The mammoth biotech company Monsanto has been implicated for hiring a company of Internet trolls through third parties in order to combat unfavorable comments with “ghost-written” fake scientific reports to minimize the potential harms of their products.
— RT (@RT_com) May 3, 2017
— GMWatch (@GMWatch) May 7, 2017
These accusations appeared amid pre-trials on account of 50 lawsuits against Monsanto that were pending in the US District Court in San Francisco. The plantiffs allege that Monsanto covered up the potential risks of their leading product Round-Up, which caused them or their relatives to acquire non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
— Gary Ruskin (@garyruskin) May 2, 2017
In spite of Monsanto's reluctance, in March, a judge ruled that all the documents gathered by the plaintiffs could be made public. Whistleblower organization US Right to Know has assembled all the documents that you can find here.
The plaintiffs asserted that Monsanto conducted all online material, including social media, that pointed out the risk factors of it's products.
“Monsanto even started the aptly-named ‘Let Nothing Go’ program to leave nothing, not even Facebook comments, unanswered; through a series of third parties, it employs individuals who appear to have no connection to the industry, who in turn post positive comments on news articles and Facebook posts, defending Monsanto, its chemicals, and GMOs,” according to the document. Monsanto also “quietly funnels money to ‘think tanks’ such as the ‘Genetic Literacy Project’ and the ‘American Council on Science and Health”– organizations intended to shame scientists and highlight information helpful to Monsanto and other chemical producers,” explained the plaintiffs.
All of these allegations, which were provided in court as evidence stem from a cluster of emails written by Monsanto executives. These emails indicate that staff members were directed to “ghost-write” articles and have some "independent scientists” sign their names following the "study" for the purpose of reducing costs.
— Gary Ruskin (@garyruskin) April 27, 2017
“A less expensive/more palatable approach might be to involve experts only for the areas of contention, epidemiology and possibly MOA (depending on what comes out of the IARC meeting), and we ghost-write the Exposure Tox & Genetox sections,” the letter’s excerpt reads. “An option would be to add Greim and Kier or Kirkland to have their names on the publication, but we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak. Recall that is how we handled Williams Kroes & Munro, 2000,” as indicated by the email document.
On the flip side...
Monsanto has accused it's opponents of taking a “single comment in a single email out of context.”
The company ousted the claims and stated, "these allegations are false. Monsanto scientists did not ghostwrite the paper. The paper and its conclusions are the work of Dr. Williams, Dr. Kroes and Dr. Munro. The paper also underwent the journal’s rigorous peer review process before it was published. Because plaintiffs’ attorneys are taking a single comment in a single email out of context to attempt to mischaracterize the role of a Monsanto scientist, Dr. William Heydens, who earned his PhD. in Toxicology from the University of Michigan in 1984, we are setting the record straight and taking the unusual step of publicly disclosing some of his sworn and transcribed testimony from a deposition regarding his involvement with the Williams et al (2000) paper," according to Monsanto's official blog.
— Big Ag Watch (@BigAgWatch) April 28, 2017
In addition, Monsanto had one of their representatives reach out to RT for a statement, "confidently [saying] that glyphosate is not the cause" of cancer. Monsanto backed up their claims by suggesting regulatory authorities in Europe, US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Australia have publicly reaffirmed that glyphosate does not cause cancer."
"Plaintiffs’ attorneys in the United States have been soliciting plaintiffs for potential lawsuits since an ad hoc working group called IARC incorrectly classified glyphosate," the statement read, also including that "these attorneys are attempting to tie the IARC classification to individual cases of cancer, and they have been running advertisements to recruit plaintiffs. These lawsuits have no merit."
"While IARC’s erroneous classification has attracted media attention and been used repeatedly by certain anti-agriculture organizations to generate unwarranted fear and confusion, regulators around the world continue to support the safe use of glyphosate," and that Monsanto "empathize[s] with anyone facing cancer," according to the company's email to RT.
Do the outspoken critics of Monsanto have a point or have they taken their claims too far?
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