Monsanto & Big Biotech Vs. Freedom Of Information

Today I am focusing on an article published on Truthdig, accusing Monsanto and its scientists of creating backlash to FOIA (or Freedom Of Information Act) laws.

This is also an interesting piece, because it was written by Ralph Nader. A name I have not come across since reading Micheal Moore’s book Downsize This! (published prier to the 1995 election, if memory serves). Its funny how many of those names (well known in the political arena of 20 years ago!) are still relevant. Most notable of them all, Hillary Clinton.

But now, on to the article.

Next year, the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will celebrate its 50th anniversary as one of the finest laws our Congress has ever passed. It is a vital investigative tool for exposing government and corporate wrongdoing.

The FOIA was championed by Congressman John E. Moss (D-CA), who strove to “guarantee the right of every citizen to know the facts of his Government.” Moss, with whom I worked closely as an outside citizen advocate, said that “without the fullest possible access to Government information, it is impossible to gain the knowledge necessary to discharge the responsibilities of citizenship.”

All fifty states have adopted FOIA statutes.

As the FOIA approaches its 50th year, it faces a disturbing backlash from scientists tied to the agrichemical company Monsanto and its allies. Here are some examples.

On March 9th, three former presidents of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – all with ties to Monsanto or the biotech industry – wrote in the pages of the Guardian to criticize the use of the state FOIA laws to investigate taxpayer-funded scientists who vocally defend Monsanto, the agrichemical industry, their pesticides, and genetically engineered food. They called the FOIAs an “organized attack on science.”

The super-secretive Monsanto has stated, regarding the FOIAs, that “agenda-driven groups often take individual documents or quotes out of context in an attempt to distort the facts, advance their agenda, and stop legitimate research.”

Frankly, I agree. Not with Nader’s position. But with the allegations against the anti-Monsanto/GMO side.

No, this does not justify the repeal of FOIA laws. What this means, is that those that are on side of science and fact (as opposed to ideological idiocy) need to do a better job of fighting the anti-GMO media machine.

I do not side with corporations, groups or anyone for any reason besides if I feel them to be on the right track. As such, though the anti-GMO side often frames this argument as a David vs Goliath type battle, I often think they have the roles reversed.

I have seen and looked into enough of these slanted articles to recognize that trickery happens on both sides. Though I may SOUND like I am pro-Monsanto/Big Biotech in many of my pieces, I assure you that I acknowledge it for the multi-national corporation that it is. But this does not mean that you assume nefarious activities and agendas. Or worse, bend the facts to support such an outcome or hypothesis.

Though the Anti-GMO crowd often frames its side as being pro fact (“We want everyone to know what they are consuming!”), they are not beyond similar trickery that they accuse the opposition of. Though much of it may be driven by ignorance or genuine altruism, there are also agendas being pushed.

We always knew about big biotech and its usage of whatever resources it could get ahold of to promote its wares. We always knew that, because that is how big companies operate. However, this article exposed another entity, one that I have personally dubbed big organic.
This industry driven entity is also not beyond utilizing whatever measures it possibly can to promote its products (even underhanded campaigns against GMO’s).

While I dislike anyone using trickery, this form is arguably worse than what is done by big biotech. Because no matter who is funding the studies or how the studies are being conducted (and no matter the reason!), the results often garner direct and immediate action from consumers. Which for the GMO ignorant public, often means boycott and condemnation.

We are seeing more and more articles such as this with each passing day. Be it nations or big food companies, many are seeing fit to reduce or remove GMO’s from their products ingredient chains. Due to consumer demand.

Which is a good thing. Giving the people what they want. But there is also a sneaky side to this, which comes at the expense of the irrational anti-GMO idiots. And industry.

Thanks to many of these Big organic funded studies and campaigns (or just misinformation campaigns in general, no matter who is paying the tab), the media gets saturated with only that bit of information. And when I say the media, there are a WHOLE lot more anti-GMO platforms and sources than there are rational platforms.
Since these guys are the Goliath of the media market (particularly social media), these guys can (and do!) drive consumer choice and demand. What they push is accepted on its face.

Which means that we have a giant swath of consumers that are not just irrationally fearful, but also vulnerable to marketing. One big example of food pandering that I have bitched about before, is the gluten free movement. While the mass of new products is great for those with genuine gluten conditions (around 1% of the population of Canada, my home), it was embraced by around 10 million Canadians at its peak (numbers are declining in 2015). The majority of these people embraced the trend after either falsely attributing it as a weight loss aid, or just assuming it better because of its price.

Though gluten intolerance is a genuine problem for a small number of people in the human population, many were swayed into spending often much more money for foods that, had no real beneficial properties for them. And though it was unofficially widely known as a more healthy alternative to traditional foods, this was often not the case (I seen this myself when comparing some items while shopping!).

Despite this, industry did little to steer consumers in the right direction. And why would they? If your sales are tripling from quarter to quarter, why would you want to stop that cash flow?

The same goes for the GMO Free thing (craze? We will see in a few years).

If enough people want products that do not contain genetically modified ingredients, companies will listen and give the people what they want. Because (like gluten free was and is) there is no downside. Your seen as “part of the solution”, which puts you in consumers good books (since most people can’t be bothered to look beyond a positive marketing campaign anymore). And the package marking (certified GMO Free) becomes part of the marketing.

It does not matter if the targeted consumers are only coming to the table with part of the information they need (or flat out false information). In fact, it does not matter if the food itself would not have contained genetically modified ingredients to begin with. The seal sells it all.

But though industry can be the big beneficiary of GMO ignorance, it can also be adversely affected. For example, I wrote a post about Heinz coming under fire for selling baby products containing BT corn.

I looked into BT corn a bit, and concluded it not to be a threat. Its not something that I would worry about consuming, nor is it something I would worry about feeding a child.

But everyone is not me. Many people only see a whole shit load of news articles in their social media feeds proclaiming how dangerous the product is, with links to studies. Though these studies are often easily proven as bunk . . . . again, people often don’t do this.

So next thing you know, Heinz (or ANY company in this position) is accused of feeding children poisons, and vilified. Which leaves pretty much no recourse but to drop the GMO’s. If not, these scare tactics may take a nasty bite from their business.

In the great GMO debate, all sides are dirty. No one has clean hands. And anyone that tries to tell you otherwise is either willfully ignorant, or completely full of shit.

Do your research. ALWAYS.

I will now skip ahead a ways in the article (much of what is written I have covered and torn apart in previous entries).

U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit consumer group staffed by consumer advocates, is conducting an investigation of the food and agrichemical industries, including companies like Monsanto, and how they use front groups and taxpayer-funded professors at public universities to advance their claims that processed foods, artificial additives, and GMOs are safe, wholesome, and beyond reproach.

Based on documents that U.S. Right to Know obtained through the FOIA, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Lipton wrote a front page New York Times article about how Monsanto and the agrichemical industry use publically-funded scientists to lobby, and to promote its messages and products.  For example, Lipton reported on a $25,000 grant from Monsanto to University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta, who had repeatedly denied having ties to Monsanto: “‘This is a great 3rd-party approach to developing the advocacy that we’re looking to develop,’ Michael Lohuis, the director of crop biometrics at Monsanto, wrote last year in an email as the company considered giving Dr. Folta an unrestricted grant.”

Yes, this is the same New York Times article I linked earlier. The article that exposed both big organic AND big biotech’s trickery with academia. But again, you don’t see both sides to that coin here.

I came into this with a positive view of Ralph Nader. But this little article of republished bullshit has changed that a lot.

I can respect a man that is always standing up and looking out for the safety of Americans (and the world, as these changes are implemented elsewhere). But I think your views here, could use some enrichment.

Your better than ideological parroting. Come on.

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