This post originally appeared in Organic Insider. If you would like to receive Organic Insider each Wednesday, you can sign up for it HERE.
For anyone who cares about the integrity of organic and the future of our industry, what has transpired with Carey Gillam should be of incredible concern.
Recently released court documents revealed that Gillam, a journalist and author of Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, was the target of a carefully-crafted campaign by Monsanto to discredit her.
According to The Guardian, Monsanto’s actions included the following:
- Keeping a “Carey Gillam Book” spreadsheet, with more than 20 actions dedicated to opposing her book before its publication, including working to “Engage Pro-Science Third Parties” in criticisms.
- Paying Google to promote search results for “Monsanto Glyphosate Carey Gillam” that criticized her work.
- Labeling Gillam and other critics as “anti-glyphosate activists and pro-organic capitalist organizations”.
- Monitored U.S. Right to Know, a food research organization where Gillam currently works, through its “intelligence fusion center” — a term that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use for operations focused on surveillance and terrorism.
By discrediting Carey Gillam in the court of public opinion, it has the effect of confusing consumers about the actual harm of glyphosate, a chemical that the World Health Organization said is a “probable human carcinogen” and one that it is known to the state of California “to cause cancer.”
“Monsanto spoke many times in its documents about the fact that people won’t trust messaging that comes from the company directly. So, they work to fool the consumer by pushing their propaganda out through individuals and groups that look like they are independent of the company. Deception is their default,” said Carey Gillam.
But this strategy extends far beyond placing seeds of doubt in the minds of consumers.
Based on internal Monsanto documents uncovered by U.S. Right to Know, a domestic policy adviser at the White House said, “‘We have Monsanto’s back on pesticides regulation.”
On August 8th, this promise was kept.
The Trump administration’s EPA told companies not to warn customers about products that contain glyphosate, which would counter a California regulation that requires labels to warn consumers that the Roundup ingredient is potentially cancer-causing.
PESTICIDE CRITICS AND ORGANIC FOOD ADVOCATES — THE SAME ENEMY
One could easily assume that those same entities who are attempting to take down critics of glyphosate are also trying to dismantle the organic food industry.
At a recent House Agriculture Subcommittee, Greg Ibach, the USDA’s Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, said his agency was open to having the discussion of allowing gene editing in organic.
For nearly everyone in our industry, the mere idea of having a discussion about allowing gene editing in organic is blasphemous. It is an absolute non-starter and would single-handedly destroy our industry.
That being said, if the USDA truly wants to go down this path, it would need to get the approval of the National Organic Standards Board, a 15-member advisory panel that makes recommendations to the USDA about organic rules, ingredients and processes. All NOSB members are on staggered 5-year terms, and each one is appointed to the board by the Secretary of the USDA.
This administration has already approved two members to the NOSB and if President Trump wins in 2020, his USDA will have named all 15 of the NOSB members by 2023. Whether every single one of these members would be in favor of gene editing in organic is unclear, but what will not be in question is that the entire board will be appointed under a Trump administration.
Very conveniently, Greg Ibach said at the same House subcommittee hearing,
“We’re looking forward to making some new appointments as terms expire this coming year….we’re looking forward to be able to create a more diverse organic standards board to be able to provide us input across the board.”
The NOSB is already a reasonably diverse group and has representatives from different minority groups, with women holding 6 of the 15 board seats. By no means is the NOSB currently comprised of a homogeneous set of members.
So, when Greg Ibach says he wants a more diverse board, this could very well mean he would like participants that are more welcoming to gene editing in organic and other non-traditional organic methods.
Taking down critics of glyphosate and damaging the organic food industry are one and the same, and organic advocates cannot ignore what is unfolding before our eyes. And that it is highly orchestrated.
But we were warned.
In 2017, former USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said, “forces of darkness” are “coming together and saying, ‘Let’s sharpen our knives on organic.’”
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