Monsanto behind anti-organic propaganda: Newsweek’s opinion piece proves how desperate they are to discredit organics
04/08/2019 // Cassie B. // Views

Monsanto is growing more desperate to protect its reputation and discredit organics as the scandals pile up around the toxic pesticide manufacturer. You don’t even have to read the recent Newsweek piece by Henry Miller or be familiar with his background to realize that Monsanto had a hand in it as its title tells you everything you need to know: “The Campaign for Organic Food is a Deceitful, Expensive Scam.”

This article has the usual pro-GMO party lines and it bears the name of one their favorite corporate shills – although if Monsanto’s own internal emails are anything to go by, you can bet it wasn’t written by the scholar at all. Miller might come across as a great choice for delivering their message, with his degrees from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his background working for the FDA as a medical researcher lending him credibility in some people’s eyes, but a closer examination reveals a long history of defending harmful products, whether it’s glyphosate or tobacco or genetically-engineered hormones.

In the article, sources from the pesticide industry are used to make unsubstantiated claims surrounding organic agriculture. For example, it espouses the idea that organic farming hurts the environment more than conventional agriculture, which is surely hard to swallow even for those who don’t really care too much one way or the other about organic food.

The article also uses information provided by Jay Byrne, who used to be the corporate communications director for Monsanto and is now the director of PR firm v-Fluence Interactive. Emails obtained by U.S. Right to Know show how Byrne helped Monsanto set up a front group known as Academics Review to publish reports portraying the organic industry as nothing more than a marketing scam. EcoWatch’s Stacy Malkan reports that the idea was to set up a platform that academics could use to sound credible while attacking Monsanto’s critics and receive money from industry groups. The same people singled out by those reports are attacked in Miller’s Newsweek piece.


Monsanto often resorts to this tactic

It’s only slightly surprising that they would try to pull this off so soon after this very behavior was exposed in internal documents released in a class action lawsuit against the firm by cancer patients. One email exchange spells out how Monsanto asked Miller to write an article dismissing cancer concerns about its products, and how Miller responded that he would be willing to do it if he “could start from a high-quality draft.”

The article was published by Forbes and was remarkably similar to the draft supplied by Monsanto, attacking scientists from the World Health Organization’s IARC for listing glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen.” Forbes later removed it from their website and ended their relationship with Miller in light of the revelations.

Miller was also involved in the smear campaign against Dr. Oz. After Dr. Oz talked about the dangers of Roundup and glyphosate on his popular TV show, Miller spearheaded a letter-writing campaign in which doctors asked the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University to remove Dr. Oz as a surgery professor. The effort failed, and many were able to see it for what it really was.

Given the history between Miller and Monsanto, it’s pretty clear what is going on here. Monsanto’s already fragile reputation took a big hit with the release of the Monsanto Papers and organic food’s popularity is soaring as more people open their eyes to the dangers of glyphosate. Even though plenty of people can see right through their desperate attempts to salvage their image, it’s likely we’ll see a lot more of this type of propaganda coming from them in the future.

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