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EDITOR’S NOTE: Below is the forward written by attorney Michael Baum to “The Whole Truth About the Monsanto Papers,” a book by scientist Gilles-Eric Seralini and Jérôme Douzelet.
Baum, senior managing partner in the law firm Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman, served on the trial team for the first three Monsanto Roundup lawsuits to go before juries.
“The Whole Truth About the Monsanto Papers,” available in French and English, details how Monsanto compromised scientific journals, academies, regulatory agencies, media and governments to deceive the public about the toxicity of the chemical maker’s flagship herbicide, Roundup.
In 2013, a couple of years before the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) analyzed Monsanto’s weed killer, glyphosate, and found it to be a probable human carcinogen, a technical chemical journal retracted an article about a group of rats fed Monsanto’s genetically modified corn and some of the company’s flagship herbicide, Roundup.
Until then, no animal studies longer than 90 days had been conducted using glyphosate and all the other chemicals in the herbicide’s formulation that made Roundup so effective at killing weeds.
Short term-trials or trials using just glyphosate alone were used to get Roundup approved and marketed. One hundred days was about the time rats or mice started to show tumors — so keeping trials at 90 days or less prevented the observation of tumor formation and enabled Monsanto to market Roundup as not carcinogenic.
Contrary to the accepted regulatory orthodoxy at the time, the retracted study showed otherwise — Roundup might be carcinogenic.
Understandably, with billions of dollars at stake and the agribusiness industry dependent on Roundup, the orthodox scientific community appeared to rally to Roundup’s defense, asserting the study was flawed, it wasn’t properly peer reviewed, it used cancer-prone rats and had all sorts of other nefarious methodological and scientific defects.
“Science” prevailed with the “flawed” article and its author tarred and feathered out of science town. At least that’s what it looked like.
It was actually the latest of a series of concealed hit jobs against that author, Professor Gilles E. Seralini, an actual bench scientist who had the curiosity and temerity to take Monsanto’s own 2004 90-day study used to get Roundup’s regulatory approval and run it long term, for 2 years, which is the ordinary life span of rats.
The rats fed Roundup-laced food and water developed more tumors and other serious health deficits, suggesting Roundup wasn’t as safe as it was cracked up to be. In fact, the study showed:
- 80% of the rats that consumed Roundup for two years developed tumors, whereas only 30% of the control group had tumors
- Rats treated with Roundup had larger (30% to 130%) tumors compared to the controls.
Monsanto orchestrated hit jobs in response to Seralini’s findings in order to preserve Roundup’s market share, or in Monsanto’s terms, to maintain its “Freedom to Operate.” Monsanto decided to maintain its “Freedom to Operate,” notwithstanding awareness among the company’s own scientists that they couldn’t truthfully say Monsanto had established Roundup was not carcinogenic — Monsanto had purposely avoided and cleverly navigated the regulatory testing that would show the Roundup formulation’s carcinogenicity.
So rather than actually conduct the long-term tests and alert, at that point, almost the entire population that the magic weedkiller and protector of genetically modified crops might be carcinogenic, Monsanto set out to suppress critics.
Monsanto had different names for these suppression programs, such as “Freedom to Operate,” or “FTO,” “Let Nothing Go,” “Whack-a-Mole,” “Project Spruce,” etc. The programs were conducted surreptitiously, sometimes using actual corporate and retired intelligence community spies, so people like Seralini and the scientific community would not know why an article got rejected, or why a published article got retracted … or why careers got ruined, funding dried up, jobs got lost or consumers died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The Seralini saga would likely have remained one of those unfortunate mysteries if not for the fact that a loophole in the protective orders governing internal corporate documents’ confidentiality was used to unseal thousands of pages of Monsanto’s internal plotting, orchestrating and subterfuge — which became known as “The Monsanto Papers.”
Seralini’s “Monsanto Papers” provides his insider view of what it was like to be subjected to Monsanto-instigated attacks on his studies and credibility. He walks readers through the documents themselves to show that it was Monsanto that manipulated peer reviews, engaged in ghostwriting articles that whitewashed Roundup’s genotoxicity, suppressed an independent scientist’s genotoxicity analysis, fed pre-written stories for reporters to “independently” publish — and even had the editor of the journal under a financial contract with Monsanto at the time the two-year study was retracted.
The documents show how Monsanto coordinated the letters-to-the-editor campaign, with scripted talking points, that looked like an indignant scientific community crying foul, when it was Monsanto engaging in scientific malfeasance, violating COPE guidelines for peer review, plagiarism/ghostwriting and conflicts of interests.
One string of internal Monsanto emails in particular exemplifies why it is so important for this book and others like it to highlight the corruption of science, by financially tunnel-visioned chemical and pharmaceutical companies, that undermines the crucial safety nets we need for preventing dangerous chemicals, drugs and vaccines getting through to unwitting patients and consumers.
In mid-2009, Seralini completed a study of liver cells exposed to Roundup, documenting liver cell damage and then showing that a treatment, DIG1, protected against cell death provoked by glyphosate-based herbicides in human liver cell lines. The study showed Roundup’s harm and a remedy to prevent it.
Ironically, and in gross violation of every form of conflict of interest and the fundamentals of peer-reviewed science, a Monsanto toxicologist, Bill Heydens, was asked to conduct a peer review of Seralini’s paper on Monsanto’s Roundup.
As if that were not enough of a peer-review guidelines violation, instead of maintaining the confidentiality of the draft manuscript, Heydens circulated it to members of Monsanto’s FTO team, Donna Farmer, David Saltmiras and Steven Levine, and then synthesized their comments into what he complimented as their “excellent rebuttal material.”
So instead of a neutral, confidential analysis of a manuscript identifying a harm induced by Roundup and a treatment that prevented it, Heydens assembled the science-suppression team to rebut the paper. They recommended rejecting publication with a number of bullet points rebutting the paper’s findings and methodology.
And they succeeded — the Regulatory and Toxicology and Pharmacology editor-in-chief, Gio Batta Gori, adopted “Heyden’s” recommendation to reject publication. Gori passed the unfortunate news along to Seralini, without telling Seralini that one of the principal peer reviewers was Monsanto’s Bill Heydens.
Heydens circulated the “good news” to his FTO team and they congratulated each other on their fine accomplishment.
And thus helpful science conveying a harm and a remedy was suppressed and Monsanto got to maintain Roundup’s Freedom to Operate, unhampered by a pesky safety publication.
A few years later, after successfully engineering the tumor study retraction, the team received an award for its excellent FTO work: “Achievement Title: I Smell a Rat — Response to Seralini.”
Here’s a description of the award:
“The Seralini study was a multimedia event that was designed for maximum negative publicity. The Monsanto Toxicology Team was mobilized to provide rapid assessment of the technical aspects while the Scientific Affairs team helped organize 3rd party scientists that were fully engaged to respond to the paper. In all, there was six months of effort to respond that included Monsanto’s technical evaluation, a Letter to the Editor (longer than the original manuscript), responses by the Glyphosate Task Force, powerpoint presentations, responses to numerous Regulator inquires, blog posts and popular press articles. This was the result of coordinated efforts and synergies by people from multiple Regulatory Teams.”
With no remorse or misgivings — in fact proud of their accomplishments — the Monsanto team’s efforts to combat critical thinking regarding Roundup’s safety would have gone unchecked if not for publication of the “The Monsanto Papers” and the non-Hodgkin lymphoma trials transcripts — and if not for courageous scientific inquiry by individuals like Seralini and the dozens of other scientists who have deigned to present independent studies showing Roundup risks.
Indeed, $2.4 billion in jury awards in three consecutive trials, repeated losses on appeal, $10.5 billion in settlements and the worldwide condemnation of Monsanto’s conduct demonstrated by “The Monsanto Papers” and the jury trial transcripts have not resulted in a single apology, or a warning — or really any change in Monsanto’s intimidation and invalidation of independent scientists such as Seralini, the IARC analysts or the jury trial experts.
Therefore, it is important to maintain the Freedom to Criticize industry-financed pseudo-science — and keep pulling the curtain back while Monsanto and its allies accuse others of the very scientific corruption they have been committing for decades.
Seralini’s “The Monsanto Papers” is another strong tug in the quest to pull back that curtain.