Documents show how Monsanto and Bayer led attacks on scientists, journalists

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“You can’t be afraid of the absolute hand-to-hand combat, metaphorically.”
Marc Morano, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow


This excerpt from Merchants of Poison: How Monsanto Sold the World on a Toxic Pesticide details how Monsanto and Bayer led attacks on the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, as well as other scientists and journalists who raised cancer concerns about glyphosate.

Attacking experts

In the documentary film Merchants of Doubt, Marc Morano, a former staffer for U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), described working to thwart action on climate by attacking the scientists speaking out about the crisis. “You’ve got to name names and you’ve got to go after individuals,” Morano said. That’s just what he did to some of the world’s most renowned climate scientists: “We went after [climate scientists] James Hansen and Michael Oppenheimer,” Morano added, “and we had a lot of fun with it.”

Attacking experts is a key industry spin tactic — one the pesticide industry has been deploying for decades. Sixty years ago, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, her scientific analysis of the harms of DDT, Monsanto engaged in targeted personal attacks to try to undermine her research. They derided Carson as a “spinster,” a “priestess of nature,” and even accused of being a “mass murderess” responsible for the lost lives of African children, wrote Audubon magazine’s Frank Graham, Jr. These character assaults, he notes, had “nothing to do with the science or merits of pesticide use.”

Character assassination has been deployed against countless scientists since. But companies and their public relations proxies go after more than just the scientists; they also attack journalists, public interest groups, and anyone raising concerns about their products. These attacks serve two purposes: they work to undermine the credibility of people who raise concerns and, at the same time, they can have a chilling effect, causing critics to think twice about putting themselves in industry crosshairs.

Orchestrating “outrage” against IARC cancer researchers

We see this tactic at work in Monsanto’s (now Bayer) response to the 2015 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) naming glyphosate a probable human carcinogen. The ruling posed an existential threat to the world’s most widely used herbicide. In the lead up to IARC’s report, Monsanto rolled out an “an unprecedented and harsh strategy” to discredit experts, wrote Colorado School of Public Health Dean Jonathan Samet. Monsanto’s attacks, he said, amounted to an “attack on expert review” itself.

Journalists at France’s largest newspaper Le Monde, in their award-winning series about the Monsanto Papers, described the Monsanto-led attack on IARC as “an effort to destroy the United Nations’ cancer agency by any means possible.”

Internal Monsanto documents reveal that, in the weeks before IARC issued its glyphosate ruling, Monsanto had already begun engaging “industry partners” in a plan to in their words “orchestrate outcry” and “outrage” about the cancer agency.


The Monsanto strategy parallels those used by the tobacco industry and others, but the glyphosate story is notable for its intensity…”

Jonathan Samet, American Journal of Public Health


The examples below highlight the lengths to which Monsanto and its allies were willing to go — and feel they needed to go — to marginalize, silence, and discredit critics of glyphosate. These examples also show the hidden influence pesticide companies wield as they weave their narrative through powerful third-party allies in media, academia, and the highest levels of government.

Personal attacks on scientists

One key industry partner Monsanto engaged in its plan to discredit the IARC scientists’ report on glyphosate was the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP), a group that claims it is the “most visited biotechnology focused web source in the world.” While its tagline is “science not ideology,” and its founder Jon Entine describes himself as an independent journalist, the GLP’s political mission is clearly stated in its tax filings: to “prevent legislative overreach in genetic engineering.” One of its top funders in recent tax filings was Bayer.

Entine and his group have a long history of promoting and arguing for deregulation of pesticides, industrial chemicals, plastics, fracking, and the oil industry, often with attacks on scientists, journalists, and academics who raise concerns about those products.

Documents show that, in March 2015, Monsanto Regulatory Affairs Lead Eric Sachs reached out to Entine and asked him to write about the IARC report on glyphosate. Entine agreed to attend a briefing with Monsanto executives, and he also asked if Monsanto was interested in “expanding/follow up” on GLP’s “GMO science” website content. He emphasized that GLP’s reach had “expanded dramatically” in the past year.

Following that email exchange, GLP went on to publish dozens of articles critical of the cancer agency many of them personal attacks on the scientists involved in the glyphosate review, and some of them written by former chemical industry lobbyists and climate science skeptics.

Posts on the GLP website accused IARC scientists of everything from “corruption, distortion and fraud,” to conspiracy, lying and secrecy. Although the IARC working group scientists are volunteers, GLP accused them of being motivated by “personal profit and ideological vanity.

The World Health Organization scientists weren’t the only ones in GLP’s bull’s eye: When another group of independent scientists — three of whom served on a 2016 EPA expert advisory committee on glyphosate — reported “compelling links” between glyphosate-based herbicides and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in a February 2019 meta-analysis, Entine and his board member, Geoffrey Kabat, suggested those scientists committed “deliberate fraud.” Kabat is an epidemiologist with a long history of defending toxic products; for example, he has published several papers favorable to the tobacco industry, including one that claims the health concerns of secondhand smoke are over-hyped. Kabat also has “longstanding financial and other working relationships with the tobacco industry” that have not always been fully disclosed, according a paper in the BMJ Tobacco Control.

Read more about the industry ties of Genetic Literacy Project in our fact sheet.

Engaging climate science denialists

Jon Entine’s efforts to discredit scientists to defend glyphosate echo the playbook Marc Morano used to raise doubts about climate science: “name names” and “go after individuals.” The parallels do not end there: despite GLP’s claims to stand for “science not ideology,” its’ funding sources trace back to some of the largest, most consistent funders of climate science denial. These include the Searle Foundation, which also backs Morano’s group ClimateDepot, as well as the Scaife and Templeton Foundations, which have supported GLP for many years. More recently, GLP funders include not just Bayer but also the Charles Koch Foundation and DonorsTrust, which has been called the “dark money ATM” for stealth efforts to deregulate toxic industries.

All these foundations are leading backers of climate science disinformation, according to the sociologist Robert Brulle. He describes them as groups that “bank-rolled denial” and “promote ultra-free-market ideas in many realms.” From Brulle’s research:

While it claims to promote science, GLP gives a platform for individuals with long histories of denying science. These include not just the tobacco industry defender Kabat, but also former chemical industry lobbyist David Zaruk, and Paul Dreissen, a well-known climate science denialist and advisor at the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), the parent group of Moreno’s Climate Depot.

Underscoring the links between these science-denial efforts, some of the largest climate science skeptic groups joined in the attacks on the IARC scientists to defend glyphosate. “Congress should stop funding the International Agency for Junk Science,” declared the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a “free-market organization that disputes climate change is a problem,” according to the New York Times. Additional attacks on IARC came from the Heartland Institute, the Cato Institute, and CFACT — all groups that have received funding from oil companies and anti-regulatory foundations.

Ginning up political effort to defund IARC

Monsanto documents also reveal how the company used its political allies to try to undermine IARC. An internal email from 2015 shows Monsanto executives discussing the company’s outreach to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the State Department and members of Congress to discuss “managing the IARC issue.”Another document reveals that Monsanto consultants drafted at least one letter calling for an investigation of the “flawed” IARC process and designed to look like it was written by a member of Congress.

The result? Congressional Republicans “excoriated and pushed to defund the IARC,” reported The Intercept, in a political assault that was “scripted in part by Monsanto.” The salvo included a volley of letters from Republicans accusing IARC of wrongdoing, a congressional investigation, and threats to cut U.S. funding to the cancer research panel. (To put the level of funding in perspective, the U.S. contributed €1.7 million in 2021 toward the organization’s €22 million budget.) In 2018, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (a climate science denier) called a hearing to investigate the IARC scientists’ alleged misdeeds, citing “media reports” as the source of the concerns. The concerns traced back to one media source: an inaccurate report in Reuters that was based on documents and talking points provided to the reporter, Kate Kelland, by Monsanto.

Hand feeding a corporate narrative to Reuters

The holy grail of PR spin is free media in your favor. In the case of the IARC ruling, a series of articles critical of the cancer research group appeared in the international wire service Reuters between 2016 and 2018 giving a boost to Monsanto’s campaign to defend glyphosate. Thanks to internal documents, the public can now see the backstory of those articles, and how Monsanto and its PR firm Red Flag worked to shape the stories reported by longtime Reuters corespondent Kate Kelland. One email to Monsanto from a Red Flag employee notes, “You’ll recall that following engagement by Red Flag a number of months ago, the first piece [in Reuters] was quite critical of IARC.” The emails show how the Monsanto PR team also helped Kelland find an anonymous source to criticize IARC, and offered her exclusive materials. At one point, Kelland shared with Monsanto executives a draft article she had written about glyphosate before it went to print.

The most influential of Kelland’s articles ran in June 2017, and claimed that Aaron Blair, a prominent epidemiologist and chair of the IARC glyphosate working group, had withheld key data in the glyphosate assessment. Had that data been included, Kelland claimed, IARC would have been less likely to call glyphosate a probable human carcinogen. The story reverberated around the world with reprints and reports lifted from the article appearing in many leading newspapers, even including Mother Jones.

Questions about Kelland’s reporting began surfacing shortly after publication. Kelland had characterized her source as “court documents” from a deposition Blair had given in a Monsanto legal case. But the deposition was not filed in court, and Kelland did not provide her readers with access to the original documents, so it was initially impossible to verify her claims. When former Reuters’ reporter Carey Gillam, who worked for U.S. Right to Know at the time, gained access to the documents, she reported that Blair’s full testimony contradicted key claims in Kelland’s article.

Two years after the articles were published, internal documents released in litigation revealed that Kelland’s source for the documents was Sam Murphy, a Monsanto media relations executive. In an email to Kelland dated April 27, 2017, Murphey included not only Blair’s testimony but suggestions for how to frame the article, along with a slide deck and talking points that emphasized key points Monsanto wanted to make: that the “IARC chair concealed crucial data” that “undermines IARC’s conclusions.” Murphy also requested that Kelland treat the information as background material. Kelland’s article, published two months later, is framed around those Monsanto talking points, and did not disclose the source of the documents.[55]

Email from Monsanto’s Sam Murphey to Reuters reporter Kate Kelland:


IARC pushed back against Kelland’s reporting with a statement explaining that the agency does not consider unpublished and unfinished data in its assessments. IARC noted that Kelland had also inaccurately described a source, Bob Tarone, as independent, even though he had received consultancy fees from Monsanto. Reuters added a note describing the conflict of interest but made no other corrections or disclosures. (Kelland has not responded to requests for comment on these critiques. She left Reuters in 2021 to work for the Gates Foundation-funded Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness.)

Kelland’s reporting continues to circulate on social media and has appeared in paid ads on Google and Facebook. It also won the 2017 Science Story of the Year Award from the Foreign Press Association. Bayer’s sponsorship deal with the U.S. arm of that group has raised questions about the press association’s impartiality. For more information about the FPA: See the email trail showing influence peddling by the Foreign Press Association to Bayer

For more on Kelland’s reporting on IARC, see Stacy Malkan’s 2017 article in Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting: Reuters vs. UN cancer agency: Are corporate ties influencing coverage?

Attacking journalists

“Danny Hakim is lying to you – and it’s not his first rodeo either,” declared a blog by the American Council on Science and Health in March 2017. The attack on Hakim, a New York Times journalist, came in the wake of his reporting on corporate interference in the science on glyphosate, pesticides, and pollinator declines, and the failure of GMO crops to increase yields. The ACSH blog derided Hakim as a journalist with this caveat: “if we can even call him that.”

Mean-spirited attacks on journalists like this are another common feature of pesticide industry spin. The strategy often carried out by front groups like ACSH that receive hidden industry funding seeks to undermine journalists who report critically on industry players, while lifting up those who write favorably about companies and their products. Examples abound: ACSH has described Liza Gross, a reporter at InsideClimate News who has written critically about the chemical industry, tobacco products and industry spin groups as an “activist” who pushes “corporate conspiracy theories.” In 2018, ACSH stepped up such attacks with a website called Deniers for Hire, with a section on “bad journalists” with attack profiles on Hakim, Gross, Gillam, and other journalists who reported critically on the pesticide industry, including New York Times journalist Eric Lipton, and Times contributors Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman. (After promotions pushed “Deniers for Hire” to the top of Google searches for some of the groups and people profiled, ACSH pulled the site without explanation in the summer of 2019.)


“These are vicious and utterly unfounded attacks on a journalist’s credibility, well designed to undercut him with his employer.”

Tom Philpott, reporter for Mother Jones


Tom Philpott, a longtime journalist who covers food and agriculture for Mother Jones, has experienced industry harassment for reporting critically on GMOs and pesticides; multiple emails, tweets, and other communications were sent to him and his editors by Monsanto’s third-party allies. “These are vicious and utterly unfounded attacks on a journalist’s credibility, well designed to undercut him with his employer,” Philpott said. Monica Eng, a former Chicago Tribune journalist, described what happened after she reported that a prominent GMO-promoting professor was receiving undisclosed funds from Monsanto. “I’ve worked as a professional journalist in Chicago for more than three decades,” Eng explained. “I’ve uncovered questionable activity in government groups, nonprofits, and private companies, but I don’t think I have ever seen a group so intent on trying to personally attack the journalist covering the issue.”

A Monsanto document released in 2019 highlights how Monsanto worked with third-party allies to try to discredit journalist Carey Gillam and her book Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science (Island Press, 2017), which exposed a range of environmental and health problems associated with the company’s herbicide business. An Excel spreadsheet titled “Project Spruce: Carey Gillam Book,” describes plans by Monsanto and FTI Consulting to place paid ads on Google and generate negative book reviews with the help of allies. Described as “Pro Science Third Parties,” these included industry-funded spin groups Science Media Centre and the Global Farmers Network, and the chemical industry trade group’s “Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research.” By spring 2022, Whitewash would have 226 reviews on, most of them 5 star reviews. Of the 29 reviews with 1 or 2 stars, 21 were published on or around October 21, 2017, shortly after the launch of Project Spruce.

“I’m just one person, just one reporter working from a home office in the Midwest, juggling three kids with irregular writing deadlines,” Gillam wrote in the Guardian. “So the knowledge that a multibillion-dollar corporation spent so much time and attention trying to figure out how to thwart me is terrifying …

“When corporate power is so intensely brought to silence messengers, to manipulate the public record and public opinion, truth becomes stifled. And we should all be afraid.”

Suing the New York Times

Attacks on the New York Times reporter Eric Lipton went far beyond smears. After Lipton reported on undisclosed ties between University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta and Monsanto, Folta sued Lipton and the New York Times claiming defamation. Folta made wide-ranging motions in the lawsuits, in attempt to obtain documents from people involved in the story (including employees of U.S. Right to Know). A just dismissed Folta’s requests as “downright silly” and “laughable.” The New York Times pushed back on Folta’s claims, noting that Lipton’s reporting on Folta’s ties to Monsanto was based on Folta’s own email communications. Folta dropped the lawsuit in April 2019, but did not answer queries about who paid for the two-year legal fight. Meanwhile, this kind of attack on journalists can have a chilling effect on others who want to dig into similar storylines.

For more details on the lawsuit and legal documents, see our fact sheet on Kevin Folta.

Deploying women to attack organic food

Another tool in the corporate attack toolbox: recruit women to go after “organic moms” and other concerned citizens who are trying to cut down on exposures of glyphosate and other pesticides. Why target mothers? According to Pew research, 80 percent of women with children do most of the food shopping and most of the meal preparation in their households (for women with spouses but no children, the number was 68 percent for shopping and 75 percent for meal prep). And market trends are clear: demand for organic food continues to outpace conventional foods that allow synthetic pesticides, with many consumers citing health concerns about pesticides as their reason for choosing organic. As Fortune magazine reported in 2015, concerns over pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics and food additives — led by moms and millennials — were driving an “$18-billion food revolution” with demand shifting away from conventional food companies.

Monsanto and other pesticide companies have pushed back by teaming up with groups and writers who disparage these concerns. In 2017, Monsanto partnered with the non-profit “Independent Women’s Forum” (IWF) on a “Food and Fear” lecture series that encouraged women to ignore “alarmist” concerns about toxic chemicals in food. “Reasonable moms” should push back on organic “food alarmism,” according to a 2016 IWF podcast. That same year, IWF asked Monsanto for $43,000 to fund a “Super Women of Science” lecture series designed to undercut support for a California law to label toxic chemicals in food and consumer products.

The Independent Women’s Forum has a long history of defending corporate interests. Founded in 1993, the spent $3 million in 2019 toward its mission to “engage more individuals in the civic process … and build support for policies that empower individuals.” This mission belies the group’s actual work: product defense work for corporate donors such as Monsanto and arguing for deregulation of polluting industries on behalf of its funders including the Scaife Foundation, Searle Freedom Trust, DonorsTrust and other leading donors of the climate science denial network.

Babes and skeptics for pesticides

Monsanto and Bayer have also allied with a particular genre of female writers and public speakers: “science communicators” who claim to correct misinformation about chemical risks. The Washington Post featured “Sci Babe” in a 2018 column about “skeptics” who are “using science to fight a wave of bad nutrition advice on the Internet.” SciBabe also took up the glyphosate debate for Self magazine. “Should you worry about herbicides in your food? … Nope,” she concluded, claiming, inaccurately, that “no studies have found a causal link between glyphosate and cancer.” Neither Self nor the Washington Post mentioned SciBabe’s conflicts of interest: that her talks have been sponsored by the likes of Monsanto and DuPont, and that she contracted with the artificial sweetener company Splenda to “debunk junk science” about artificial sweeteners.

Other women writers with industry ties use the “babe” moniker or similar PR handles to push glyphosate product-defense messaging on blogs and social media designed to represent or appeal to women. “This just in … glyphosate STILL not found to cause cancer,” claims “Food Science Babe,” a writer for the farming publication Ag Daily, whose social media bio says she is “creating science based information about food and spreading facts not fear.” Other defenders of glyphosate in this genre include Ag Daily writers “Farmer’s Daughter USA” (Glyphosate isn’t scary, the movement to demonize it is), the corporate-side attorney Amanda Zaluckyj; and Michelle Miller, the “Farm Babe,” a “writer and public speaker for agriculture” who “reaches millions on social media,” according to AgriPulse. The “Foodie Farmer and “Hawaii Farmer’s Daughter (a one-time fellow for the Gates Foundation-funded PR group Alliance for Science) are more examples.

More broadly than glyphosate defense, these writers serve up similar messaging fare: they heap scorn on the organic food industry, argue synthetic chemicals in food are nothing to worry about, and oppose efforts to increase transparency or restrict hazardous chemicals in food or farming — often under the banner of “freedom for women.” The tactic harkens back to one of Edward Bernays most famous stealth PR efforts: the “Torches for Freedom” campaign designed to eliminate the social taboo of women smoking — and increase sales for his tobacco industry clients. Bernays’s salvo opened on March 31, 1929 when a woman named Bertha Hunt stepped out onto a crowded street at New York’s Easter Parade and created a scandal by lighting a Lucky Strike cigarette. The contrived stunt that was made to look spontaneous and independent is widely considered to be one of the first public relations campaigns.

The same “freedom for women” framing also plays out in the pesticide debate. One example is a 2019 book Food Bullying by Michele Payn, who describes herself as a “kickboxing professional speaker” and “a mom tired of food bullies and keyboard cowards.” Her book claims to reveal the “$5.75 trillion secret” food marketers don’t want you to know — that organically grown, low-pesticide, non-GMO, unprocessed foods made without chemical additives are no better for your health and the environment. Payne advises mothers to “stand up to the bullies” and “simplify safe food choices” by not worrying about risks like pesticides.

Praise for Payn’s book came from a familiar ring of pesticide defenders, many of whom appear in this report: University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta, former biotech trade group executive Val Giddings, and Monsantomployees Cami Ryan (social sciences lead) and Robb Fraley (former chief technology officer). Payn, meanwhile, offers various paid “keynotes for agriculture” and “workshops for farm, ranch and ag” options, for clients including Bayer and Syngenta.

‘Science Moms’ industry messaging

Another example: a 2018 film called Science Moms, produced by a group of “Sci Moms” who say their purpose is to promote “evidence-based parenting” and “facts not fear” about chemical risks. The film was “funded independently by Kickstarter,” according to the Sci Moms website. Among the donors listed in the credits: employees of Monsanto, Syngenta, and the Alliance for Science. The film gives special thanks to Vance Crowe, Monsanto’s director of millennial engagement at the time.

SciMom co-founder Kavin Senapathy co-authored several articles in Forbes with similar messaging: denouncing the “fear of pesticides,” attacking the organic industry as a marketing scam, and warning that “radical environmentalists” are more of a threat to the planet than pesticide industry products. Forbes deleted these articles after the New York Times reported that Henry I. Miller (who co-authored Senapathy’s articles in Forbes) had published a piece about glyphosate in Forbes that had been ghostwritten by Monsanto. (Miller is also a longtime defender of oil and tobacco industry interests.) Senapathy later tried to distance herself from Miller and Monsanto’s Vance Crowe in an article for Undark magazine. But she continues to pen articles promoting GMOs using standard pesticide industry spin: downplaying risk and making false assurances of safety about chemical-intensive food and farming.

For more on the industry-connected work of Kavin Senapathy, see our fact sheet.

Surveilling friends and foes of pesticides

Monsanto’s attack tactics — especially its efforts to discredit scientists who raised cancer concerns about glyphosate — are well documented. And so, too, are the pesticide industry’s efforts to closely monitor its critics and gather information for its attacks. In May 2019, a whistleblower from Bayer’s PR firm FleishmanHillard shared with French journalists a “multitude of information” the firm was tracking on 200 journalists, politicians, scientists, nonprofit leaders, and others flagged as influencers in the glyphosate debate. The list of “friends and foes of pesticides,” as one news outlet described it, contained personal contact details, opinions, and engagement in relation to Monsanto products. Le Monde shared the list with French authorities, who opened a criminal probe to determine whether the legality of the collection and processing of personal data. France’s former Environment Minister Ségolène Royal, who was on the list, noted that this was “a very important discovery because it shows there are objective strategies to silence strong voices.”


“Monsanto gave a rating of one to five to each of the over 200 people on its French lists corresponding to their estimated influence, credibility and level of support for Monsanto on several topics, especially pesticides and genetically-modified crops.”

France 24 report


In the wake of the revelations, FleishmanHillard admitted it had drawn up similar watch lists in six other European countries. Bayer temporarily suspended the PR company, apologized, and hired a law firm to investigate, claiming in a statement: “Our highest priority is to create transparency. We do not tolerate unethical behavior in our company.” A few months later, Bayer’s law firm reported finding “no evidence of illegal activity.” But in 2021, France’s personal data protection agency fined Monsanto $473,000, reported the French news agency RFI, “for illegally compiling files of public figures, journalists and activists with the aim of swaying opinion towards support for its controversial pesticides.”

It is worth noting that tracking “friends and foes” is common industry practice. FleishmanHillard CEO John Saunders defended his firm’s work as business as usual: “Corporations, NGOs, and other clients rightfully expect our firm to help them understand diverse perspectives before they engage,” Saunders said. “To do so, we and every other professional communications agency gather relevant information from publicly available sources. Those planning documents are fundamental to outreach efforts.”

Monsanto’s Fusion Center

Monsanto was also gathering intelligence in the U.S. through what it called its “Fusion Center” — a concept borrowed from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Long the domain of military intelligence-gathering, Fusion Centers are becoming more common in the private sector, the New York Times reported in 2018. Corporate versions, the article noted, are often staffed by “former government cyberspies, soldiers and counterintelligence officials,” who deploy “the tools and techniques used for national defense.”

Documents released in 2019 show that Monsanto’s Fusion Center was monitoring digital properties and social media activities and analyzing content from journalists, including U.S. Right to Know, as well as others who were speaking out publicly about pesticides. Monsanto executives were tracking individuals, small groups, online comments, and even single tweets. No detail seemed too small.

Monsanto’s Fusion Center was also tracking the singer Neil Young, who was critical of the company in songs in his 2015 album The Monsanto Years. According to an email from a Monsanto official, reported by the Guardian, the company’s Fusion Center “evaluated the lyrics on (Young’s) album to develop a list of 20+ potential topics he may target” and created a plan to “proactively produce content and response preparedness.” They were also “closely monitoring discussions” about a concert featuring Young, Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews.


“The seeds of life are not what they once were /
Mother Nature and God don’t own them anymore”

Neil Young, from his album The Monsanto Years


The Fusion Center was also tracking Rachel Parent, a Canadian teenager who had founded the GMO labeling advocacy group Kids Right to Know. In emails from 2016, Andy Shaul, the director of corporate engagement for the Monsanto Fusion Center, sent background reports to his colleagues about Parent and other women who planned to attend the company’s annual shareholder meeting to raise concerns about glyphosate. The emails discuss how to address the teenager’s crowdfunding campaign (which had raised just $250 at the time of his emails). Monsanto’s Shaul also shared comments one of the women made in a blog and a video clip that “might be useful in preparing for her personality.”

The Monsanto document also describes plans to, “Work with the Fusion Center to monitor USRTK digital properties, volume and sentiment related to USRTK/FOIA, as well as audience engagement,” and included a “social media response” grid for how to deal with problematic tweets.

The company’s plan involved developing “foundational messages” to frame the U.S. Right to Know public records requests as an attack on scientists, and posting responses on GMO Answers, an industry-funded website that claimed to be in the voice of independent academics. In the case of “1st tweet from Gary Ruskin,” a “tailored statement” would be posted on the supposedly independent website.

In the case of “More than one day of social volume” at “50+ tweets,” the GMO Answers response would be posted to Facebook and Twitter along with “Google promotion around potential search terms.”

This example shows the intense level of scrutiny and planning Monsanto brought to its efforts to counter critics of glyphosate and the GMO seeds designed to tolerate the herbicide. In the next section, we examine how Monsanto, Bayer and their third party allies work to dominate debates about pesticides and GMOs online, and how front groups that Monsanto engaged to attack scientists frequently top Google News searches on topics important to the pesticide industry.


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[38] David Zaruk archives. Genetic Literacy Project. (Online).

[39] David Zaruk CV. U.S. Right to Know. (n.d.).

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[41] Logomasini, A. (2018, September 18). Report: Congress should stop funding international junk science agency. Competitive Enterprise Institute.

[42] Root, T., Friedman, L., & Tabuchi, H. (2019, July 10). Following the Money That Undermines Climate Science. New York Times.

[43] Driessen, P. (2019, February 4). Keep Fraudulent Science Out of Our Courtrooms. The Heartland Institute.

[44] Olson, W. (2018, August 20). Roundup, the Usual Suspects.

[45] Driessen, P. (2019, August 6). Fraud and corruption bring big payoffs. CFACT.

[46] Monsanto internal document. (2016, March 2). RE: Reuters looking to speak to IARC observer. [Email]. U.S. Right to Know.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Murphey, S. (2017, March 27). FW: Your Voicemail. [Email]. U.S. Right to Know.

[49] Murphey, S. (2017, March 12). Reuters Inquiry. [Email]. U.S. Right to Know.

[50] Kelland, K. (2017, June 14). The WHO’s cancer agency left in the dark over glyphosate evidence. Reuters.

[51] Butler, K. (2017, June 15). A scientist didn’t disclose important data-and let everyone believe a popular weedkiller causes cancer. Mother Jones.

[52] Malkan, S. (2019, May 24). Reuters’ Kate Kelland IARC story promotes false narrative. U.S. Right to Know.

[53] Monsanto Internal Document. (2019, February). Summary. U.S. Right to Know.

[54] Murphey, S. (2017, April 27). FW: Your Voicemail. [Email]. U.S. Right to Know.

[55] Kelland, K. (2017, June 14). The WHO’s cancer agency left in the dark over glyphosate evidence. Reuters.

[56] WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer. (2017, June 16). IARC Responds to Reuters on 14 June 2017. Wayback Machine.

[57] Reynolds, T.L. Fwd: US Government Outreach- WHO IARC Clarification on Glyphosate. [Email]. The Intercept.

[58] Anonymous. (n.d.). Letter to Dr. Francis S. Collins. The Intercept.

[59] Fang, L. (2019, August 23). Emails show Monsanto orchestrated GOP effort to intimidate cancer researchers. The Intercept.

[60] Funding – IARC. (Online). International Agency for Research on Cancer.

[61] Lerner, S. (2017, May 20). Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas has a problem with science – and with voters. The Intercept.

[62] Berezow, A. (2017, March 15). Glyphosate: NYT’s Danny Hakim Is Lying To You. American Council on Science and Health.

[63] Hakim, D. (2016, October 29). Doubts about the promised bounty of genetically modified crops. The New York Times.

[64] Hakim, D. (2016, December 31). Scientists loved and loathed by an agrochemical giant. The New York Times.

[65] Hakim, D. (2017, August 2). Monsanto emails raise issue of influencing research on Roundup Weed Killer. The New York Times.

[66] Gross, L. (2021, June 30). Bees face yet another lethal threat in dicamba, a drift-prone pesticide. Reveal News.

[67] Gross, L. (2017, November 16). Smoke screen. The Verge.

[68] Gross, L. (2016, November 15). How self-appointed guardians of “Sound science” tip the scales toward industry. The Intercept.

[69] Berezow, A. (2017, November 21). PLoS Biology Senior Editor Liza Gross: An Activist With No Biology Education. American Council on Science and Health.

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[71] Deniers for Hire. (Online). Wayback Machine.

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[73] Thacker, P. D. (2017, July 21). Flacking for gmos: How the biotech industry cultivates positive media-and discourages criticism.

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[75] (Online). Whitewash Customer Reviews.

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[77] Legal documents posted here (2018. August 1). U.S. Right to Know.

[78] Schaeffer, K. (2020, September 10). Among U.S. couples, women do more cooking and grocery shopping than men. Pew Research Center.

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[81] Marinova, P. (2021, April 24). Millennials are driving an $18 billion food revolution. Fortune.

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[86] Rosenbloom, C. (2018, February 6). Perspective | these skeptics are using science to fight a wave of bad nutrition advice on the internet. The Washington Post.

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[88] Malkan, S. (2018, March 31). SciBabe says eat your pesticides. But who is paying her? U.S. Right to Know.

[89] Food Science Babe. (2019, Febraury 19). This just in…Glyphosate STILL not found to cause cancer. [Link attached] [Status Update]. Facebook.

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[91] Blum, M. (2020, March 21). Ag a hot topic: Farm Babe’s message reaches millions on social media. Agrinews. and Miller, M. (2017, July 6). Farm babe: Glyphosate is a carcinogen? says who? AGDAILY.

[92] The Foodie Farmer. (Online). [Blog]. Blogspot.

[93] Hawaiifarmersdaughter. (2019, June 27). Knee jerk reactions. HawaiiFarmersDaughter.

[94] Chakraborty, R. (2019, September 5). Torches of Freedom: How the world’s first PR campaign came to be. YourStory.Com.

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[100] Fraley, R. [@RobbFraley]. Really like the #GMO crops analogy from @mpaynspeaker in MACA newsletter: If you add or remove an app from your… [Tweet]. [Image Attached].

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[102] Payne, M. (2022, March 21). Looking for a speaker who will leave your audience thinking? Cause Matters.

[103] Science Moms. (2018, May 12). Science Moms: Full Film! [Film]. Youtube.

[104] SciMoms. (Online).

[105] Ibid.

[106] Hakim, D. (2017, August 1). Monsanto Emails Raise Issue of Influencing Research on Roundup Weed Killer. New York Times.

[107] Ruskin, G. (2021, March 26). Henry Miller Dropped by Forbes for Monsanto Ghostwriting Scandal. U.S. Right to Know.

[108] Senapathy, K. (2019, September 30). I Was Lured Into Monsanto’s GMO Crusade. Here’s What I Learned. Undark Magazine.

[109] Bernstein, A. (2018, February 22). Risk In Perspective. SciMoms.

[110] Foucart, S., & Horel, S. (2019, June 19). « Fichier Monsanto » : des dizaines de personnalités classées illégalement selon leur position sur le glyphosate. Le

[111] CBS News. (2019, May 21). Monsanto kept “watch lists” of European agrochemical friends and foes, Bayer says, as Roundup legal battles continue.

[112] Bronner, L. (2019, May 10). « Fichier Monsanto » : « Le Monde » porte plainte. Le

[113] Picard, F., & Xenos, A. (2019, May 14). The debate – ticking time bomb? cancer lawsuits mount for Monsanto over glyphosate. France 24.

[114] Bayer Global. (2019, May 12). Bayer commissions external law firm to investigate Monsanto’s stakeholder mapping project and reaffirms its commitment to transparency and fair dealings with all stakeholders.

[115] Bayer Global. (2019, September 5). Monsanto stakeholder lists: No evidence of illegal behaviour.

[116] Rfi. (2021, July 28). France fines Monsanto for illegally running ‘watch lists’.

[117] Owen, J. (2019, September 5). Bayer’s reputational issues continue as ‘watch list’ scandal deepens. PR Week.

[118] Malkan. S. (2021, March 16). Monsanto’s Campaign Against U.S. Right To Know: Read the Documents. U.S. Right to Know.

[119] Cowley, S. (2018, May 20). Banks adopt military-style tactics to fight cybercrime. The New York Times.

[120] Levin, S. (2019, August 8). Revealed: how Monsanto’s ‘intelligence center’ targeted journalists and activists. The Guardian.

[121] Murphey, S. (2016, January 28). RE: Shareholder 2016 Backgrounders. [Email]. U.S. Right to Know.

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