Despite Monsanto’s objections, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled that documents obtained during pre-trials involving the agriculture giant could be made public. The evidence pertained to 50 lawsuits against Monsanto that had been pending in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, in which plaintiffs alleged the biotech company’s flagship herbicide, RoundUp, caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma, that Monsanto knows RoundUp causes cancer, and that Monsanto has tried to cover it up.
Monsanto asked the court to keep the documents that had been obtained by plaintiffs sealed, according to RT. Unfortunately for Monsanto, the judge ruled that the evidence that had been obtained by the plaintiffs through pre-trial discovery could actually be unsealed. The documents were consequently made public. The unsealed documents represent a treasure trove of information of interest to anti-Monsanto activists and consumers.
The judge stated, “If Monsanto continues to file unreasonable or unsubstantiated declarations, it will be sanctioned.”
Within the newly published documents, it is alleged that the biotech giant hired an army of “internet trolls” through a third party to say good things about Monsanto. The trolls were allegedly hired to counter the massive amounts of negative online comments and to cite positive scientific reports. Allegedly, the scientific reports being cited by the alleged trolls just happened to be alleged ghost-written articles that RT reported were “pseudo-scientific reports which downplay the potential risks of their products.” These people allegedly were even instructed to sift through social media comments to counter negative posts about Monsanto.
“Monsanto even started the aptly-named ‘Let Nothing Go’ program to leave nothing, not even Facebook comments, unanswered; through a series of third parties, it employs individuals who appear to have no connection to the industry, who in turn post positive comments on news articles and Facebook posts, defending Monsanto, its chemicals, and GMOs,” one document reads.
Ghostwriting Scientific Papers
The plaintiffs accused Monsanto of ghostwriting scientific papers to make it seem like the science is settled on the safety of glyphosate. The accusations were backed by an email from a Monsanto executive that was used as court evidence.
“An option would be to add Greim and Kier or Kirkland to have their names on the publication, but we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak. Recall that is how we handled Williams Kroes & Munro, 2000.”
In 2000, a report written by Drs. Williams, Kroes, and Munro and published in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology concluded that “under present and expected conditions of use, Roundup herbicide does not pose a health risk to humans.”
Monsanto states on its blog that Monsanto scientists did not ghostwrite “Safety Evaluation and Risk Assessment of the Herbicide Roundup and Its Active Ingredient, Glyphosate, for Humans.” Around the world, the accusations seemed to gain greater attention than in the United States as people on social media spread the word using the hashtag #MonsantoPapers.
Monsanto claimed in March that the allegations were not true. Of course, that statement on its blog was written the day after the judge ruled in favor of unsealing the documents.
“Because plaintiffs’ attorneys are taking a single comment in a single email out of context to attempt to mischaracterize the role of a Monsanto scientist, Dr. William Heydens, who earned his PhD. in Toxicology from the University of Michigan in 1984, we are setting the record straight and taking the unusual step of publicly disclosing some of his sworn and transcribed testimony from a deposition regarding his involvement with the Williams et al (2000) paper.”
Monsanto claims collaboration on research like this is normal, though not all scientists agree.
In March, Science published an article stating that attorney Pearl Robertson, who represented some of the plaintiffs suing Monsanto, says there is a pattern of “cozy” relationships that seem to show Monsanto is trying to shape the science involving glyphosate. Robertson reportedly brought up a 1999 email in which a Monsanto executive was trying to decide if the company should keep working with a researcher named Dr. James Parry.
“We want to find/develop someone who is comfortable with the genetox profile of glyphosate/Roundup and who can be influential with regulators and Scientific Outreach operations when genetox. issues arise. My read is that Parry is not currently such a person, and it would take quite some time and $$$/studies to get him there.”
World Health Organization’s Report
After the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report in March of 2015 that indicated a potential link between cancer and RoundUp, Monsanto claimed that the report was biased. The IARC report indicated that RoundUp’s key ingredient glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic.”
Monsanto says that glyphosate does not cause cancer. Monsanto claims the lawsuits have no merit and are the result of attorneys attempting to cash in on the IARC’s report. Monsanto claims that the unsealed documents are taken out of context.
[Featured Image by Jeff Roberson/AP Images]