'Secret Docs' Show Monsanto's Attempt to Influence Writers, Bribe Scientists
By Jessica Corbett
A trove of Monsanto's internal records released on Tuesday raises serious concerns about company efforts to influence media reports and scientific research related to risks posed by is popular weedkiller, Roundup.
As the New York Times reported:
Documents show that Henry I. Miller, an academic and a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes's website in 2015. Mr. Miller could not be reached for comment.
A similar issue appeared in academic research. An academic involved in writing research funded by Monsanto, John Acquavella, a former Monsanto employee, appeared to express discomfort with the process, writing in a 2015 email to a Monsanto executive, "I can't be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication." He also said of the way the company was trying to present the authorship: "We call that ghost writing and it is unethical."
A Monsanto official said the comments were the result of "a complete misunderstanding" that had been "worked out," while Mr. Acquavella said in an email on Tuesday that "there was no ghostwriting" and that his comments had been related to an early draft and a question over authorship that was resolved.
The dozens of documents include text messages and emails among Monsanto employees discussing Roundup's safety, as well as their communications with writers and researchers. They were released by one of the law firms representing a group of gardeners, farmers and agricultural workers who are suing Monsanto over allegations that glyphosate, a key chemical in Roundup, caused them to develop cancer. These documents follow records released in March that, among other things, revealed company ties to an official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), prompting an investigation into possible collusion between Monsanto and the EPA staffer.
"This is a look behind the curtain," Brent Wisner, an attorney from the firm that released the documents, told journalist Carey Gillam, who is also the research director for U.S. Right to Know. "These show that Monsanto has deliberately been stopping studies that look bad for them, ghostwriting literature and engaging in a whole host of corporate malfeasance. They (Monsanto) have been telling everybody that these products are safe because regulators have said they are safe, but it turns out that Monsanto has been in bed with U.S. regulators while misleading European regulators."
"This trove marks a turning point in Monsanto's corporate life," Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., another attorney involved with the class action suit, told Gillam. "They show Monsanto executives colluding with corrupted EPA officials to manipulate and bury scientific data to kill studies when preliminary data threatened Monsanto's commercial ambitions, bribing scientists and ghostwriting their publications, and purchasing peer review to conceal information about Roundup's carcinogenicity, its toxicity, its rapid absorption by the human body, and its horrendous risks to public health and the environment ... We can now prove that all Monsanto's claims about glyphosate's safety were myths concocted by amoral propaganda and lobbying teams."
Glyphosate, Roundup's active ingredient, is the most heavily-used agricultural chemical in history. Although the popular weed-killer has been approved by U.S. regulators for decades, glyphosate is often condemned by environmentalists and food safety advocates, who worry about hormone disruption, and the contentious debate over whether glyphosate causes cancer—as well as its role in the "pesticide treadmill." It was deemed a "probable human carcinogen" by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015, and in June California announced it would add glyphosate to the state's list of known cancer-causing chemicals.
More than 700 pages of documents also reveal Monsanto's efforts to discredit the WHO classification, which was issued by the agency's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). As Splinter reported:
Earlier this year Reuters published a supposedly damning story which posited that the academic who led IARC's inquiry into glyphosate mislead the organization about his findings.
Though, as Carey Gillam of the Huffington Post noted, the journalist who authored the story, Kate Kelland, relied on documents that were likely given to her by Monsanto. The documents Kelland cited were unavailable to the public at the time, but Monsanto had copies. Kelland's story also relied on a paid consultant and scientist for Monsanto, Bob Tarone.
Monsanto's continuous effort to discredit WHO's research, as revealed the numerous published documents, only serves to taint its own insistence that Roundup isn't toxic. If glyphosate was truly harmless, Monsanto would not have bribe, pressure, or persuade academics to say otherwise.
The release of Monsanto's "secret documents" was widely supported and circulated by environmentalists and food safety advocates online:
Just Released Docs Show Monsanto 'Executives Colluding With Corrupted EPA Officials to Manipulate Scientific Data' https://t.co/aCYVEIWPSn— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo)1501631043.0
Released docs show @MonsantoCo execs colluding with EPA officials to manipulate scientific data. https://t.co/xz6hrrFSjS— Friends of the Earth (@Friends of the Earth)1501608603.0
New #MonsantoPapers add to questions of regulatory collusion, scientific mischief https://t.co/LdA7TwsBri via @careygillam of @USRightToKnow— Gary Ruskin (@Gary Ruskin)1501578882.0
New court docs show how @MonsantoCo controls regulatory agencies, buying off scientists & blocking negative studies. https://t.co/S8pq5gM5Hz— Organic Consumers (@Organic Consumers)1501597203.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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