Carey Gillam interviews Dewayne ‘Lee’ Johnson, the first cancer patient to beat Monsanto in court. Photograph: Araceli Johnson
Fri 9 Aug 2019 06.00 BST Last modified on Fri 9 Aug 2019 17.03 BST
Company records show an action plan that includes promoting certain search results and targeting book reviews
As a journalist who has covered corporate America for more than 30 years, very little shocks me about the propaganda tactics companies often deploy. I know the pressure companies can and do bring to bear when trying to effect positive coverage and limit reporting they deem negative about their business practices and products.
But when I recently received close to 50 pages of internal Monsanto communications about the company’s plans to target me and my reputation, I was shocked.
I knew the company did not like the fact that in my 21 years of reporting on the agrochemical industry – mostly for Reuters – I wrote stories that quoted skeptics as well as fans of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds. I knew the company didn’t like me reporting about growing unease in the scientific community regarding research that connected Monsanto herbicides to human and environmental health problems. And I knew the company did not welcome the 2017 release of my book, Whitewash – The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science, which revealed the company’s actions to suppress and manipulate the science surrounding its herbicide business.
But I never dreamed I would warrant my own Monsanto action plan.
The company records I’ve obtained show a range of actions. One Monsanto plan involved paying for web placement of a blogpost about me so that Monsanto-written information would pop up at the top of certain internet searches involving my name. The correspondence also discussed a need to produce “third party talking points” about me. In addition, Monsanto produced a video to help it amplify company-engineered propaganda about me and my work.
I even inspired a Monsanto spreadsheet: as part of “Project Spruce”, the “Carey Gillam Book plan” lists more than 20 items, including discussion of how the company might get third parties to post book reviews about Whitewash.
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