The agricultural giant Monsanto—which Bayer acquired in 2018—has created an intelligence surveillance “fusion center” in order to “monitor and discredit” journalists and activists, Sam Levin reported for the Guardian.
Levin wrote that Monsanto “adopted a multi-pronged strategy” to target Carey Gillam, a Reuters journalist who has investigated links between Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and links to cancer. Monsanto also monitored a not-for-profit food research organization, U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), and the Twitter account of musician Neil Young, who has been a prominent, outspoken critic of Monsanto.
According to documents released as part of an ongoing court case against Monsanto over the dangers to health and the environment posed by its Roundup weed killer, Monsanto’s surveillance center uses the same intelligence technology that the FBI employs to monitor terrorism threats. Monsanto has gone to the extremes in investigating news coverage that is critical of the company and its products, paying reporters and reviewers to combat negative reviews with positive ones.
Noah Yoo reported for Pitchfork about one of Monsanto’s targets, musician Neil Young. In 2015, Young released an album titled The Monsanto Years, which openly criticized the company. After the album’s release, Monsanto monitored Young’s impact on social media.
Monsanto also targeted journalist Carey Gillam, the author of Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, which was published in 2017. “Monsanto paid Google to promote search results for ‘Monsanto Glyphosate Carey Gillam’ that criticized her work,” Levin reported. A series of negative reviews on her book popped up on Amazon, despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews it had received from scholars. Revealed documents show that Monsanto has considered legal action against both Young and Gillam.
Monsanto is also under fire due to an internal communication leak that they have been threatening scientists and critics, as well as attempting to hide the truth of the dangers of glyphosate. Glyphosate is currently the most-widely used herbicide. As the Guardian reported, over the previous year, “two US juries have ruled that Monsanto was liable for plaintiffs’ non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a blood cancer, and ordered the corporation to pay significant sums to cancer patients.” Bayer has continued to assert that glyphosate is safe.”
This article highlights the risks of a powerful company corruptly misusing its influence in efforts buy support and silence critics.
Sam Levin, “Revealed: How Monsanto’s ‘Intelligence Center’ Targeted Journalists and Activists,” The Guardian, August 8, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/aug/07/monsanto-fusion-center-journalists-Roundup-neil-young.
Noah Yoo, “Monsanto Considered “Legal Action” Against Neil Young, New Report Shows,” Pitchfork, August 10, 2019,
Student Researcher: Sarah Ghiorso (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kyla Walters (Sonoma State University)