Alternet: Et Tu, Newsweek? Another Media Outlet Caves to Monsanto’s Minions

Photo Credit: 360b/Shutterstock

By Katherine Paul | February 2, 2018

Newsweek is going to bat for a Monsanto shill.

Henry Miller is at it again.

Miller is the well-known Monsanto mouthpiece who earlier this year was discredited by the New York Times for getting Forbes magazine to publish an “opinion” piece under his name—a piece that was ghostwritten by Monsanto.

Miller has just written a new hit piece on the organic industry.

That doesn’t surprise us. What does surprise us is that Newsweek published the piece—despite knowing all about Miller’s shady ties to Monsanto.

Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that Miller, described by the Times as “an academic and a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops,” had asked Monsanto to draft an opinion piece for him—a piece he then persuaded Forbes magazine to publish under his own name.

On January 19, an op-ed titled “The Campaign for Organic Food is a Deceitful, Expensive Scam,” showed up on the pages of Newsweek magazine, under Miller’s name.

Stacy Malkan, co-director of US Right to Know fired back in her piece, “Monsanto’s Fingerprints All Over Newsweek’s Hit on Organic Food.”

In her in-depth exposé of Miller, Malkan reports that she complained to Newsweek’s opinion editor, Nicholas Wapshott, pointing out that Miller has been widely discredited for trying to pass of Monsanto’s propaganda as his own work.

Here’s what Wapshott wrote in an email to Malkan: “I understand that you and Miller have a long history of dispute on this topic. He flatly denies your assertions.”

Wow. Really? Newsweek is going to bat for a Monsanto shill, regardless of his murky reputation?

Truth be told, Monsanto was the master of fake news long before fake news was a thing. For decades, the St. Louis-based biotech company has enlisted the services of expensive (and slick) PR firms to feed the public and the media lies about everything from how the company improves farmers’ lives, to how its Roundup weedkiller is “safe,” to how GMO crops increase yields and reduce the need for pesticides.

As consumers wised up, as credible independent scientists dug deeper into the risks associated with glyphosate and Roundup, and as the media started asking tougher questions, Monsanto was forced to up its smoke-and-mirrors game in order to counter the negative PR.

One of Monsanto’s most effective propaganda strategies has been to identify people who on the surface appear to have the right scientific credentials, then collaborate with them behind the scenes to promote Monsanto’s script as their own, independently researched opinions.

Miller is one of those people. And his latest “scientific opinion” is that organic food is a scam.

There’s so much wrong with Miller’s hit piece on organics, and Newsweek’s willingness to publish it, that we hardly know where to begin.

Thankfully, Malkan details all the reasons Newsweek should have rejected Miller’s piece, even if Miller’s scandalous past hadn’t already been exposed. Here are just a few:

  • Miller cited pesticide industry sources, not independent science, to claim that organic farming is “actually more harmful to the environment” than conventional agriculture.
  • Those same pesticide industry sources included an inaccurate claim by Jay Byrne, former director of corporate communications for Monsanto, that organic allies spent $2.5 billion in one year campaigning against genetically engineered foods in North America. Miller included that figure in his op-ed, without revealing Byrne’s ties to Monsanto.
  • Miller tries to discredit the work of New York Times’ reporter Danny Hakim, without disclosing that it was Hakim who exposed Miller’s Monsanto ghostwriting scandal.

Wapshott has an impressive resumé. We could understand if he slipped up when it came to doing his due diligence on Miller before agreeing to run his op-ed.

But we don’t understand how, given all the evidence, Wapshott is still defending Miller.

A recent survey revealed that the top three reasons consumers choose organic—to avoid pesticides, to avoid GMOs and for better nutrition—are health-related. Consumers form their opinions about organic vs. industrial chemical food by doing their own research—relying on credible, independent science and news reports.

Smart consumers have long distrusted Miller and his ilk. Now Newsweek has given them a reason to distrust its editorial judgment.

If you want to give Newsweek opinion editor Nicholas Wapshott a piece of your mind, join in the fun.