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Fake News – Behind the BigAg Machine

In The Experiment, investigator Jude Brannock travels to a quiet farming community in rural Vermont to find her young protégé who has inexplicably vanished from his undercover job at a laboratory that is testing a new drug on animals.

Although a fictional suspense novel, I have always tried to research the issues around which my stories revolve. In this newest book, genetically modified plants and the farmers who resist the chokehold of giant agribusinesses like Monsanto play a part. Because I’m not a scientist, I rely heavily on organizations and websites that will provide me with unbiased information in layman’s terms.

I thought I had found one such site in The Genetic Literacy Project. Their tag line is “Science Not Ideology.” Their archived articles cover such topics as Crops & Food, Health & Wellness, and Sustainability, amongst many others. And at the top of their page, they assert that they are committed to full transparency, providing as proof a link to their latest “annual report.” Sounds pretty solid, right?

The clue that this organization was not what it seems (and as a mystery writer, I’m into clues), was a single item in their mission statement: “Our goal is to disentangle science from ideology, prevent legislative over-reach, promote cooperation among academic and industry researchers and encourage an ethically and scientifically sound development of innovative genetic technologies that also respect our religious diversity.”

There it was … “prevent legislative over-reach.” In other words … No regulations. No collusion. No obstruction.

So, I did some digging and learned that The Genetic Literacy Project is a key partner in Monsanto’s public relations efforts to protect and defend agrichemical products. The founder Jon Entine portrays himself as an objective authority on science, but according to US Right to Know, he is a longtime PR operative with deep ties to the chemical industry.

Entine was the founder and principal of ESG MediaMetrics, a public relations firm that had Monsanto as a client in 2011. At the time, he was employed by the now-defunct Statistical Assessment Services (STATS), a nonprofit group that was known to take positions bucking scientific consensus or dismissing emerging evidence of harm. The parent company of STATS was the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA), which in the 1990’s was paid by Philip Morris to discredit stories critical of smoking. Entine was a director of the CMPA in fiscal year 2014/2015. He’s been on somebody’s corporate payroll for quite a while.

The Project’s tax documents reveal a pattern of funding from anonymous sources and right-wing foundations that push deregulation and climate science denial as well as undisclosed funding from the biotechnology industry.

So, whether you’re writing a novel or just want to know what your kids are eating, be your own detective. Look for the clues, and then start digging.

One Comment

  1. Hmmm. That was interesting. My background is in history and technology. I don’t really have a position here myself. I’m aware that Monsanto is a major chemical company but wouldn’t hold that in and of itself against them. I’m not surprised that Monsanto would have Front’s acting as a shill for them but a brief trip following your link to the U.S. Right to Know website indicates they’ve really got it in for Monsanto.

    I got my MA studying Communist China during a period when, unlike the Soviet Union, they were publishing their dirty laundry for everyone to read. So that was really interesting – but – I really came away from that with a very strong distrust for any of my sources. You couldn’t believe anything anyone was saying. You had to know which faction they were part of and what their agenda was. Then – you saw their publications about their opponents – as sources of information on THEM. They might be lying about their opponents but … how did they present themselves and what were their positions on things.

    Of course – despite a few classes I took – I can’t read Chinese – so I had to rely on translations of Chinese news paper articles – and those had been done by the CIA. There were also a number of Rand Corporation studies I got a lot of information out of.

    Here again – you can use something to gather information but you need to be aware of their slant on things and you can’t just go with one source – but have to check things from multiple sources against each other. It can be a real pain in the ass but that’s what you have to do. I spent a year researching my thesis and a year writing it … then I went into Technology so I could get a job …

    Anyway – GL & Fly Safe!

    P.S. – that picture of the drone crop duster is interesting too … the engineer in me is going … “what’s it’s pay load? How big is that drone? How long do the batteries last? How much area can it cover?”


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