Monsanto sought to discredit journalists, critics: report

Monsanto sought to discredit journalists, critics: report
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Agrichemical company Monsanto ran a sophisticated, multiyear campaign to monitor and discredit journalists and other critics of the company, according to internal company documents cited by The Guardian in an article published Thursday.

The company, which is now owned by Bayer, ran what was essentially a war room to target critics that included a longtime investigative journalist and the singer Neil Young.

The Monsanto “fusion center” targeted former Reuters journalist Carey Gillam, who has been reporting on Monsanto for years and wrote a book in 2017 about the company’s herbicide and its links to cancer.

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The large-scale project targeting Gillam was revealed in a series of documents released as part of Monsanto’s court battles over whether the weedkiller Roundup causes cancer. The company has released thousands of internal company documents, studies and emails as part of the lawsuits.

In a statement to The Guardian, a Bayer spokesman said the records show “that Monsanto’s activities were intended to ensure there was a fair, accurate and science-based dialogue about the company and its products in response to significant misinformation, including steps to respond to the publication of a book written by an individual who is a frequent critic of pesticides and GMOs.”

Monsanto did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

More than 18,000 people have filed suit against Monsanto, alleging that exposure to Roundup caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto covered up the risks by manipulating scientific data and silencing critics.

The company has lost three high-profile cases in the past year, and Bayer is reportedly offering $8 billion to settle all outstanding claims.

According to The Guardian, Monsanto contracted with an outside consulting firm that planned a series of "action items" via email to attack Gillam’s book before its release, including paying Google to promote search results critical of her work.

The emails showed the company also wrote “talking points” for “third parties” to criticize her book, and directed “industry and farmer customers” on how to post negative reviews. Monsanto even developed a “Carey Gillam Book plan” spreadsheet with the codename “Project Spruce.”

In addition to Gillam, Monsanto executives pushed back against Young for his anti-Monsanto advocacy. The singer released a 2015 album called “The Monsanto Years” and produced a mini-documentary called “Seeding Fear.”

In the emails, Monsanto closely monitored Young’s Twitter activity, as well as traffic to his Facebook page when the documentary was released. The emails showed Monsanto was prepared to counter Young’s album, and analyzed his lyrics to determine potential topics he might target while he was on tour.

Emails also indicated that the company was aware that 2015 was the 30th anniversary of the Farm Aid concert, which they were monitoring in case Young did something to prompt "legal action."