of the March 5-9 “Science Week” Daubert Hearings in the Roundup products liability litigation against Monsanto Company.

You can find the videos here: http://www.uscourts.gov/cameras-courts/re-roundup-products-liability-litigation

The court website provides some interesting history about cameras in courts, and the continuing pilot program under which the glyphosate hearings were recorded — the only Daubert Hearings to date available for viewing on the court website. A win for transparency in our view!

That’s a wrap for Science Week reporting, sign up for the USRTK newsletter to keep up to date with our investigations and reporting.

If you value this type of independent reporting, please consider making a donation to US Right to Know.

# # #

Farmers Vs. Monsanto: The Glyphosate Trials

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“Science Week” in a federal court will decide if farmer cancer lawsuits move forward

Live updates from court hearings by Carey Gillam
Transcripts of Daubert Hearings posted here

News Release
For Immediate Release: Monday, March 5, 2018
For More Information Contact: Carey Gillam (913) 526-6190; Stacy Malkan (510) 542-9224

San Francisco, Calif.; March 5, 2018 — A federal court hearing in San Francisco this week will turn a spotlight on the science surrounding the world’s most widely used pesticide, glyphosate, and will determine whether farmers and their families will be able to proceed with legal action against Monsanto Co. over cancer concerns.

More than 365 lawsuits are pending against Monsanto in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, filed by people alleging that exposure to Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto covered up the risks.

The court has dubbed the March 5-9 events as “science week” because the only evidence to be presented will come from experts in cancer science, including epidemiologists, toxicologists, and biomedical statistical analysts called to analyze relevant research. The scientists will present their best scientific evidence to U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria, who will decide if the lawsuits move forward or are halted in their tracks.

Journalist and author Carey Gillam of U.S. Right to Know will be live blogging the event from the court house. Follow her posts here: https://usrtk.org/live-updates-monsanto-hearing/

See also: “Monsanto says its pesticides are safe: Now a court wants to see the proof,” by Carey Gillam, The Guardian.

Gillam is author of “Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science” (Island Press, 2017) — “a gutsy, compelling read from beginning to end, especially for readers who enjoy the kind of hard-nosed, shoe-leather reporting that used to be the hallmark of great journalism,” according to the Society for Environmental Journalists’ BookShelf review.

Gillam is also research director of U.S. Right to Know, a consumer and public health watchdog group. USRTK is posting documents and analysis from the MDL glyphosate cancer cases on our Monsanto Papers page.

U.S. Right to Know is a nonprofit consumer and public health organization that investigates the risks associated with the corporate food system, and the food industry’s practices and influence on public policy.  For more information, see usrtk.org.

Open Letter to STAT: It’s Time for Stronger Transparency Standards

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Dear Rick Berke and Gideon Gil,

At a time when the public is questioning the legitimacy of news media – and science itself – it is important for health and science publications such as STAT to serve the public with as much truth and transparency as possible. We write to ask you to step forward as leaders to address a serious problem in science coverage: readers are being hoodwinked by corporations that are pushing policy agendas through PR writers who pretend to be independent but aren’t.

On February 26, STAT failed its duty to the public to provide transparency when it published an opinion column by Henry Miller, even though Miller had previously been caught publishing Monsanto-ghostwritten work under his own name in Forbes.

After the New York Times revealed the Miller ghostwriting scandal in August 2017, Forbes dropped Miller as a columnist and deleted all his articles because he violated Forbes’ policy that requires opinion writers to disclose conflicts of interest, and to publish only their own work – a policy STAT should also adopt. (Update: STAT has a conflict of interest disclosure policy here and informs us that Miller reported no conflicts.)

Since the ghostwriting episode, Miller’s work has continued to raise serious red flags.

His recent column attacking the organic industry in Newsweek was sourced with information provided by a former Monsanto spokesman, Jay Byrne, whose relationship with Monsanto was not disclosed, and Miller’s column closely followed messaging that Byrne had worked out with Monsanto while collaborating to set up a front group of academics to attack industry critics, according to emails uncovered by US Right to Know. In his Newsweek article, Miller also tried to discredit Danny Hakim, the New York Times reporter who revealed Miller’s Monsanto ghostwriting scandal – without mentioning the scandal.

In addition to these recent failures to disclose his conflicts of interest, Miller has a long, documented history as a public relations and lobbying surrogate for corporations.

In a 1994 PR strategy memo to Phillip Morris, APCO Associates referred to Miller as “a key supporter” in the global campaign to fight tobacco regulations. In 1998, Miller pitched his PR services to corporations in a “Work Plan Promoting Sound Science in Health, Environmental and Biotechnology Policy.” A 2015 Monsanto PR plan to “orchestrate outcry” against the scientists of the World Health Organization’s IARC cancer panel listed as its first external deliverable: “Engage Henry Miller.”

Were corporate interests also behind Miller’s opinion, published this week by STAT, that the National Institutes of Health should no longer fund integrative health studies?

Praise for Miller’s STAT article from the likes of Jeff Stier, who works for the Koch-affiliated Consumer Choice Center, and Rhona Applebaum, the former Coca-Cola executive who orchestrated a front group to spin the science on obesity, makes the article seem even more like some kind of corporate front group hit piece.

It wouldn’t be the first time the pharmaceutical industry got away with using STAT to promote its political and sales agenda. Last January, STAT allowed two members of the corporate front group American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) to opine that the government should not be allowed to restrict doctors from prescribing OxyContin. But the article did not disclose that ACSH has received funding from drug companies and pitches its services to corporations in quid pro quo agreements to defend their products and policy agendas.

In September, STAT retracted an article published under the name of a doctor who praised pharmaceutical industry sales reps, after Kevin Lomangino wrote in HealthNewsReview.org that the doctor had received over $200,000 from drug companies. An investigation then revealed that a PR firm had ghostwritten the doctor’s article.

“Big pharma’s attempt to ghostwrite in STAT ended badly – but not badly enough,” pointed out journalism professor Charles Seife in Slate. “STAT retracted the story, but for the wrong reasons and without addressing the real problem.”

It’s time for STAT to address the problem, and become part of the solution in bringing truth and transparency to science reporting. The public has a right to know when corporations ghostwrite, or have their fingerprints all over the opinions of academics who claim to be independent.

“Just as medical journals started tightening rules about conflicts of interest, forcing more disclosure of the hidden motives behind certain research articles, media outlets have to have a reckoning as well,” Seife wrote in Slate.

“They must learn to stop amplifying the messages of front groups and winking at practices like ghostwriting in their editorial pages. In short, the media must realize that every time they repeat a sock puppet’s message, it directly undermines the outlet’s credibility.”

For the credibility of STAT, and for the trust of its readers, we urge you to implement a clear and strong policy to require all your writers to provide full disclosure about conflicts of interest, including payments they receive from corporations, and work they do behind the scenes with corporations or their PR firms to promote corporate agendas.

Sincerely,
Stacy Malkan
Gary Ruskin
Co-Directors, US Right to Know

Update: Note from Kevin Lomangino, managing editor of HealthNewsReview.org: “Thanks for calling attention to our work and this issue, which I agree is important. To be clear, @statnews did tighten up their COI/transparency policies in response to our reporting as we wrote here, “STAT becomes 3rd organization to revise policies after our scrutiny.” However, in this case the author has apparently failed to disclose the role of ghostwriters in his past work, so I’m not sure that STAT could/should trust any assurance he provided that the content is original.” 

USRTK response: We’re glad to see STAT tightened its COI policy but they must do better, as the Miller case demonstrates. In addition to the 2017 ghostwriting scandal, Miller has recent faulty disclosures and a long history of corporate fronting. See also our response to STAT editors about their COI disclosure policy. 

Follow the US Right to Know investigations by signing up for our newsletter here, and please consider making a donation to support our reporting.  

Transforming the Food We Eat With DowDuPont

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Update 2/26/18: In a spinoff following the merger with Dow, DuPont Pioneer will change its name to Corteva Agriscience; based on a combination of words meaning “heart” and “nature.” Here’s our take.

By Stacy Malkan

The world’s largest pesticide and seed companies want you to believe they are on the side of science. High-tech foods are the future, they say, and people who raise concerns about their pesticides and genetically engineered seeds are “anti-science.”

The Atlantic magazine will provide a platform to those industry talking points in exchange for corporate cash at a Feb. 15 event titled, “Harvest: Transforming the Food We Eat” sponsored by DowDuPont.

The fluff agenda has “farmers, foodies, techies and tinkerers” discussing how the latest food technologies are transforming the way we cultivate crops and animals, and the implications for the future of food.

Will any of the participants ask why DowDuPont continues to push a dangerous pesticide despite strong scientific evidence that it harms children’s brains?

Will any of them ask why DuPont covered up the health risks of the Teflon chemical linked to birth defects, as it allowed the chemical to contaminate waterways across the globe?

Will they ask why – despite record profits – DowDupont has refused to help disaster victims or even clean up the chemical contamination caused by a 1984 pesticide plant accident in Bhopal?

Would The Atlantic host a “transforming climate” event with ExxonMobil?

What’s next? Will The Atlantic agree to host a “transforming health” event sponsored by Phillip Morris or a “transforming climate” event sponsored by ExxonMobil?

Maybe. In 2015, The Atlantic Food Summit was underwritten by Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly that makes ractopamine, a growth-promoting chemical used in meat production that is banned in 100 countries due to health concerns, but still used here.

As Tom Philpott reported in Mother Jones, Elanco’s President Jeff Simmons delivered a sponsored speech at the event, in which “he complained that a group he labeled the ‘fringe 1 percent,’ agitating for increased regulation on meat producers, is driving the national debate around food.”

Simmons’ 15-minute speech featured an emotional video of a mother who attended an Elanco/American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics program and learned about “the importance of protein” and eating more meat as a way to improve her family’s health.

Purchasing the Food Narrative

The Atlantic covered Dow/Union Carbide’s dirty past but is now providing cover for DowDuPont’s PR spin on the future.

With its rent-a-food-summit model, The Atlantic is helping corporations shape how we think about our food system. That is fundamentally incompatible with The Atlantic’s guiding commitment to “look for the truth.”

All the brands participating in this week’s “Transforming Food” event – Food Tank, Land O’Lakes and New Harvest, too – are giving DowDuPont cover to present themselves as champions of science while framing the food debate around the technologies they sell.

But the facts of history are important to any honest discussion about the future, and DowDuPont is no champion of science.

Both Dow and Dupont have long histories of covering up sciencesuppressing science, knowingly selling dangerous products, covering up health concerns, failing to clean up their messes, and engaging in other scandals, crimes and wrongdoings – whatever it took to protect the bottom line.

Protecting reliable profit streams, rather than innovating what’s best for people and the environment, will motivate these companies into the future, too.

 GMO Pesticide Profit Treadmill

To understand how DowDuPont and the other pesticide/seed mega-mergers are likely to impact the future of our food system, look to how these companies are deploying patented food technologies right now.

Most GMO foods on the market today are engineered for use with specific pesticides, which has led to increased use of those pesticides, the proliferation of weeds resistant to those pesticides, and an aggressive effort to sell more and worse pesticides that are damaging farmland across the Midwest.

To understand what needs to change to have a healthier food system, ask farmers, not DowDuPont. Ask the communities that are fighting for their health and their right to know about the pesticides they are drinking and breathing.

In Hawaii and Argentina, where genetically engineered crops are grown intensively, doctors are raising concerns about increases in birth defects and other illnesses they suspect may be related to pesticides. In Iowa, another leading GMO producer, water supplies have been polluted by chemical runoff from corn and animal farms.

The future of high-tech food, under the stewardship of companies like DowDuPont and Elanco, is easy to guess: more of what those companies are already selling – more seeds genetically engineered to survive pesticides, more pesticides, and food animals engineered to grow faster and fit better in crowded conditions, with pharmaceuticals to help.

Purchased media forums such as The Atlantic’s “transforming food,” and the articles and debates about the “future of food” that Syngenta was just caught buying in London, and other covert industry PR projects to reframe the GMO debate, are efforts to distract from the facts of history and the truth on the ground.

Consumers aren’t buying the spin. Demand for organic food continues to rise across all demographics of American society.

Changing consumer tastes are shrinking the big food companies like icebergs and splitting up the food industry lobby as “millennials and moms seek healthier and more transparent products.”

Let’s give them what they want: a food system that is healthy for people, farmers, the soil and the bees – a food system that prioritizes protecting our children’s brains over the profits of the pesticide industry.

That’s the discussion we need to have about transforming the food we eat.

See also:
Letter to The Atlantic from Anne Frederick director of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action: “Our community has repeatedly attempted to enact common sense regulations at the county and state level, only to be thwarted by DowDuPont and the agrochemical industry … As a reader of your publication, it is unsettling to learn that The Atlantic would align its brand with an industry that has so recklessly endangered the health and safety of our communities. I hope you will reconsider DowDuPont’s sponsorship, and stand in solidarity with our communities who are living on the frontline of these environmental injustices.”

Want to know more secrets the food and chemical companies are hiding about our food? Sign up for the U.S. Right to Know newsletter here, and you can donate here to keep our investigations cooking.

Food Evolution GMO Film Serves Up Chemical Industry Agenda

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This post was recently updated with reviews of Food Evolution: 

By Stacy Malkan, 6/19/2017 

Some industry messaging efforts are so heavy-handed they end up highlighting their own PR tactics more than the message they are trying to convey. That’s the problem with Food Evolution, a new documentary by Academy Award-nominated director Scott Hamilton Kennedy and narrated by Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The film, opening in theaters June 23, claims to offer an objective look at the debate over genetically engineered foods, but with its skewed presentation of science and data, it comes off looking more like a textbook case of corporate propaganda for the agrichemical industry and its GMO crops.

That the film’s intended purpose was to serve as an industry-messaging vehicle is no secret. Food Evolution was planned in 2014 and funded by the Institute for Food Technologists, a trade group, to culminate a multi-year messaging effort.

IFT is partly funded by big food corporations, and the group’s president at the time was Janet Collins, a former DuPont and Monsanto executive who now works for CropLife America, the pesticide trade association. IFT’s President-Elect Cindy Stewart works for DuPont.

IFT chose Kennedy to direct the film, but he and producer Trace Sheehan say they had complete control over the film they describe as a fully independent investigation into the topic of GMOs including all points of view.

The film’s credibility suffers from their choice to embrace only the science and scientists who side with the chemical industry players who profit from GMOs and the chemicals used on them, while ignoring science and data that doesn’t fit that agenda.

The Monsanto Science Treatment

The clearest example of the scientific dishonesty in Food Evolution is the way the film deals with glyphosate. The weed killer chemical is at the heart of the GMO story, since 80-90% of GMO crops are genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate.

Food Evolution reports that the increase in glyphosate use due to GMOs is not a problem, because glyphosate is safe. Two sources establish this claim in the film: a farmer says glyphosate has “very, very low toxicity; lower than coffee, lower than salt,” and Monsanto’s Robb Fraley – in response to a woman in an audience who asks him about science linking glyphosate to birth defects and cancer – tells her that’s all bad science, “it’s pseudoscience.”

All science raising concerns about glyphosate is “pseudoscience,” says Monsanto.

There is no mention of the carcinogenicity concerns that are engulfing Monsanto in an international science scandal, or the many farmers who are suing Monsanto alleging they got cancer from the company’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide.

There is no mention of the 2015 report by the World Health Organization’s cancer agency that classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, or California’s decision to add glyphosate to the Prop 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, or the peer-reviewed studies that have linked various adverse health outcomes to glyphosate and Roundup.

Instead of an objective look at the evidence, Food Evolution gives viewers the full Monsanto science treatment: any science that raises concerns about the possible health risks of agrichemical products should be ignored, while studies that put those products in a favorable light is the only science worth discussing.

Double Standards in Science and Transparency

Equal treatment of interview subjects with different points of view would have helped the credibility of Food Evolution. Instead, the film paints the GMO critics it features as dishonest or out to make a buck off the organic industry, while leaving out key details about its pro-industry sources.

In one scene, the film’s main character, UC Davis professor Alison van Eenennaam, frets that appearing onstage with a Monsanto executive at a debate could sully her independent reputation. Viewers never learn that she used to work for Monsanto, or that she holds several GE patents which suggest a financial interest in the topic at hand.

Pro-industry scientist Pamela Ronald, another key science source, gets the hero treatment with no mention that two of her studies have been retracted. Yet viewers are hammered with news that a study by French scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini – which found kidney problems and tumors in rats fed GMO corn – was “retracted, retracted, retracted!”

The film leaves out the fact that the study was subsequently republished, and was retracted in the first place after a former Monsanto employee took an editorial position with the journal where it was originally published.

The “Africa Needs GMOs” Narrative

In another neatly spun narrative, Food Evolution takes viewers on an emotional journey to the developing world, and along another favorite industry messaging track: rather than focus on how genetic engineering is used in our food system now – primarily to convey herbicide tolerance – we should focus on how it might possibly be used in the future.

With plenty of airtime and dramatic tension, the film examines the problem of banana wilt, a disease killing staple crops in Africa, and leads viewers to believe that genetic engineering will save the crop, the farmers and the community.

Maybe. But the film neglects to mention that the savior GE technology is not yet available and might not even work. According to a paper in Plant Biotechnology Journal, the resistance shown in the lab is robust but may not be durable in open fields.

The film is “fundamentally dishonest.”

Meanwhile, a low-tech solution is working well and looks like it could use some investment. According to a 2012 paper in the Journal of Development and Agricultural Economics, farmer field schools, which help growers acquire hands-on knowledge of techniques to prevent banana wilt, led to lower infection rates and high crop recovery in Uganda. Results from farmer field schools “have been remarkable,” according to the UN.

The solution doesn’t warrant a mention in Food Evolution.

“It’s fundamentally dishonest of the film to tout a GE solution that may not even work, as the scientists themselves acknowledge,” said Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, “while failing to point out another way to control the problem that works very well, but doesn’t involve selling a product to make money.

Did Monsanto have anything to do with Food Evolution?

Monsanto and allies were discussing plans for a documentary in late 2013, according to emails obtained by US Right to Know. The emails do not contain evidence linking those discussions to Food Evolution, but they do establish Monsanto’s desire for a film that sounds surpassingly similar to the one Kennedy created.

Monsanto’s Eric Sachs wrote in Dec. 2013 to a group of PR advisors, “there is clearly a lot of interest to pursue a documentary film. Importantly, the consensus was the Monsanto’s participation was welcome, particularly in the planning phase.”

He recommended a January 2014 planning call. Jon Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project stepped up to take the lead, and mentioned he had “gotten a personal pledge of $100,000 from a private business person if we can get” (the rest of the line is cut off). Entine also has a connection to the Institute for Food Technologists; he spoke about “anti-food activism” at IFT’s 2012 annual meeting.

Another person mentioned in the Monsanto emails, Karl Haro von Mogel – who had discussed with Sachs “the downsides of a film funded by the ‘Big 6’” and suggested “what would matter more than their money is their participation” – was interviewed in Food Evolution, and was also involved in filming one scene, which suggests some behind the scenes coordination with the filmmakers.

In reaction to the emails, Kennedy wrote on Twitter: “@foodevomovie has had ZERO $ or INPUT from #Monsanto. We are fully transparent & happy 2 have fact-based dialogue.”

He said in an interview, “that email exchange had absolutely nothing to do with our project whatsoever … we hadn’t even committed to making the film with IFT at that date in 2013.”

The people in the email exchange were not involved in filming or advising, he said, and Karl Haro von Mogel “was a subject in the film and had no involvement or influence on any creative/editorial decisions on the film at any point in the production. Also it may be useful to point out that the email conversation you reference occurred long before we ever even knew Karl or any of these people.”

Sneak Peek Behind the Scenes

Another email exchange obtained by US Right to Know offers a peek behind the scenes at the narrative development in Food Evolution. The exchange depicts Kennedy’s search for examples to feature for “us/developing world need GMO.”

“Any other ‘us/developing world need GMO’ you can give me names of aside from oranges? Shintakus lettuce?” Kennedy asked. Producer Trace Sheehan responded with a list of GMO products including drought-tolerant rice, allergy-free peanuts, carcinogen-free potatoes … “and then button with Golden Rice.”

When Kennedy pushed for “the top GMO crops currently in use, and what countries,” Mark Lynas of the Cornell Alliance for Science wrote, “Really Bt brinjal in Bangladesh is the only one that is truly GMO in and is in widespread operation.”

The film’s frame-driven reporting ignores that detail about the lack of operational GMO solutions, and doesn’t mention that the closer example, vitamin-A enhanced Golden Rice, still isn’t available despite huge investments and years of trials, because it doesn’t work as well in the field as existing rice strains.

What is propaganda?

In a scene that is supposed to convey scientific credibility, Food Evolution flashes the logo of the American Council on Science and Health at the very moment Neil deGrasse Tyson says there is a global consensus on the safety of GMOs. It’s a fitting slip. ASCH is a corporate front group closely aligned with Monsanto.

The ACSH logo scene also appears in the background in this 2-minute clip from a recent Climate One debate, as Kennedy pushed back against the suggestion that his film is propaganda.

“How do we determine what is propaganda?” Kennedy asked. “I say one of the ways we do it is (to ask), are results asked for, or results promised? I was not asked for results and I did not promise results. If you have a problem with the film, the problem lies with me.”

This review originally appeared in Huffington Post and has been reprinted in Alternet. 

See also: Stacy Malkan’s follow-up article, Neil deGrasse Tyson Owes Fans a More Honest Conversation About GMOs than Food Evolution. “Interviews with several other GMO critics who appear in the film, or were asked to be in it, corroborate the picture of a strange process involving sneaky filming, selective editing, misrepresentation and lack of disclosure about the film’s funding.”

Newsweek’s Bizarre Standard for Opinion Writers

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Update 2/6/18
Upheaval at Newsweek: The news outlet is imploding amid a financial scandal and poor leadership. Some editors “recklessly sought clicks at the expense of accuracy, retweets over fairness … I’ve never seen more reckless leadership,” wrote Newsweek’s political editor Matthew Cooper in his resignation letter.

By Stacy Malkan, 1/31/2018

Facts don’t matter in commentaries printed by Newsweek so long as the writer “seems genuine.”  That’s the takeaway from a troubling email exchange I had with Newsweek Opinion Editor Nicholas Wapshott after I raised concerns about a commentary in Newsweek attacking the organic industry.

The organic hit piece carried the byline of Henry I. Miller, who lost his platform at Forbes last year after the New York Times revealed that Miller had published an article in Forbes under his own name that was actually written by Monsanto.

In his recent Newsweek article, Miller spent several paragraphs attacking Danny Hakim, the New York Times reporter who wrote about that ghostwriting scandal; but Miller didn’t disclose to readers either the scandal or his collaborations with Monsanto.

Yet Monsanto’s fingerprints were all over Miller’s Newsweek article, as I reported here.

Miller made false claims about organic farming using pesticide industry sources.

Miller used pesticide industry sources to make false claims about organic farming and attacked people who were named on a target list that had been developed by Monsanto and Jay Byrne, Monsanto’s former director of corporate communications, who was quoted in Miller’s piece with no mention of the Monsanto affiliation.

None of this appears to bother Newsweek Opinion Editor Nicholas Wapshott, according to an on-the-record email exchange.

Miller ‘Flatly Denies’ Facts 

On Jan. 22, I emailed Wapshott to raise concerns that Newsweek continues to publish Miller’s commentaries without disclosing his relationship with Monsanto. I told him I was writing a story, and asked if he was aware that:

1) The New York Times reported in August that Miller had been caught publishing an article ghostwritten by Monsanto under his own name in Forbes, in violation of Forbes’ policy. Forbes ended its relationship with Miller and deleted all his articles from the site.

2) A 2015 internal Monsanto PR plan (recently released by lawyers involved in litigation against Monsanto) lists “Engage Henry Miller” as one of its first action items.

3) A source Miller used in his Newsweek article, Jay Byrne, is a former Monsanto employee (not identified as such). According to emails I reported here, Byrne worked with Monsanto to set up a front group of “independent” academics, secretly funded by industry, who attacked the organic industry as a “marketing scam,” the same theme in Miller’s Newsweek article.

4) Miller has a long history of partnering with – and pitching his PR services to – corporations that need help convincing the public their products aren’t dangerous and don’t need to be regulated.

Wapshott responded, “Hi Stacy, I understand that you and Miller have a long history of dispute on this topic. He flatly denies your assertions. Nicholas”

I wrote back to ask for clarification.

Hi Nicholas, to clarify:

Miller denies he published a column ghostwritten by Monsanto under his own name in Forbes and that Forbes has since deleted all his articles? (NYT story, Retraction Watch story)

Miller denies the Monsanto’s PR plan to address the IARC cancer rating of glyphosate lists “Engage Henry Miller” on page 2, item 3?

Miller denies that Jay Byrne, the former Monsanto employee not identified as such in his Newsweek article, was involved with setting up Academics Review as a front group? (Byrne has not denied writing these emails.)

Miller and I have disagreed yes, we were on opposite sides of a political campaign to label GMOs, but the above facts are facts, and provable. Do you think it’s fair to your readers to continue to publish his work without disclosing his ties to Monsanto?

Wapshott responded, “I think so. I have met Miller and he seems genuine. And I find it hard to believe that his flat denial is a lie. We would need a full trial to determine the truth and those resources are, thank goodness, beyond our means.”

Jumbled Mix of Conflict Disclosures

I find it hard to believe that his flat denial is a lie.

I wrote back to Wapshott once more, pointing out that a trial is not necessary in the Miller case, since the facts have been established by reporting in the New York Times and corroborated by Forbes’ spokeswoman Mia Carbonell, who told the Times:

“All contributors to Forbes.com sign a contract requiring them to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and only publish content that is their own original writing. When it came to our attention that Mr. Miller violated these terms, we removed his blog from Forbes.com and ended our relationship with him.”

Does Newsweek have a similar policy to require writers to disclose potential conflicts of interest and use only their own writing? 

Newsweek editors have not responded to that query. But the problem of weak, confused or non-existent conflict-of-interest disclosure standards goes far beyond Newsweek.

For a 2015 article in CJR, journalist Paul Thacker asked 18 media organizations that cover science to describe their disclosure standards for both journalists and the sources they use in their stories, and 14 responded.

“The responses present a jumbled mix of policies,” Thacker wrote. “Some draw a bright line — preventing journalists from having financial ties to any outside sources. Others allow some expenses and speaking fees. To complicate matters further, some organizations have written rules, while others consider incidents on a case-by-case basis. Standards advocated by professional societies also seem to differ.”

Some outlets apply different standards to reporters and columnists, as I learned when I asked why Washington Post food columnist Tamar Haspel can take speaking fees from agrichemical industry groups while writing about that industry as part of her regular column beat. Reporters at Washington Post aren’t allowed to do that, but in the case of columnists, the editor decides.

It’s all very murky. And some outlets are clearly crossing a bright line by publishing the views of groups and people who work with corporations to promote pro-industry science views without telling readers about the corporate collaboration.

Henry Miller’s attack on organic food in Newsweek is one example. Another is USA Today’s regular publication of science columns from the American Council on Science and Health, a front group for the tobacco, chemical, fossil fuel, pharmaceutical and other industries seeking to discredit scientific information about the harm of their products.

USA Today Lends Platform to Corporate Front Group  

In February 2017, two dozen health, environmental, labor and public interest groups wrote to the editors of USA Today asking the paper to stop publishing science columns by the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH), or at least provide full disclosures about who funds the group.

Leaked financial documents from 2013 reveal that ACSH solicits money from corporations to defend and promote their products; for example, ACSH spins science on fracking, e-cigarettes, toxic cosmetics and agrichemical industry products, and solicits funding from those industries in exchange. Recent reporting establishes that ACSH works with Monsanto on messaging campaigns.

“USA Today should not be helping this group promote its false identity as a credible, independent source on science,” the two dozen groups wrote to the editors. “Your readers deserve accurate information about what and whom this group represents, as they reflect on the content of the columns.”

Nearly a year later, USA Today is still publishing columns by ACSH staff and still failing to notify its readers about ACSH’s funding from corporations whose agenda they promote.

In an email response dated March 1, 2017, USA Today Editorial Page Editor Bill Sternberg explained:

“To the best of our knowledge, all of the columns in question were authored or co-authored by Alex Berezow, a longtime member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Mr. Berezow has written some 25 op-eds for us since 2011, and we consider him to be a credible voice on scientific issues. He holds a PhD in microbiology from the University of Washington, was the founding editor of RealClearScience and has contributed to a number of mainstream outlets.”

Berezow is now a senior fellow at ACSH, and his “@USAToday contributor” status appears in his bio on Twitter, where he frequently attacks critics of the pesticide industry, for example this recent vile tweet featuring a sexually graphic illustration of a nurse giving a patient a coffee enema.

Does USA Today really want to be associated with this type of science communication?

Integrity and Transparency in Science Reporting

News outlets can do better than these examples at Newsweek and USA Today, and they must do better. They can start by refusing to publish columns by corporate front groups and PR surrogates who pose as independent science thinkers.

They can implement clear and strong policies that require all columnists and journalists to disclose potential conflicts of interest for themselves and the sources they cite in their work.

At a time when the public is questioning the legitimacy of the news media, it is more important than ever for all publications to follow the highest standards of journalistic ethics and serve the public with as much truth and transparency as possible.

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Monsanto’s Fingerprints All Over Newsweek’s Hit on Organic Food

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Update: Newsweek’s bizarre response

By Stacy Malkan

“The campaign for organic food is a deceitful, expensive scam,” according to a Jan. 19 Newsweek article authored by Dr. Henry I. Miller of the Hoover Institution.

If that name sounds familiar – Henry I. Miller – it may be because the New York Times recently revealed a scandal involving Miller: that he had been caught publishing an article ghostwritten by Monsanto under his own name in Forbes. The article, which largely mirrored a draft provided to him by Monsanto, attacked the scientists of the World Health Organization’s cancer panel (IARC) for their decision to list Monsanto’s top-selling chemical, glyphosate, as a probable human carcinogen.

Reporting on an email exchange released in litigation with Monsanto over cancer concerns, the Times’ Danny Hakim wrote:

“Monsanto asked Mr. Miller if he would be interested in writing an article on the topic, and he said, ‘I would be if I could start from a high-quality draft.’

The article appeared under Mr. Miller’s name, and with the assertion that ‘opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.’ The magazine did not mention any involvement by Monsanto in preparing the article …

Forbes removed the story from its website on Wednesday and said that it ended its relationship with Mr. Miller amid the revelations.”

The opinion wire Project Syndicate followed suit, after first adding a disclaimer to Miller’s commentaries noting that they would have been rejected if his collaboration with Monsanto had been known.

Desperate to Disparage Organic

The ghostwriting scandal has hardly slowed Miller down; he has continued to spin promotional content for the agrichemical industry from outlets such as Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal, without disclosing to readers his relationship with Monsanto.

Yet Miller’s Newsweek hit on organic food has Monsanto’s fingerprints in plain sight all over it.

For starters, Miller uses pesticide industry sources to make unsubstantiated (and ludicrous) claims about organic agriculture – for example, that organic farming is “actually more harmful to the environment” than conventional agriculture, or that organic allies spent $2.5 billion in a year campaigning against genetically engineered foods in North America.

The source on the latter inaccurate claim is Jay Byrne, a former director of corporate communications for Monsanto (not identified as such in the Newsweek article), who now directs a PR firm called v-Fluence Interactive.

Email exchanges reveal how Monsanto works with people like Jay Byrne – and with Byrne specifically – to push exactly this type of attack against Monsanto’s foes while keeping corporate involvement a secret.

According to emails obtained by my group US Right to Know, Byrne played a key role in helping Monsanto set up a corporate front group called Academics Review that published a report attacking the organic industry as a marketing scam – the exact theme in Miller’s Newsweek article.

Jay Byrne’s hit list of Monsanto foes. 

The concept of the front group – explained in the emails I reported here – was to create a credible-sounding platform from which academics could attack critics of the agrichemical industry while claiming to be independent, yet secretly receiving funds from industry groups. Wink, wink, ha, ha.

“The key will be keeping Monsanto in the background so as not to harm the credibility of the information,” wrote a Monsanto executive involved in the plan.

Byrne’s role, according to the emails, was to serve as a “commercial vehicle” to help obtain corporate funding. Byrne also said he was compiling an “opportunities” list of targets – critics of the agrichemical industry who could be “inoculated” from the academics’ platform.

Several people on Byrne’s “opportunities” hit list, or later attacked by Academics Review, were targets in Miller’s Newsweek article, too.

Miller’s Newsweek piece also tried to discredit the work of New York Times’ reporter Danny Hakim, without disclosing that it was Hakim who exposed Miller’s Monsanto ghostwriting scandal.

As with other recent attacks on the organic industry, all fingers point back to the agrichemical corporations that will lose the most if consumer demand continues to rise for foods free of GMOs and pesticides.

Monsanto’s “Independent Academic” Ruse

Henry Miller has a long history of partnering with – and pitching his PR services to – corporations that need help convincing the public their products aren’t dangerous and don’t need to be regulated.

And Monsanto relies heavily on people with scientific credentials or neutral-sounding groups to make those arguments – people who are willing to communicate the company script while claiming to be independent actors. This fact has been established by reporting in the New York Times, Le Monde, WBEZ, the Progressive and many other outlets in recent years.

A newly released Monsanto document provides more details about how Monsanto’s propaganda and lobbying operation works, and the key role Henry Miller plays within it.

This 2015 “preparedness plan” – released by lawyers in the glyphosate cancer lawsuits – lays out Monsanto’s PR strategy to “orchestrate outcry” against the IARC cancer scientists for their report on glyphosate. The first external deliverable: “Engage Henry Miller.”

The plan goes on to name four tiers of “industry partners” – a dozen trade groups, academic groups and independent-seeming front groups such as the Genetic Literacy Project – that could help “inoculate” against the cancer report and “protect the reputation … of Roundup.”

Miller delivered for Monsanto with a March 2015 article in Forbes – the article later revealed as Monsanto’s writing – attacking the IARC scientists. The industry partners have been pushing the same arguments through various channels again and again, ever since, to try to discredit the cancer scientists.

Much of this criticism has appeared to the public as a spontaneous uprising of concern, with no mention of Monsanto’s role as the composer and conductor of the narrative: a classic corporate PR hoodwink.

As more documents tumble into the public realm – via the Monsanto Papers and public records investigations – the “independent academic” ruse will become harder to maintain for industry surrogates like Henry I. Miller, and for media and policy makers to ignore.

For now, Newsweek is not backing down. Even after reviewing the documents that substantiate the facts in this article, Newsweek Opinion Editor Nicholas Wapshott wrote in an email, “I understand that you and Miller have a long history of dispute on this topic. He flatly denies your assertions.”

Neither Miller nor Wapshott have responded to further questions.

Stacy Malkan is co-director of the consumer watchdog and transparency group, US Right to Know. She is author of the book, “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry” (New Society, 2007). Disclosure: US Right to Know is funded in part by the Organic Consumers Association which is mentioned in Miller’s article and appears on Byrne’s hit list.

Trevor Butterworth, Sense About Science and STATS Spin Science for Industry

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Trevor Butterworth and his colleagues at Sense About Science/STATS have written for prominent news outlets and been quoted as independent experts on science and media. This fact sheet provides evidence that these groups and writers have long histories of using tobacco tactics to manufacture doubt about science and push for deregulation of products important to the chemical, drug and junk food industries.

Related groups: Jon Entine/Genetic Literacy Project, Science Media Center, Cornell Alliance for Science

Overview

Intercept Exposé on Sense About Science: Reporters Be Wary

A November 2016 exposé in The Intercept, “Seeding Doubt: How Self Appointed Guardians of ‘Sound Science’ Tip the Scales Toward Industry,” details the tobacco ties and industry connections of Sense About Science.

“Sense About Science claims to champion transparency” but “does not always disclose when its sources on controversial matters are scientists with ties to the industries under examination,” wrote Liza Gross. “When journalists rightly ask who sponsors research into the risks of, say, asbestos, or synthetic chemicals, they’d be well advised to question the evidence Sense About Science presents in these debates as well.”

History of Defending Chemicals, Junk Food and Drugs 

Sense About Science was founded as a lobby group in the UK in 2002 by Dick Taverne, an English politician and businessman with ties to the tobacco industry and other industries Sense About Science has defended.

The US version of the group launched in 2014 in Brooklyn under the directorship of Trevor Butterworth. From 2003 to 2014, Butterworth was an editor at STATS, which is now merged with Sense About Science USA.  Over his career, Butterworth has amassed a large body of work arguing for deregulation and attacking scientists and journalists who raise concerns about products important to the chemical, junk food and drug industries — for example phthalates, BPA, vinyl plastic, fracking, lead in lipstick, formaldehyde in baby soaps, corn syrup, sugary sodas, artificial sweeteners and Oxycontin.

Butterworth is also a visiting fellow at Cornell University Alliance for Science, a communications campaign housed at Cornell University that is funded by the Gates Foundation to promote GMOs. Butterworth runs a workshop at Cornell to teach his brand of media relations to students and young scientists.

Rebecca Goldin, a professor of mathematics of George Mason University, is the Director of STATS and appears on the Sense About Science USA staff page.

STATS was previously housed at George Mason University and filed joint tax returns with the Center of Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), a group that was hired by Phillip Morris in the 1990s to pick apart media reports about tobacco. STATS and CMPA have been vague about their funding. The bulk of funding for STATS appears to have come from a small group of anti-regulatory foundations that are leading funders of climate change denier groups.

OxyContin Defense

The tactics of Butterworth, Goldin and STATS are evident in their work to defend Oxycontin; they wrote articles denying the problem of doctor-prescribed opioid addiction, criticized media coverage and argued against regulations to reign in prescriptions. See articles in Forbes (Butterworth), STATS.org (Goldin), and Scientific AmericanHuffington Post and Slate (former STATS Fellow Maia Szavalitz). A new analysis by Harvard researchers and CNN found that doctor opioid prescriptions are indeed a problem: “opioid manufacturers are paying physicians huge sums of money, and the more opioids a doctor prescribes, the more money he or she makes.”

Climate Science Denial

A 2002 book by STATS/CMPA founder Robert Lichter, David Murray of STATS and Joel Schwartz of the Hudson Institute denied climate science, among other science stories, and employed many “disingenuous maneuvers” to attack the media, including omitting findings that didn’t fit their agenda and using shallow statistical analyses, according to a review in Salon by David Appell. Paraphrasing the book, Appell wrote: “Are you worried about species dying out as a result of global warming? Don’t. Those scare stories are the doing of green scribblers who cherry-pick the scientific journals for alarming factoids and who work in cahoots with Volvo-driving scientists who skew their results in an effort to oppose progress and capitalism.” See below for more information about STATS’ funding from the climate change denial dark money network.

Chemical Industry Public Relations Writer

Sense About Science USA Director Trevor Butterworth played a key role in the chemical industry’s propaganda campaign to discredit health concerns about the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) when he was at STATS, according to a 2009 investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Journalists Meg Kissinger and Susanne Rust described Butterworth as an example of “chemical industry public relations writers” who do not explain their allegiances. They described the stealth role he played in industry’s “unprecedented public relations blitz that uses many of the same tactics – and people – the tobacco industry used in its decades-long fight against regulation”:

“The most impassioned defense of BPA on the blogs comes from Trevor Butterworth… He regularly combs the Internet for stories about BPA and offers comments without revealing his ties to industry.”

In companion article, Kissinger and Rust described STATS as “a major player in the public relations campaign to discredit concerns” about BPA. Although the group, “claims to be an independent media watchdog,” they wrote:

“a review of its finances and its Web site shows that STATS is funded by public policy organizations that promote deregulation. The Journal Sentinel found documents that show that its parent organization, the Center for Media and Public Affairs, was paid in the 1990s by Philip Morris, the tobacco company, to pick apart stories critical of smoking.”

They noted that Butterworth’s 27,000-word STATS report criticizing media coverage of BPA – which was widely featured on plastic industry websites – “echoed the approach used in the tobacco analysis.”

“Friend” of Coke

In 2014, a Coca-Cola executive described Butterworth as “our friend” to members of a Coke-funded front group, and pitched him as a person who could help fulfill their “need for good scientific journalists,” according to emails obtained by U.S. Right to Know.

The email exchanges involved Rhona Applebaum, then-chief science and health officer for Coca-Cola, and the leaders of the Global Energy Balance Network (GEBN), which was exposed by The New York Times and Associated Press as a Coca-Cola front group that worked closely with Coke executives to shift blame for obesity away from sugary drinks. Applebaum resigned her position at Coke and GEBN closed down after the scandal broke in 2015.

In a March 2014 email, Applebaum forwarded the GEBN leaders a Harvard Business Review article by Butterworth that attempts to discredit research linking sugar to weight gain, and described him as “our friend.” In a November 2014 email chain, Applebaum and the GEBN leaders discussed the need to recruit scientific institutions and get more scientists “on the circuit.” Applebaum recommended “the need for good scientific journalists as part of GEBN who focus on the evidence. Presenting for consideration Trevor Butterworth. Need that type of cross-fertilization.”

GEBN vice president Steven Blair wrote, “I agree with Rhona about Trevor. I am pretty sure he is on my list of potential members.” Applebaum replied, “He’s ready and able.”

Ally of Many Industry Groups

Butterworth’s extensive writings defending chemicals, sugar and sugar substitutes have attracted the praise of many industry groups over the years.

Trade groups that have promoted Butterworth’s work include the American Beverage Association, the American Chemistry Council, the North American Metal Packaging Alliance, the International Bottled Water Association, the International Sweeteners Association, the Plastics Industry Trade Association, the cosmetics industry trade association, the chemical industry’s policy website, the Competitive Enterprises Institute, the Cato Institute and the Center for Consumer Freedom.

The American Council on Science and Health, an industry front group that frequently promotes Butterworth’s work, has described him as “a master junk science debunker” and also “our friend.”

Butterworth is also listed as a friend of National Press Foundation. The chair of Sense About Science USA, Heather Dahl, is “immediate past chair” of the National Press Foundation, and sits on NPF’s executive committee.

Sucralose Echo Chamber

Butterworth is a prominent defender of artificial sweeteners whose safety is questionable. In 2011, Butterworth spoke at the International Sweeteners Association Conference and was featured in their press release titled, “Experts Recommend Low-Calorie Sweeteners such as Sucralose to Help Manage Weight.”

Identified as a journalist who regularly contributes to the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, Butterworth said about sucralose, “The weight of considered scientific evidence, the result of careful, independent, expert scrutiny, again and again shows that there is no evidence of a risk to health.”

As an example of how the industry echo chamber works to spin reporters: In 2012, Butterworth wrote an article for Forbes attacking a study that raised concerns about sucralose by Dr. Morando Soffritti, director of the Ramazzini Institute, which he described as “something of a joke.”

In a 2016 press release, in response to another Soffritti study, the food industry front group International Food Information Council featured Butterworth’s 2012 piece and attack quotes, and they were picked up by reporters at the The IndependentThe Daily MailThe Telegraph and Deseret News, all of whom identified Butterworth as a source from Forbes.

A Google search for the Ramazzini Institute turns up Butterworth’s 2012 Forbes hit piece as the first item.

Funded by Climate Change Denier Dark Money Network

While STATS claims to be nonpartisan, the bulk of funding has come from a handful of conservative, anti-regulatory foundations that have played a key role in funding organizations that try to discredit climate science.

According to The Intercept investigation:

“Between 1998 and 2014, STATS received $4.5 million, 81 percent of its donations, from the Searle Freedom Trust, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, Donors Trust (a fund largely sustained by Charles Koch), and other right-wing foundations. Searle, which describes its mission as promoting ‘economic liberties,’ gave STATS $959,000 between 2010 and 2014.

Anti-regulatory foundations, including these, spent over half a billion dollars between 2003 and 2010 to ‘manipulate and mislead the public over the nature of climate science and the threat posed by climate change,’ according to a 2013 study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle.”

In the press release about his study, Brulle identified the Scaife and Searle foundations as among “the largest and most consistent funders of organizations orchestrating climate change denial” and foundations that “promote ultra-free-market ideas in many realms.”

The Scaife Foundation and Searle Freedom Trust have been key funders of STATS, with Scaife providing nearly all funding for the group between 2005 to 2007, according to a Greenpeace investigation of STATS funding, and Searle stepping up with almost a million dollars in funding between 2010 and 2014.

The President and CEO of Searle Freedom Trust, Kimberly Dennis, is also chairman of the board of directors of Donors Trust, the group Mother Jones called the “dark-money ATM of the conservative movement,” and a leading funder of climate change denier and skeptic organizations. Under Dennis’s leadership, the Searle Foundation and Donors Trust sent a collective $290,000 to STATS in 2010, Greenpeace reported.

Koch Industries / George Mason University Foundation

Charles Koch, CEO of the petrochemical conglomerate Koch Industries, gave over $100 million to 361 college campuses from 2005 to 2014, according to a Greenpeace analysis of IRS filings. The George Mason University Foundation, which received $45.5 million, was by far the largest beneficiary of this largesse.

Students at GMU raised concerns about Koch funding in a 2014 letter to the GMU president, noting that the university has been “criticized as being a subsidiary of Koch Industries.” In response to a public records request for information about Koch funding, the students “were told that all financial donations are funneled through the GMU Foundation, which does not have to respond to our FOIA request as a distinct private entity.”

The GMU Foundation funded STATS sister organization CMPA $220,990 in 2012, and $75,670 in 2013, according to tax records. In those years CMPA also helped finance STATS. In 2012, STATS reported a $203,611 loan from CMPA that “due to inadequate funding” has “not been reimbursed.” In 2013, STATS reported a loan from CMPA for $163,914.

Tax records for 2014 show no loans between the groups or donations from GMU Foundation. CMPA’s 2014 tax filing shows compensation of $97,512 for Butterworth and $173,100 for Jon Entine, a longtime public relations operative with deep ties to the chemical industry, who runs the Genetic Literacy Project, an agrichemical industry front group.

Wholly Independent?

STATS now shares a website with Sense About Science USA, and provides this note about funding:

“STATS.org is run by Sense About Science USA; it is funded grants from the Searle Freedom Trust and a donation from the American Statistical Association. Sense About Science USA is funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and donations from members of the public. Sense About Science USA does not accept industry funding or support. Sense About Science USA is wholly independent of any university, society, or other organization.”

The website conveys a sense of grassroots support, noting that its campaign calling for the registration of clinical drug trials has drawn 30,000 donors. “We don’t have fancy offices. Sense About Science USA is in the back of a bakery and cafe. We put our money into doing, and every little bit helps.”

Tobacco Ties

Both STATS and Sense About Science have roots in the tobacco industry PR wars.

STATS and CMPA were founded by Robert Lichter, PhD, a former Fox news commentator and professor of communications at GMU. Phillip Morris contracted with CMPA and Lichter during the 1990s, according to documents from the Tobacco Institute made available by the UCSF tobacco industry documents library.

In 1994, Phillip Morris sought CMPA’s help dealing with the “recent onslaught of attacks on the tobacco industry” in the media, according to an internal memo proposing strategies to “refocus the media’s attention on the need for objectivity.”

In an email dated February 8, 1999, Phillip Morris vice president Vic Han referred to CMPA as “a media watchdog group that we have contributed to over the last several years,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The founder of Sense About Science, Dick Taverne, also appears in the UCSF tobacco industry files. As Liza Gross explains in The Intercept:

“According to internal documents released in litigation by cigarette manufacturers, Taverne’s consulting company, PRIMA Europe, helped British American Tobacco improve relations with its investors and beat European regulations on cigarettes in the 1990s. Taverne himself worked on the investors project: In an undated memo, PRIMA assured the tobacco company that ‘the work would be done personally by Dick Taverne,’ because he was well placed to interview industry opinion leaders and ‘would seek to ensure that industry’s needs are foremost in people’s minds.’

During the same decade, Taverne sat on the board of the British branch of the powerhouse public relations firm Burson-Marsteller, which claimed Philip Morris as a client. The idea for a “sound science” group, made up of a network of scientists who would speak out against regulations that industrial spokespeople lacked the credibility to challenge, was a pitch Burson-Marsteller made to Philip Morris in a 1994 memorandum.”

Taverne stepped down as chairman of Sense About Science in 2012. Sense About Science USA launched in 2014 in Brooklyn under the direction of Butterworth. The two groups are described as sister organizations with “close ties and similar aims.”

Exposing ‘Bogus Science’ Through the Living Marxism Network 

Lord Taverne founded Sense About Science in 2002 to “expose bogus science,” according to his memoir. As Liza Gross explained in The Intercept, early sponsors of the group included some of Taverne’s former business clients and companies in which he owned stock.

As its first projects, Sense About Science organized a letter from 114 scientists lobbying the British government to “contradict false claims” about GMOs, and conducted a survey highlighting the problem of vandalism against GMO crops.

In 2000, Taverne helped create the “Code of Practice: Guidelines on Science and Health Communication,” a manifesto from the Social Institute Research Center and the Royal Institution on the procedures journalists and scientists should use to avoid unjustified “scare stories” in the media.

The Guidelines were the foundational document for Sense About Science and its sister organization, the Science Media Centre, a group that has been called “science’s PR agency.” Partly funded by corporations, the Science Media Centre often promotes the views of scientists who downplay risk about controversial technologies and chemicals, and its earliest work involved defending GMOs using stealth tactics.

As writers George Monbiot, Zac Goldsmith, Jonathan Matthews and others have documented, both Sense About Science and the Science Media Centre originated from and are directed by a network of people connected to the Revolutionary Communist Party, which later morphed into Living Marxism, LM magazine, Spiked Magazine and the Institute of Ideas, which promote an idealized vision of technology, extreme free-market views and disdain for environmentalists.

As Monbiot wrote in 2003, “the scientific establishment, always politically naive, appears unwittingly to have permitted its interests to be represented to the public by the members of a bizarre and cultish political network.”

Further reading:

 The Intercept: How Self-Appointed Guardians of ‘Sound Science’ Tip the Scales Toward Industry

The Atlantic: How Lobbyists are Spinning Weak Science to Defend BPA

Columbia Journalism Review: BPA, Health and Nuance: STATS report criticizes media coverage but has its own faults

Consumer Reports: Industry Reacts to Consumer Reports BPA Report

CJR: Meet the man who wants to help journalists with numbers

USRTK: Jon Entine: The Chemical Industry’s Master Messenger

The Ecologist: Why is Cornell University Hosting a GMO Propaganda Campaign?

More on funders:

Washington Post: Scaife: Funding Father of the Right

Drexel University: Not Just the Koch Brothers: New Drexel Study Reveals Funders Behind the Climate Change Denial Effort

DeSmog Blog: Scaife Family Foundations

DeSmog Blog: Charles G. Koch; Richard Mellon Sciafe; Searle Freedom Trust; Donors Trust: Study Details Dark Money Flowing to Climate Science Denial

Associated Press: George Mason University Becomes a Favorite of Charles Koch

Huffington Post: To Charles Koch, Professors are Lobbyists