Monsanto executives engaged in deceitful practices to boost the reputation of the company’s blockbuster weed killer Roundup in the media as it debated the safety of the product behind closed doors, company emails and other court documents released in ongoing litigation suggest.
According to The New York Times, the documents are part of a case in federal court in San Francisco. Plaintiffs lawyers who released the documents say that Monsanto failed to file a motion that would have continued to keep the records under seal.
“Now the world gets to see these documents that would otherwise remain secret,” one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers told The New York Times.
The documents raise even more questions about Monsanto’s integrity and business ethics as it sought to fortify Roundup’s image as a safe product for the environment and human health.
The records include email exchanges between Henry Miller, an academic and advocate of genetically modified crops, who essentially had Monsanto staff ghostwrite an article under his name that was published in Forbes. The article attacked the finding of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) that had categorized Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.
“Forbes removed the story from its website on Wednesday and said that it ended its relationship with Mr. Miller amid the revelations,” The New York Times reported.
John Acquavella, another academic involved in writing research for Monsanto, expressed his reluctance writing for the company: “I can’t be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication,” he said in an email to a Monsanto executive. “We call that ghost writing and it is unethical,” he added.
Email correspondence also indicates that at least some company executives questioned Roundup’s safety. “If somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react — with serious concern,” one Monsanto scientist wrote.
In another email, comments made by another Monsanto executive indicate that the active ingredient may be relatively harmless on its own but toxic when mixed with other ingredients. “Glyphosate is O.K. but the formulated product does the damage,” the executive wrote.
Yet another email written by a Monsanto official warns others in the company, “You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.”