There are over 18,000 legal cases waiting in the wings claiming Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide product Roundup led to cancers. Bayer AG, who owns Monsanto, has lost three high profile court cases with headline grabbing punitive damages in the billions. Aside from Bayer AG-Monsanto’s legal woes, there is another story unfolding in full public view.
Legal discovery from the ongoing litigation has unleashed a continuous dump of Monsanto’s internal directives, emails and strategic communications. Much of the media, who in the past often sided with the ‘settled science’ of glyphosate, has put aside any bias to tell these stories.
In 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, (IARC) classified glyphosate, an active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup, as a “probable carcinogen.” From that moment forward, IARC became a primarily target of Monsanto.
Recently deposed in March was former Monsanto executive Sam Murphey, now with Bayer, who handled the company’s global media relations. In 2016, the year after IARC’s glyphosate-cancer designation. Murphey stated Monsanto allocated “around 16 or 17 million” towards “engagement and media relations and other activities on glyphosate.” The company’s multi-pronged attack included a “Let Nothing Go” strategy in which it monitored the media and took actions on stories that didn’t include the company’s perspective or point of view. It also kept “a multitude of information” on around 200 journalists, politicians, scientists and others deemed likely to influence the debate on glyphosate in France.
The latest batch of documents reveal Monsanto’s efforts to defund IARC by writing letters on behalf of sitting members of Congress to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which oversees government funding to IARC. Monsanto’s PR teams at FTI Consulting also worked behind the scenes to draft language for legislation aimed at defunding IARC.
The Intercept is reporting that FTI Government Affairs, one of several consulting firms guiding Monsanto’s political response to the IARC decision, drafted a letter for Rep. Rob Aderholt, R-Ala., a senior lawmaker on the House Appropriations Committee. The letter was addressed to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes for Health.
The Intercept writes:
“The FTI-written letter declared that glyphosate “does not cause cancer,” accused the IARC of peddling “bunk science,” and threatened a reassessment of the NIH budget to ensure that the agency is “committed to only funding organizations that produce information and conclusions based on sound science, robust processes, and credible methodology.”
“During his deposition, [Todd] Rands [a former Monsanto attorney working with FTI] said that he believed it appropriate for Monsanto to draft a letter on behalf of a lawmaker to NIH, calling such ghostwriting a “common practice in Washington.”
Letters and demands for investigation over NIH’s funding for IARC also included Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, then-chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., Chaffetz’s successor as Oversight chair, and Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, then-chair of the House Science Committee, all called for inquiries into IARC funding and the designation of glyphosate as a carcinogen.
Last week The Guardian obtained discovery documents related to ongoing Roundup litigation reporting:
“Monsanto operated a “fusion center” to monitor and discredit journalists and activists, and targeted a reporter who wrote a critical book on the company, documents reveal. The agrochemical corporation also investigated the singer Neil Young and wrote an internal memo on his social media activity and music.”
The documents obtained spanned from 2015 to 2017 and described an “intelligence fusion center” – a term that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use for operations focused on surveillance and terrorism.
Among its targets was US Right to Know (USRTK), a non-profit investigative research group focusing on the food industry. Carey Gillam, a longtime reporter who covers the agrochemical industry as well as the author of Whitewash – The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science.
“These revelations come from only a handful of dox; I have confirmed there are actually over 10,000 internal pages that mention me but are sealed. And I am only one of their targets. This is just a scratch in the surface of Monsanto’s strategy to silence critics.”
Gillam was recently interviewed by HighWire host Del Bigtree to discuss the recent Monsanto’s documents and the future of the agrochemical industry.