Monsanto ran a psy-ops war-room to discredit journalists and spy on Neil Young

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/08/08/needle-n-the-damage-done.html

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spy on Neil Young

You spy on Neil Young, you go to hell. It’s a proven scientific fact.

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How you gonna spy on Neil Young when he has his barn cranked up to 11?

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The memos reveal that the company spied on Canadian folk legend Neil Young

The only deeply surprising thing in this story is that I didn’t know Neil Young was Canadian.

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I don’t think they were wrong about public perception being worse for the “Monsanto” name than for “Bayer”. I believe most people still associate the name “Bayer” more with the invention of Aspirin than with the manufacture of Zyklon B. Technically, it wasn’t even called “Bayer” when they were committing crimes against humanity (it was “IG Farben”), so the Bayer brand isn’t as tainted as much as it should be.

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You must be a Southern Man…

(South of Canada?)

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Young sold his house in Hawaii around the same time that “Monsanto Years” was released. FWIW, Monsanto has had a big and very visible presence in the Islands for 50 years, as they like to test their pesticides and modified crops here.

I do feel kinda bad for Monsanto. Most of the science (independent as well as funded by them) seems pretty clear that round-up’s cancer risk is either non-existent or extremely low (which isn’t surprising since it targets a metabolic pathway not found in mammals). Seems that most people’s thought process runs kinda along the lines of “agent Orange is a herbicide, agent Orange causes cancer, roundup is a herbicide, therefore roundup must cause cancer”. Or just chemophobia/GMOphobia in general. Meanwhile having no issue chugging back a few beer loaded with a known group 1 carcinogen (ethanol).

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Absolute bullshit. It can increase the rate of some cancers by 40%.

Some people smoke, so everybody should be happy with every other way to get cancer, right?

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Said one study; which is contradicted by the large NIH study and others that found no correlation. And that study involved those spraying the stuff industrially; for the amounts a consumer is exposed to, the risk is essentially zero. Yet people stress about it while happily downing quantities of proven carcinogens with no worry at all.

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It was a meta-analysis. That means it was a survey of the other existing studies. It’s the most current one.

“All of the meta-analyses conducted to date, including our own, consistently report the same key finding: exposure to GBHs (glyphosate-based herbicides) are associated with an increased risk of NHL…”

I also find the fact that you’re emphasizing that it’s more likely to cause cancer in workers than consumers really troubling too. You’re okay with cancer, as long as it happens to someone else? In any case, glyphosates can get into nearby water systems, and workers aren’t the only cause for concern.

More whatabout-ism. People “stress” about it, because people are getting cancer.

You can be a Monsanto apologist if you want but the current scientific view, as well as what’s happening in the courts, are against you. It’s actually great that you’re the one who’s wrong, and not the judges.

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A meta-analysis of shitty studies still leads to shitty results. This wasn’t a good meta-analysis at all, conflating a bunch of different types of studies with completely different methodologies,
including lots of low quality animal studies which used very high levels of exposure
. edit: was mixing this up with the IARC study, the one which erroneously came to the conclusion that glyphosate was a ‘probable carcinogen’, this study was one large cohort study and six low quality case-control studies

You’d think that a 41% increase in cancers would show up as an increase in cases of NHL, given the massive increase in glyphosate use since the late 90s, but NHL rates have remained flat over the last twenty years. Weirdly there was an relatively large increase between the 70s and 90s, prior to the more widespread use of roundup. This can probably be mostly explained by increased longevity, which leads to more deaths by cancer across the board (most of the increase in NHL deaths seems to be from people in their 70s and over).

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Your guesswork about NHL rates isn’t a study at all.

I don’t think I’ll take your evaluation of actual scientific studies that seriously.

All of the meta-analyses conducted to date, including our own, consistently report the same key finding: exposure to GBHs (glyphosate-based herbicides) are associated with an increased risk of NHL…

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Don’t take my word for it then, here’s a good take-down from an actual cancer epidemiologist:

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He complains that a meta-analysis “provides no new data”?

Are you joking with this?

This is the article that was pulled from Forbes because the author failed to disclose his ties to American Council on Science and Health, a corporate front group tied to a lot of campaigns on behalf of tobacco companies and the like.

The website you’re linking to is also operated by that propaganda group.

Astro-turf junk science somewhere else please.

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I’m sorry, but you’re conflating relative risk and absolute risk there. Here’s a good summary of the current state of glyphosate, including the known issues with the study you cited. The TL;DR is that the scientific consensus is glyphosate is safe. ScienceBasedMedicine is as far from astroturfing as you can get:
https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/update-on-glyphosate/

This is in no way an endorsement of Monsanto or the nasty things they’ve done. But let’s keep our dislike or corporations from polluting the science.

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Bullshit, his main complaints, if you’d bothered to read it, were with the use of the case-control studies with varying methodologies and the cherry picking of data within those studies to find the results they were looking for. Saying ‘it provides no new data’ was just another way of him saying ‘this is a meta-analysis’, he wasn’t criticising a meta-analysis for not providing new data. :man_facepalming:

That website is an open-science publishing platform, with a pretty diverse range of topics and contributors. I don’t have a problem with them being partly funded by corporate sponsors, and the majority of their funding appears to come from private donations. Googling these guys the criticism seems to be coming from the usual host of anti-science activist cranks and conspiracy theorists, who have far less integrity than these guys as far as I’m concerned, so it’s hilarious to call this guy junk science, he’s widely published researcher in mainstream journals, not some crank. btw he seems to have multiple articles up on Forbes, on similar topics, so I doubt very much it was pulled for any conflict of interest.

btw claiming I’m engaging in asto-turfing is against the rules here, we’re supposed to assume we’re all arguing in good faith.

The scientific consensus on this is that there is no cancer risk from glyphosate. There was a reason the recent IARC (mostly animal based) study which classified it as a ‘probable carcinogen’ (the main factor in the recent unwarranted judgements against Monsanto), generated so much controversy in the field, it was also cherry picked activism, not science:

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The article in ScienceBasedMedicine directly links to the same author, Geoffrey Kabat, at the Monsanto-funded Genetic Literacy Project for the “criticism” of the article I posted. As one example in a career of examples, here’s a great paper on the time he published a study claiming second-hand smoke was harmless, and forgot to mention the study was paid for by Philip Morris. Despite their other good work, that’s not “as far from astroturfing as you can get”.

The main criticism that study gets is that it didn’t include a study that found a different sample group had higher rates of lymphoma, but not NHL. The ScienceBasedMedicine article may judge the increased risk of cancer small, or the people too few to care about, but it doesn’t say there’s no correlation currently.

Absolute untruth. A completely unsupportable sentence.

No, it’s a super-shady spokesperson platform run by the former director of the American Council on Science and Health [ACSH]. Geoffrey Kabat was also part of the ACSH. Monsanto funded ACSH to produce articles promoting their product. It’s not a theory that he was a part of astro-turfing, their e-mails were leaked.

You can compare it to this story, found very locally:

Monsanto ran a psy-ops war-room to discredit journalists and spy on Neil Young

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The people spraying the stuff industrially are real human beings. Usually the least protected demographic of the region at that. So being so dismissive when concerns are raised might reflect a lack of exposure to info on the costs for agricultural workers and rural populations.

A contingent issue that’s come to the political forefront here in Argentina, where lax regulation has led to spraying up to 10x the legally regulated amounts on crops to be commonplace, is how close to schools, roadways and residential neighborhoods landowners could spray- used to be 100 meters but more recently was made more lenient, meaning you could have industrial strength pesticides at DIY concentrations being sprayed right up to the edge of your home, kid’s playground, etc.

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Yeah, you’d better think about that one.