Today I came across this little doozy from Ecowatch, my favorite Eco-alternative alarmist news source.
The article that caught my attention starts with these very bold paragraphs:
What happens when a private company with a long history of producing some of the most toxic chemicals on the planet and now produces our food starts facing public pressure from a growing national grassroots movement to label their products to conform with basic principles of democracy and transparency?
Well, if the company in question is Monsanto, then you take a page out of Big Tobacco’s playbook and hatch a secret plan to enlist public university scientists to bury the potential harm of your genetically engineered crops by whitewashing negative studies and systematically demonizing your opponents in the media to mislead elected officials and the American public about the safety ofGMOs (genetically modified organisms) and their accompanying toxic pesticides.
That is a bold claim indeed. Lets see what else they have to offer, in terms of proof.
Here’s a little history lesson, in the 1940s, tobacco companies ran ads with doctors proclaiming smoking cigarettes were perfectly safe. In 1946, the RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company ran a now infamous campaign called “More Doctors” recommend Camels after “surveying” more than 113,597 doctors “from every branch of medicine.” In reality, the tobacco company’s advertising agency employees questioned doctors at medical conferences and their offices and used these fake results to deceive a generation of smokers.
A lesson in past tactics is good. Big tobacco was indeed, very deceptive within North America back in the days of blissful ignorance. Another far more deceptive example (and one that predates Big Tabbaco’s similar actions) are those of Big Sugar. Its quite interesting.
But what matters to this piece, is how this all goes back to Monsanto. Are they pulling the wool over our eyes? Lets read on.
Today, Monsanto and the biotech industry are copying the same tactics, this time hiding behind the façade of public university scientists and hiring major PR firms to promote GMOs and the toxic weedkiller glyphosate, the main chemical ingredient in Roundup, which some scientists are offering to drink on Twitter and in front of classrooms of students to “prove” its safety and hide the fact that it is harmful to humans and the environment.
Last weekend, the New York Times released a stunning expose of how Monsanto and the biotech industry enlisted allegedly independent public university scientists in a deceptive campaign to lobby state legislators in Pennsylvania, interfere with ballot initiatives in Oregon and Colorado and paper over risks of high pesticide usage on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
According to New York Times investigative reporter Eric Lipton, as the GMO labeling debate was coming to a boil in America in the past three years, Monsanto and their “industry partners retooled their lobbying and public relations strategy to spotlight a rarefied group of advocates: academics, brought in for the gloss of impartiality and weight of authority that come with a professor’s pedigree.”
And why would Monsanto want to do this? Because independent scientist from public university come with a major halo effect, something that Monsanto’s top lobbyists mention repeatedly in the recently released emails to public university scientists.
I smell a conspiracy . . . .theory.
“Flight MH370 did not disappear, it crashed at sea due to an onboard fire at the hand of a fault in the design of the triple 7 aircraft!
The evidence suggests that a catastrophic engine failure caused the plane to lose all of its hydraulic power, rendering it totally uncontrollable. Due to this massive problem and a lack of ability to keep the plane steady with engine thrust (what kept past planes without hydraulics in the air), the uneven thrust of the remaining engine rolled the plane over and put it in an irrecoverable dive into the ocean.
Due to the pricy nature of the repairs required to correct this AND the possible ramifications to the reputation of the triple 7 jetliner (“is it a modern day DC10?!”), both airline and company decided it best to preform a song and dance at sea, merely make it LOOK like a massive search was on for the craft (even though in reality, it would never “officially” be found).
Because instead of having the first fatal accident of the triple 7 craft, you have a mystery. Something so encompassing of the imagination, that fear of the plane itself is not an issue.
Though Boeing is still hiding the truth from the media, this same phenomenon has been seen on 2 triple 7’s very recently, both with British Airways. One was inbound to London (landed safley) and the other didn’t even leave the ground in Vegas.
We have seen such coverups in the past.
Back in 1972, aircraft builder and designer McDonnell Douglas (later absorbed by rival Boeing!) was made aware of a flaw in the design of their flagship DC10’s cargo door locking mechanism, which sometimes allowed the door to APPEAR locked securely (though it was not). They found out when an American Airlines plane leaving Detroit lost its door as well as cargo (which ended up in Windsor, Ontario) at around 11,000 feet. Though the damage to the flight control harnesses made the plane difficult to control and land, it safely landed back in Detroit (no one hurt).
While this accident made MD and the FAA aware of the problem, no mandatory directive was issued. This was due to a friendly agreement between the heads of both MD and the FAA (such a directive would hurt the reputation of the brand new aircraft, so it was agreed that the issue would be voluntarily fixed).
And indeed, many North American airlines did make voluntary alterations to the locking mechanisms design, preventing such an incident for them. But though MD made some modifications, the design still remained more or less the same. As was most cost effective.
Until 1974, when a fully loaded Turkish Airlines Flight bound for London from Paris suffered the same phenomenon as the previous American DC10. But this time it crashed, killing all 346 people on board. The cause was the same, but the deadly variable was the weight the jet was carrying. While the American jet was lightly populated (and as such, had less weight to pull down the floor and damage vital wires under the floor on decompression), the Turkish jet was pretty much full. The extra weight brought the floor of the jet even further into the cargo compartment, which effectively destroyed the majority of the flight controls.
The incident cost McDonnell Douglas millions in lawsuits, forever tarnished the DC10’s reputation and is credited as one of the dominos that did in the company.
The question is, did history repeat itself? Did Boeing not learn the lesson that bankrupted its rival back in the day?”
That was quite informative. It contains facts, in terms of realistic sounding explanations of events, as well as modern and historical incidents and/or events to add to the argument. But though it is all grounded in verifiable fact, such verification does not hold when it comes to stringing it all together. It SOUNDS like I did a lot of my homework, but realistically, all that ties it together was pulled out of my ass.
Getting back to the article, did Ecowatch pull a lot of their arguments out of their ass as well?
Shining a Light on Monsanto and the Corruption of Public University Scientists
Lipton’s story details how a University of Illinois professor and longtime GMO promoter Bruce Chassy used his Monsanto connections to lobby the Environmental Protection Agency to abandon its efforts to tighten regulations on insecticidal GMO seeds. If you take a dive into the emails, you can see how Chassy enlisted the help of former advisor to George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, Nina Federoff in his efforts to influence the EPA’s policies.
In the emails, Chassy’s efforts to lobby the EPA for looser regulations were encouraged by a Monsanto lobbyist even as Chassy was negotiating the release of his grant from the company.
For background on how this current story originally broke, you have to go back to Aug. 6, when the international science journal Nature reported that more than 4,600 pages of emails from University of Florida plant scientist Kevin Folta “reveal his close ties to the agriculture giant Monsanto … and other biotechnology-industry interests.”
The Nature article set off a minor firestorm on social media, when University of Florida professor and Monsanto promoter Kevin Folta’s emails were leaked to Nature’s Keith Kloor for damage control.
While Folta has not yet been charged with scientific misconduct or wrongdoing, these emails reveal a close relationship and financial ties to Monsanto for the first time publicly. The new reports of financial ties and Folta’s regular communication with Monsanto executives and lobbyists contradict Folta’s previous repeated denials of any relationship or conflict of interest with the St. Louis, Missouri based biotech seed and chemical giant responsible for mass producing such toxic cancer-causing chemicals as PCBs, Agent Orange, dioxin and now 80 percent of the genetically engineered crops that appear in our food supply.
“The documents show that Monsanto paid for Folta’s travel to speak to U.S. students, farmers, politicians and the media,” according to Nature’s Keith Kloor. As reported, Folta received a $25,000 “unrestricted” grant from Monsanto in 2014, which a Monsanto representative stated could be used by Folta at his “discretion in support of your research and outreach projects.”
The information regarding Monsanto’s $25,000 donation only became public as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the public advocacy group U.S. Right to Know, who made the request after noticing Folta’s frequent responses on a pro-GMO industry run website, which is funded by the members of The Council for Biotechnology Information and includes BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.
According to the emails released by the New York Times, Kevin Folta appears eager to please Monsanto’s executives, telling them, “I’m glad to sign on to whatever you like, or write whatever you like” and, in order to get his $25,000 check cleared Folta claims, “I am grateful for this opportunity and promise a solid return on the investment.” What kind of investment was Monsanto really making?
Two days later, Monsanto confirmed payment to Kevin Folta in an official letter.
In addition, the emails reveal a near constant communication between Kevin Folta, Monsanto’s top lobbyists, the crisis public relations firm Ketchum and a handful of U.S. scientists working behind the scenes to manipulate public perception on the safety of GMOs and Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup dating back to at least 2013.
The emails between Folta, Monsanto and Ketchum PR are especially damning as they indicate that agents from the New York crisis management PR firm wrote answers specifically for Folta that he then cut and paste and posted on the GMO Answers website under his own name. A quick search of Folta’s public responses on the industry run website show that he began responding to questions about GMO technology on the website in July of 2013.
Time to do some digging.
Lipton also devoted space to Stonyfield Farms and others in the GMO-opposing organic food industry doing the same, but that seems to have been missed in the flurry. The attention, particularly of anti-GMO activists, has focused on the conflicts of interest of plant molecular biology researchers who’ve had industry-related travel reimbursed by companies and provided content to a public relations firm handling an industry-supported public information site on genetically-modified food crops.
In focusing on the correspondence of one scientist, theUniversity of Florida’s Kevin Folta, PhD, the Timesposted online a 174-page file of annotated emails that show details of the relationship. The greatest lightning rod for criticism from anti-GMO activists has been the discussions leading to Monsanto’s $25,000 donation to the university’s foundation to support travel, food, and a digital projector for Folta to deliver a year of monthly academic and public GMO education workshops. This occurs on the landscape of an already-public record of greater than $1 million of cumulative giving to the university by Monsanto, primarily for an endowed professorship (not held by Folta).
To be clear, the $25,000 was not a grant or contract and in no way provided personal funds to Folta, either as salary support or additional remuneration. According to the policy of the University of Florida Foundation, “Funds may not be given to UFF to benefit a particular individual. Consequently, gifts made to support the scholarly activities of a particular faculty member are made irrevocably to the institution, and will not be transferred to another organization or institution in the event that faculty member leaves the University.”
Because of threats and calls to incite violence against him, his family, and his laboratory, the university announced on August 27 that the unexpended funds would be donated to a newly-established on-campus food bank, The Field and Fork Food Pantry, to benefit students having difficulty making ends meet.
As is noted by the Forbes writer, the Ecowatch article does not make any mention of those anti-GMO companies engaging in the same seemingly deceptive practices (big surprise). But all in all, it looks exactly as i suspected . . . . conspiratorial. The anti-side finds a shard in which they can twist to their advantage, and so they run with it. And their strong online media presence either republishes the information out of ignorance, or flat out deception.
Here is the NYT article itself.
“If you spend enough time with skunks, you start to smell like one,” said Charles M. Benbrook, who until recently held a post at Washington State University. The organic foods industry funded his research there and paid for his trips to Washington, where he helped lobby for labels on foods with genetically modified ingredients.
On the other side, the biotech industry has published dozens of articles, under the names of prominent academics, that in some cases were drafted by industry consultants.
Monsanto and its industry partners have also passed out an undisclosed amount in special grants to scientists like Kevin Folta, the chairman of the horticultural sciences department at the University of Florida, to help with “biotechnology outreach” and to travel around the country to defendgenetically modified foods.
So, it goes BOTH ways.
Players in a Safety Debate
The moves by Monsanto, in an alliance with the Biotechnology Industry Organization and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, are detailed in thousands of pages of emails that were at first requested by the nonprofit group U.S. Right to Know, which receives funding from the organic foods industry.
The New York Times separately requested some of these documents, then made additional requests in several states for email records of academics with ties to the organics industry.
There is no evidence that academic work was compromised, but the emails show how academics have shifted from researchers to actors in lobbying and corporate public relations campaigns.
The fight between the competing academics is not focused on questions about the safety of genetically engineered seeds themselves. The sides are fighting mainly over the safety of herbicides used in so-called genetically modified organism, or G.M.O., crops. The organic food proponents argue that herbicide use has surged, and that some of these herbicides may be unsafe. The biotech companies say that data relating to herbicide use on genetically engineered crops is being misinterpreted — and that these new crops, more resistant to pests and disease, are helping to feed the world.
So far, the anti-G.M.O. community has been winning the public relations war. Major brands like Chipotle and original Cheerios have moved to reduce or eliminate their use of genetically engineered ingredients, based in part on a marketing judgment that this is what the American public wants. That poses a threat to companies like Monsanto, which had $15.9 billion in global sales last year.
“Misinformation campaign in ag biotech area is more than overwhelming,” Yong Gao, then Monsanto’s global regulatory policy director, explained in anApril 2013 email to Dr. Folta as the company started to work closely with him. “It is really hurting the progress in translating science and knowledge into ag productivity.”
This is filled with interesting stuff. While the “this will hurt us!” argument put out by Monsanto and other Big Biotech interests does not affect me, I AM bothered by this also being a hindrance to science. Science that is now needed more than ever before, being that were going into a VERY volatile future in terms of climate. And on top of that, we have more people to feed than ever before.
To conclude, I would say the issue is less with business interests on one side using scientists to their own financial gain than it is business interests on BOTH SIDES doing it. While the science that is created by these industry funded entities may indeed be nonpartisan, one should take into consideration the image one puts out by using such data. Particularly those on the pro-GMO side.
Though I do not really doubt the authenticity and unbiased nature of the majority of these studies, this would not be so if I (like so many other people) ONLY read the information put out by entities like Ecowatch (and others) in articles like the one explored today.
These people that actively foster this disease of misinformation due to ignorance, fear or self interest REALLY piss me off. Though they claim to be working for the common good, they do nothing but retard science and progress.
But at the same time, I can not say that I agree with science as a tool of promotion (as the NYT author seems to be shining a light on). Though the information generated may indeed be clean, its inherently risky, because of illusions of corruption. I know you should not blame the victim, and I know that these anti-GMO types are not beyond telling lies or misrepresenting the facts, but really . . . . why give them more easy pickings?
It is inherently bad for ones own self interest in the debate. But it is also bad for science as a whole. Even if a majority of the populace does not know what the fuck they are talking about in terms of GMOs, they still have control of the debate.
So leave the science to the independents.