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Monsanto Exec had aggressive response to “Moms Across America”

Moms Across America is a national nonprofit organization with the mission “to raise awareness about toxic exposure, empower leadership, and create healthy communities. We support local activities, initiate campaigns, and share solutions nationwide to improve our health and freedoms.” On June 28, 2013, Moms Across America authored an open letter from executive director Zen Honeycutt to then-Monsanto Company CEO Hugh Grant, Board Members of the Monsanto Company, and staff asking the company to stop selling genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds and spraying glyphosate and other harsher pesticides.

“We have seen the scientific study showing birth defects, miscarriages in pigs who ate GMO feed,” the letter stated. “And we have experienced far too many miscarriages and rise in struggles with infertility. We love our children and want them to be healthy and to be able to have their own kids some day. Please stop and consider our plea.”

On August 27, 2019, the award-winning nonprofit newsroom New Food Economy reported that five days after the publication of the open letter, company executive Dan Goldstein sent the letter to Wayne Parrott, a University of Georgia crop scientist, and Bruce Chassy, a University of Illinois biochemist. Goldstein wrote that Monsanto was considering response options, and he wanted the scientists to be aware of the activity.

“In the longer haul this suggests a child health focus for the anti-GMO campaigns in the future,” Goldstein wrote. “Or perhaps I should say it is confirmative as all three of us have watched the evolution in this direction over the past several years. Any advice or ideas for responses would be gladly accepted.”

“Bottom line, start defending yourselves and do not expect others to come to your defense while the industry remains silent,” Parrott wrote in reply. “Start by buying ‘our side of the story’ ads.”

Chassy was supportive of Parrott’s sentiment, writing, “The anti-GM crowd has very cleverly out-flanked the naive belief that providing good science-based information will win the day.” Chassy wrote that the other side had published bad papers and filed flawed lawsuits, but did not care.

“The funniest part about the letter is how it says my children got better when I fed them organic,” Chassy wrote. “There you have it. That’s your enemy. Beat the shit out of them and put them on the defensive and you won’t have this problem.”

Goldstein replied by describing Chassy as being “spot on.” “I have been arguing for a week to beat the shit out of them and have clearly lost,” Goldstein wrote. “We don’t want to be seen as beating up on mothers; nobody will listen to it anyway, it has to be done by third parties, it’s an industry problem, not a Monsanto problem … I have heard it all this week.”

“Rolling over and playing dead is not an option,” Parrott wrote. “Silence implies being guilty of everything you are accused of.”

Chassy wrote that the company could “beat up the organic industry that paid for and wrote that letter,” noting that it could “even make it fun” since Danone owned Stonyfield Farms and a French company was spending significant money to bash an American company. “Wow could I do something with that on the 4th of July,” Chassy wrote.

According to New Food Economy, the emails were part of a large cache of documents being slowly released since the first victims began suing Monsanto. New Food Economy noted that a San Francisco Superior Court jury awarded former school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson $289.2 million in a lawsuit against Monsanto after he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma because of using Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer on the job for the Benicia Unified School District.

New Food Economy reported that the batch of files released by Johnson’s lawyers included transcripts, documents, company emails, and test results showing Monsanto was trying to suppress information about glyphosate as far back as 1979. As the Guardian reported in August 2019, documents revealed how Monsanto operated a “fusion center” to monitor and discredit journalists and activists as well as target a reporter who wrote a critical book on the company.

The Intercept also reported that same month that after the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen,” Republicans in Congress pushed to defund the IARC while claiming to defend American farmers. Monsanto scripted much of the attack on the IARC.

According to New Food Economy, the emails revealed that Monsanto toxicologist Donna Farmer told a spokesman in regards to promotional copy about glyphosate that the company “cannot say it is ‘safe’ … we can say history of safe use, used safely, etc.” Tom Sorahan, an epidemiologist at the University of Birmingham who consulted for Monsanto, cautioned in an email that “we can’t say ‘no evidence’ because that means there is not a single scrap of evidence, and I don’t see how we can go that far.”

New Food Economy also noted that the document releases coincided with new federal action on glyphosate, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be closing a routine assessment of glyphosate that had been delayed in May to extend public comment. In his emails to Chassy and Parrott, Goldstein noted that a petition to increase glyphosate use on specialty crops was slammed with almost 11,000 negative comments in only two days.

A federal court civil jury in San Francisco awarded a California man $80 million for cancer he claimed was caused by more than 25 years of Roundup use in March 2019. On May 13, 2019, CBS News reported that a jury in Oakland, California awarded $2 billion in punitive damages and $55 million for pain and suffering to a couple diagnosed with cancer after using Roundup.

There are still another 13,000 cases against Monsanto and its owner Bayer still awaiting trial. The Environmental Working Group, an American activist group, and nonprofit organization, stated that it had conducted three rounds of tests of popular oat-based cereals and other foods marketed toward children, such as Cheerios, and glyphosate was detected in almost every sample.

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