I love investigative reporting. Reporters grabbing on to a tip and falling down the rabbit hole until they find themselves in the midst of realities stranger than fiction. That doggedness for the truth is what heroes are made of, in my opinion. Carey Gillam -- a Reuters journalist who investigated Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller (Monsanto is now owned by Bayer) -- is one of those heroes. She’s also the victim of a smear campaign launched by Monsanto.
According to an article in the Guardian, “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 documents, mostly from 2015 to 2017, were disclosed as part of an ongoing court battle on the health hazards of the company’s Roundup weedkiller.
A fusion center, I’ve come to learn, is an intelligence center that monitors legitimate threats to a corporation but some companies use them for nefarious reasons including “…leveraging their money to investigate people who are engaging in their first amendment rights,” said Dave Maass, senior investigative researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation via the Guardian article.
What’s even crazier is Neil Young was part of the smear. Although, I guess it’s not too crazy considering he dedicated an entire album to criticizing the agribusiness. The 2015 record -- The Monsanto Years -- proves Young’s staying power with pressuring Wall Street to fight for the working man. The Monsanto Years debuted three decades after he co-founded Farm Aid. What started as a benefit concert has grown into a cause that aims to build a system of agriculture that values family farmers, good food, soil and water, and strong communities. So I guess he earned the target on his back with good old-fashioned muckraking.
Roundup and Monsanto/Bayer have been getting a lot of press over the last several years because of reporters like Gillam and albums like Young's. We’ve covered it beginning with California Can Order Monsanto To Put Cancer Warning On Roundup to Independent Reviews Of Monsanto’s Roundup Come Under Scrutiny to EPA Contradicts WHO, Declares Monsanto Roundup Chemical Safe and most recently Report: Bayer Floats $8 Billion Roundup Settlement.
In all, more than 18,000 lawsuits in the U.S. claim that the herbicide contains carcinogens.
This video below, from The Real News Network, features an interview with Gillam detailing some of the tactics used against her to try to discredit her findings.
I do realize that the chemical industry has been a boon to society and humans. It is responsible for converting raw materials into useful, lifesaving products. But with that power comes another responsibility -- to do no harm. And if it’s discovered that harm is happening, to do all you can to mitigate the damage and stop producing the offending product. Putting the bottom line on top is a slippery slope.
Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor. She long ago stopped using any sort of weed killer preferring to yank the rogue greens out by the root and claim victory over her garden. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.