Monsanto Shill Fired by Forbes

monsanto shill

Story at-a-glance -

  • A common corporate tactic is to hire “third-party experts” to bring the industry’s message to the public, cloaked as independent opinion or expertise
  • Henry Miller has been repeatedly outed as a shill for the chemical technology industry. Forbes has now fired him for publishing material under his own name that turned out to be ghostwritten by Monsanto
  • Internal emails reveal Monsanto pressured a journal editor to retract a damning animal study showing Roundup and genetically engineered corn caused cancer and early death

By Dr. Mercola

A common corporate tactic, well-honed by the tobacco industry, is to use "third-party experts" to bring the industry's message to the public under the cloak of independent opinion or expertise. The idea is that academic types are far more credible than industry employees when it comes to defending the industry's position.

Over the years, I've written about many of these so-called "independent experts" that turned out to be anything but. Among them is Henry Miller, who was thoroughly outed as a Monsanto shill during the 2012 Proposition 37 GMO labeling campaign in California.

Henry Miller Outed as Monsanto Puppet — Again

The industry-funded "No on Prop 37" placed Miller front and center of its campaign, breaking all sorts of rules in the process. As the Los Angeles Times1 reported at the time, a No on 37 advertisement had to be pulled off the air because Miller was fraudulently identified as being part of the Stanford University faculty. Behind him in the shot was Stanford's recognizable vaulted campus walkway.

Alas, not only is Miller not a Stanford professor (he's a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank that just happens to be housed on the Stanford campus), Stanford also has a policy to not take positions on candidates or ballot measures, and does not allow political filming on campus.

Aside from promoting genetically engineered (GE) foods (he was actually the founding director of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Office of Biotechnology), Miller also has a long history2 of defending toxic chemicals such as neonicotinoid pesticides, DDT and cigarettes.

He's even penned articles suggesting radioactive fallout might be beneficial for health, while claiming "Organic agriculture is to the environment what cigarette smoking is to human health" — apparently momentarily forgetting he's defended the safety of cigarette smoking.3

Miller is also a friend of the infamous industry front group American Council for Science and Health (ACSH), which has defended everything from fracking and pesticides to bisphenol-A and GE foods. Now, Miller has made less than flattering headlines yet again — this time for being fired by Forbes Magazine for submitting articles ghostwritten by Monsanto.

Unethical Ghostwriting More Common Than You Might Suspect

Monsanto isn't feeding the world as they claim, but they sure are spoon-feeding scientists, academics and journalists. This shameful practice is far more common than anyone would like to think. Fortunately, Forbes had the integrity to do something about it this time.

That doesn't always happen. The evidence4 against Miller emerged during the court-ordered discovery process of a class action lawsuit against Monsanto by people who claim they developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as a result of glyphosate exposure (the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, used by farmers and home gardeners alike).

The documents, more than 700 pages in all, were posted online by the law firm Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman,5 which states the documents "allow people to see what is happening 'behind the curtain' of secrecy that normally shrouds ongoing litigation … These documents tell an alarming story of ghostwriting, scientific manipulation, collusion with the Environmental Protection Agency, and previously undisclosed information about how the human body absorbs glyphosate." As reported by The New York Times:6

"Documents show that Henry I. Miller … asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes's website in 2015 … A similar issue appeared in academic research.

An academic involved in writing research funded by Monsanto, John Acquavella, a former Monsanto employee, appeared to express discomfort with the process, writing in a 2015 email to a Monsanto executive, 'I can't be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication.' He also said of the way the company was trying to present the authorship: 'We call that ghost writing and it is unethical.'"

Miller Fired for Submitting Ghostwritten Material 

While there's controversy about the legality of the release of these internal emails by plaintiff's attorneys to the public,7 Forbes' response was swift. Faced with evidence they'd published material under Miller's name that was in fact ghostwritten by Monsanto, Forbes not only fired Miller but also removed all of his work from their site.

The article in question, published in 2015, attacked the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, which had classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. Email correspondence reveals Monsanto asked Miller if he'd be willing to write an article on the findings, to which he replied "I would be if I could start from a high-quality draft."

The subsequent article, which was near-identical to Monsanto's draft, was published in Miller's name, with no mention of Monsanto involvement.8 Forbes' site expressly states that "opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own," which in this case clearly was not true. Mia Carbonell, a Forbes spokeswoman, told The New York Times:  

"All contributors to Forbes.com sign a contract requiring them to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and only publish content that is their own original writing. When it came to our attention that Mr. Miller violated these terms, we removed his blog from Forbes.com and ended our relationship with him."

Correspondence Reveals Internal Knowledge of Roundup Dangers

The released email correspondence also reveals Monsanto executives are clearly aware there are safety concerns with Roundup as a formulation, and its main ingredient, glyphosate, and have been for well over 15 years. As noted in the featured article:9

"'In a 2002 email, a Monsanto executive said, 'What I've been hearing from you is that this continues to be the case with these studies — Glyphosate is O.K. but the formulated product (and thus the surfactant) does the damage.'

In a 2003 email, a different Monsanto executive tells others, 'You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.' She adds, however, that 'we can make that statement about glyphosate and can infer that there is no reason to believe that Roundup would cause cancer.'"

Proof of Industry Involvement in Retraction of Damning Research 

The documents also show Monsanto pressured A. Wallace Hayes, then-editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, to retract a damning animal study by professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, which showed Roundup and GE corn caused cancer and early death. Hayes, it turns out, had entered into a contract with Monsanto shortly before the coordinated retraction campaign began.

While Hayes denies Monsanto had anything to do with his controversial and widely criticized decision to retract Séralini's study, the email correspondence suggests otherwise.10 As noted by GM Watch:11  

"Back in 2012, GMWatch founder Jonathan Matthews exposed the industry links of the supposedly independent scientists who lobbied the journal editor to retract the Séralini paper. Now we have first-hand proof of Monsanto's direct involvement …  [Monsanto scientist David] Saltmiras ... writes of how 'Throughout the late 2012 Séralini rat cancer publication and media campaign, I leveraged my relationship [with] the Editor i[n] Chief of the publishing journal …

Another Monsanto employee, Eric Sachs, writes … about his efforts to galvanize scientists in the letter-writing campaign … Sachs writes: 'I talked to Bruce Chassy and he will send his letter to Wally Hayes directly and notify other scientists that have sent letters to do the same. He understands the urgency …

I remain adamant that Monsanto must not be put in the position of providing the critical analysis that leads the editors to retract the paper' … Sachs is keen to ensure that Monsanto is not publicly seen as attempting to get the paper retracted, even though that is precisely what it is doing. Sachs writes to Monsanto scientist William Heydens:

There is a difference between defending science and participating in a formal process to retract a publication that challenges the safety of our products. We should not provide ammunition for Séralini, GM critics and the media to charge that Monsanto used its might to get this paper retracted. The information that we provided ... makes a strong case that the paper should not have passed peer review."

Forbes Has Many Shills

Ironically, as recently as November 2016, Miller delivered a critical salvo against a New York Times article in which Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Danny Hakim argued that GE agriculture is a failure because it has neither reduced pesticide usage nor led to increases in yields. Miller was one of the "independent experts" contacted for rebuttal by Forbes contributor Kavin Senapathy. She writes:12

"… Miller tells me via email that '[t]he senior management at the Times takes valid criticism seriously, especially when it contains terms like 'bias,' 'dishonesty,' and 'inaccuracy.' He expects there will be an avalanche of complaints to the Times public editor at public@nytimes.com."

 You can contact Forbes to let them know how you feel about the biased stable of writes they hire by emailing them at readers@forbes.com. You can find similar bias in other articles at Forbes.13 14 15,16

If Forbes really wants to clean up its act, its editors would take a moment to investigate any contributing author relying solely on information from these and other known industry shills and/or industry front groups. It's a pretty close-knit group of individuals, so the worst actors are not hard to identify based on their associations.

Besides the Genetic Literacy Project and the ACSH, both with ties to Monsanto,17 there are many other industry front groups and websites specializing in astroturfing while pretending to be independent and science oriented. That includes but is certainly not limited to the following.18

Science 2.0

Science Codex

GMO Answers

Center for Consumer Freedom

Independent Women's Forum

Center for Inquiry

Once you start to investigate these front groups, you'll find the same names appearing again and again, co-writing articles, interviewing each other and referring to each other's work back and forth.

Aside from those already mentioned, well-known contributors speaking for the industry include Kevin Folta, professor and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at University of Florida — who, incidentally, was also contacted by Senapathy for comment on her Forbes piece against Hakim's "hack job on GMOs," and Keith Kloor.19

Why Lack of Trust in Science Is Warranted

It's bad enough that most published research findings turn out to be false due to poor design or bias, organizations such as these willfully promote flawed or flat-out manufactured science to support industry goals, while attacking research that conflicts with their aims — no matter how well done that research is. Complaints have been raised that many are "losing faith" in science and just don't trust it anymore. Considering the evidence, this makes perfect sense, as so much of it IS false.

As noted in a 2005 paper20 titled, "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False," published in PLOS Medicine, John Ioannidis notes: "Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias."

While science in general fails to hit the truth squarely on the head even under the best of circumstances, the chances of an industry-funded study being wrong is FAR greater than one done by independent researchers, who tend to be less vested in the outcome. There's really no disputing this.

Not only has funding bias been repeatedly demonstrated in studies looking at funding and study outcomes, if it weren't true, the industry would not go to such great lengths to secretly hire academics, researchers and journalists to pretend as if they're speaking as independent experts. Nor would any of these front groups exist — groups pretending to be grassroots efforts by concerned citizens or organizations by science-loving academics, and so on. They wouldn't be necessary if industry-backed science were trustworthy.

Illegitimate Science and Fake Journalism Are a Real Threat

The fact of the matter is, these front groups and paid lackeys are not dealing in legitimate science or journalism. To hide that fact, they try to intimidate and shame people as "science-deniers." Regardless of how this class action lawsuit against Monsanto pans out, it has done a great public service, revealing just how far companies like Monsanto will go to deceive, and the amount of human suffering they're willing to cause in the name of profitability with nary a thought of remorse.

With the evidence before us, why should anyone trust them, or anyone involved in their scheme? As the old adage goes, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." Some of the released emails reveal Monsanto has not properly tested its chemical formulations, and that they are in fact terrified of doing so, for fear of what might be found.

In document No. 28, Monsanto regulatory affairs manager Stephen Adams states, "With regards to the carcinogenicity of our formulations we don't have such testing on them directly …"

This email was dated December 10, 2010. In an email dating all the way back to 2001, Mark Martens — a former Monsanto employee with a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences — addresses the issue of formulation testing, saying, "I don't know for sure how suppliers would react — but if somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react — with serious concern. We have to really think about doing formulations even if they are not on the market …"21

According to the plaintiff attorneys, "This document is relevant and reasonably likely to be used in this litigation as it contains explicit concerns by Monsanto regarding the biological plausibility of the formulated product to cause cancer."

Emails written by a Monsanto toxicologist also show the company did not want to conduct any kind of safety studies on glyphosate, surfactant ingredients or the formulations. Ignorance is bliss, they say, but when a company chooses to remain ignorant of its product's dangers in order to absolve itself from responsibility for its effects, all the public gets are woes.

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