Kavin Senapathy emerged as a writer in 2015 with articles promoting GMOs, defending pesticides and attacking critics of the agrichemical industry, many of them published in Forbes. She does not disclose her funding sources.
In 2017, Forbes deleted seven articles Senapathy co-authored with Henry I. Miller, a former Hoover Institution fellow, following revelations in the New York Times that Monsanto ghostwrote an article that Miller published under his own name in Forbes.
Forbes also removed an article Senapathy wrote about transparency, which lacked transparency. Still up on the Forbes site is an article she co-wrote with Cameron English, who works for the American Council on Science and Health, a front group that Monsanto paid to defend glyphosate. Senapathy has also written many articles for the Genetic Literacy Project, a PR group that receives funding from Bayer. She has since tried to distance herself from Monsanto and she now writes for Undark, a publication affiliated with the Knight Science Journalism Program.
Senapathy co-founded March Against Modification Myths ( MAMyths), a group that organizes protests against GMO critiques, and is affiliated with the PR group Biofortified. She co-authored a 2015 book “Fear Babe” that promotes GMOs, claims aspartame and MSG are safe, and purports to explain the “facts behind those toxic pesticide scares.”
Articles deleted by Forbes
Co-author Henry I. Miller‘s ghostwriting scandal
Senapathy began sharing a byline with Henry I. Miller, a former Hoover Institution fellow, in 2015 on a series of articles in Forbes defending GMOs and pesticides, and attacking the organic industry. The articles are promoted here by the Hoover Institution, a policy think tank that receives funding from right wing foundations and corporations.
Forbes deleted the Miller/Senapathy articles in August 2017 after the New York Times reported: “Documents show that Henry I. Miller … asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes’s website in 2015 … Forbes removed the story from its website on Wednesday and said that it ended its relationship with Mr. Miller amid the revelations.”
Retraction Watch quotes Mia Carbonell, senior VP of global communications at Forbes: “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 all of his posts fromForbes.comand ended our relationship with him.”
The emails between Miller and a Monsanto executive show how corporations work with writers such as Miller to promote industry talking points while keeping their collaborations secret. In this case, a Monsanto executive asked Miller to write a column defending glyphosate and provided him with a “still quite rough draft” as “a good start for your magic.” The draft appeared a few days later in Forbes, largely unchanged, under Miller’s name.
Forbes also removed at least one article with Senapathy’s solo byline. The August 2017 piece, “This Crowdfunded Experiment Offers a Lesson on Transparency” (which now appears on Medium), criticized Monsanto for ghostwriting safety reviews for glyphosate, and described the corporation’s ghostwriting history as a “transparency blunder” and a “PR gaffe.” Although her article was published weeks after The New York Times reported that Monsanto ghostwrote an article for her collaborator Henry Miller, Senapathy failed to disclose that obviously relevant fact in her article about ghostwriting.
“Legitimate objections” raised about “independence”
In a Sept. 2015 Project Syndicate article titled “GMOs and Junk Science,” Senapathy and Miller accused the organic and natural food industries of abusing scientific authority and producing propaganda. Project Syndicate added this editor’s note to the piece on August 4, 2017 (then deleted it entirely): “Legitimate objections have been raised about the independence and integrity of the commentaries that Henry Miller has written forProject Syndicateand other outlets, in particular that Monsanto, rather than Miller, drafted some of them. Readers should be aware of this potential conflict of interest, which, had it been known at the time Miller’s commentaries were accepted, would have constituted grounds for rejecting them.”
Underhanded tactics of MAMyths
MAMyths has used underhanded tactics to target pesticide industry critics. For example, in 2016, MAMyths orchestrated a failed attempt to sabotage a public event in Hawaii featuring Vani Hari, the “Food Babe.” The event was hosted by the nonprofit Center for Food Safety (CFS).
Hari explained the episode in an article: “24 hours before I was scheduled to take the stage, I was informed by Hawaii CFS that the pro-GMO and satire activist group (MAMyths) launched a campaign to sabotage the event. The tickets to the event were free, but there were a limited quantity available as the venue could only accommodate a certain number of people …
MAMyths asked their followers to reserve blocks of tickets using fake names and fake emails so that it would appear to be “sold out” and that we would be speaking to an empty venue. They reserved over 1,500 tickets using names like “Fraud Babe,” “Organic is Dumb,” “Susi Creamcheese,” and “Harriett Tubman” from traced IP addresses outside of Hawaii and overseas in the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Thailand, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
They were unsuccessful because Hawaii CFS discovered where these bogus requests were coming from and were able to easily cancel their reservations.”
MAMyths claims on their website they are “not paid by Monsanto or any other industry. We are all volunteers with a passion for justice and do this of our own free will.”
‘Fear Babe’ book describes food movement as a “terrorist faction”
Senapathy is co-author of a book, “The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari’s Glass House,” published in October 2015 by “Senapath Press.” The book promotes genetically engineered foods, claims food chemicals aspartame and MSG are safe, and purports to explain the “facts behind those toxic pesticide scares.”
Co-authors are Mark Alsip, a blogger for Bad Science Debunked, and Marc Draco, who is described as a veteran member of the Banned by Food Babe Facebook page. The forward was written by University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta, who has also partnered with Monsanto on PR campaigns. In Senapathy’s book, Folta describes the food movement as “a modern day elite and well financed terrorist faction sworn to use fear to force political change around food,” and an “agile and sneaky terrorist group. Like all terrorist groups they achieve their objectives through the implementation of fear and coercion.”
Chemical industry PR network
USRTK hascompiled a series of fact sheets about writers and PR groups the agrichemical industry relies on to manufacture doubt about science that raises concern about risky products and argue against environmental health protections.
– Why You Can’t Trust Henry I. Miller
– Julie Kelly Cooks up Propaganda for the Chemical Industry
– The American Council on Science and Health is Corporate Front Group
– Jon Entine of Genetic Literacy Project: The Chemical Industry’s Master Messenger
– Trevor Butterworth / Sense About Science Spins Science for Industry
– Does Science Media Centre Push Corporate Views of Science?
Follow the USRTK investigation of Big Food and its front groups.