Saturday, March 18, 2017

Monsanto Accused of "Deceptive Authorship Practice" for Scientific Reviews


A couple of days ago I posted on a federal court trial in San Francisco between Monsanto and a group of farmers and farm workers concerning the safety of the world's most commonly used herbicide, Roundup (see here).

A couple of days ago the Wall Street Journal ran on article on the trial, focusing on internal emails released as part of the case, that lawyers have described as indicating Monsanto was engaged in "deceptive authorship practice" for scientific review:
Jacob Bunge (March 16, 2017). Questions dog Monsanto product. The Wall Street Journal, B6.
Monsanto's internal emails were released as part of a case... In one email chain, a Monsanto employee related how a senior EPA official told Monsanto how he wanted to black a planned glyphosate review by another government agency....
Other emails include a 2015 message from William Heydens, a senior Monsanto regulatory scientist, who suggested to colleagues that 'we ghostwrite' sections of a potential study on glyphosate. He suggested a 2000 study had been handled similarly.
Monsanto's record of scientific integrity is problematized by these revelations, which lend indirect support to scientific findings supporting an alternative account of Roundup safety, which holds that the herbicide's active and "inactive" ingredients operate as endocrine disruptors (capable of adversely impacting development) and may be carcinogenic.

One of my graduate students researched the "contested safety" of Monsanto's Roundup for her Master's thesis. The thesis is available online and documents the scientific evidence that has been used to challenge Monsanto's claim that the product is without risk:
Schluter, D. (2015). Contested Safety: Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" Agricultural Assemblage versus Counter Discourses of Roundup https://repository.asu.edu/items/29989

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) have a polarizing effect in the US. The first commercially viable GMO was Roundup Ready Soy, introduced by Monsanto in 1996, to be used in conjunction with Roundup herbicides. 
This thesis investigated and delineated the development and deployments of the discourse of Monsanto’s agricultural assemblage of Roundup Ready seeds and Roundup herbicides and its resistant discourses. 
Monsanto builds its discourse around the safety and necessity of Roundup Ready seeds through federal regulation and toxicology studies. 
Resistant discourses deployed by Monsanto’s critics problematize Roundup safety and reject Monsanto’s contention that GMOs are necessary for meeting world’s food demands. 
The discourse analysis pursued in this thesis explored interactions between the dominant discourse and counter discourses and charted their deployments in Colorado’s and Oregon’s 2014 ballot measures that would have required mandatory GMO labeling. Analysis suggested counter discourses were successful in mobilizing people to engage civically.

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