This excerpt from Merchants of Poison: How Monsanto Sold the World on a Toxic Pesticide details how Monsanto and Bayer surveilled and attacked scientists, journalists and others who raised cancer concerns about glyphosate. These companies aren’t just following in the footsteps of Big Oil’s and Big Tobacco’s science denial, they helped invent the playbook — and now they rely on some of the same groups and people to argue that pesticides should not be restricted. Here we describe what internal documents reveal about how the pesticide companies led attacks on critics of glyphosate and GMOs, from under the cover of front groups connected to the climate science denial network.
In the documentary film Merchants of Doubt, Marc Morano, a former staffer for U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), described working to thwart action on climate by attacking the scientists speaking out about the crisis. “You’ve got to name names and you’ve got to go after individuals,” Morano said. That’s just what he did to some of the world’s most renowned climate scientists: “We went after [climate scientists] James Hansen and Michael Oppenheimer,” Morano added, “and we had a lot of fun with it.”
Attacking experts is another key industry spin tactic — one the pesticide industry has been deploying for decades. Sixty years ago, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, her scientific analysis of the harms of DDT, Monsanto engaged in targeted personal attacks to try to undermine the landmark book. Pesticide defenders derided Carson as a “spinster,” a “priestess of nature,” and even accused of being a “mass murderess” responsible for the lost lives of African children, wrote Audubon magazine’s Frank Graham, Jr. These character assaults, he notes , had “nothing to do with the science or merits of pesticide use.”