Breaking down bullshit:  How clever activists make you afraid!

In my last blog I stated how the organic industry lobby openly lies, spreads fear and attacks its competition – all activities that any organisation or company with an ethical code of conduct would forbid. I’d like to demonstrate how one organic lobbying organisation, USRTK, desperately needs such a code (… and a lot of integrity).

As I have had quite a few personal attacks this week from people who take themselves far too seriously, I decided to take a closer look at US Right to Know (as Gary Ruskin got his team to get quite up-close and personal in my private life … pity he couldn’t find anything I did not declare on my blogsite). I found their recent article against glyphosate to be full of lies, scaremongering and nonsense, but written in such a clever fear-driven manner by an experienced hack that I thought I should have some fun and infuse the author’s intended fear with a few facts and observations.

The article is in indentation – you can find the entire Huffington Post article here. I have highlighted words in bold that I will focus on. I did not cut any part of the article as there is magnificent emotional crap, lies and fear in every paragraph. It pains me to see how many times this USRTK scam article was shared.

Private Tests Show Cancer-Linked Herbicide in Breakfast Foods; FDA mum on Its Assessments

04/19/2016 09:12 am ET | Updated 1 day ago

Carey Gillam: Veteran former Reuters journalist, current research director for U.S. Right to Know, a food industry research group

On the author: On the Huffington Post page on Carey, they state: “Gillam works now both as a freelance writer and researcher on food and chemical policy issues and directs research for the nonprofit consumer group U.S. Right to Know”. Well, … not exactly. Since she joined USRTK, she has published eight articles in the Huff-post, all on USRTK campaign subjects. I think they need to change Gillam’s bio – she is now a full-time lobbyist. Carey has been playing this game for 25 years with a specialisation in biotech – so she must know what she is doing. In other words, watch how creative she gets at elevating the fear and anger levels … knowing full well herself that she’s making stuff up.

The “article” starts:

If you started your day off with a whole wheat bagel and a bowl of instant strawberries-and-cream-flavored oatmeal today, you might think you made some fairly healthy breakfast choices.

You might want to think again.

I love this technique and would use it myself if I weren’t worried about my ability to fall asleep at night. NGOs love to start with a simple and personal situation and load it with an obvious, emotion-laden question (‘of course you want to make healthy choices for breakfast!’), and then shatter the feeling of being a good person with nagging uncertainty. You have to tee them up for the one-two punch of evil industry working against your good common sense. This trick wins all the time in building up outrage! Kudos! Athough I would have gone the usual NGO step further and predicate it with “In feeding your children …”

According to a report released Tuesday by the Alliance for Natural Health USA, testing procured from an independent laboratory found detectable levels of the herbicide glyphosate in oatmeal and bagels as well as coffee creamer and seven more products, for a total of 10 out of 24 breakfast food items showing levels of glyphosate – a chemical the World Health Organization’s cancer experts have linked to cancer.

It is important for NGOs to build up the perception that they are scientific. Essentially the anti-pesticides NGO, the Alliance for Natural Health, paid a lab to use some amazingly precise technology to find trace elements of what they want to attack – in this case, glyphosate. Carey used the word “detectable” knowing full well that it was not about a level of exposure that could possibly be a risk. The goal of the study was to find trace elements in the part per billion range. It doesn’t matter to the author that glyphosate has a very low toxicity (less toxic than chemicals found in cookies, coffee and chocolate) or that one part per billion is equivalent to one second over 32 years! The point is that this is a chemical that gives you cancer and you stop thinking rationally at that point.Keep in mind that if you really want to scare people, use the word “cancer” twice in a phrase, linking it to the word “chemical”. Kudos again Carey!

Notably, some of the highest levels of the chemical were detected in organic food products, including eggs marketed as “organic, cage-free, antibiotic-free” eggs; and in organic bagels and bread. Indeed, the organic cage-free eggs contained more glyphosate than regulators allow, the group said. The group also tested flour, corn flakes, instant oatmeal, yogurt, frozen hash browns, and coffee creamers.

Make the target of your outrage insidious – glyphosate has even invaded organic (and make sure you repeat the word “organic” four times within three lines). And the idea of making the “highest levels of chemical” sound frightening, express that it is more than the regulators would allow. Well that does make me scared now, except that organic produce does not allow for any trace of synthetic pesticides, so even one part per billion is too much. Was Carey being deceptive or did she just rely on the NGO source for the fear-mongering and decide not to correct it? OK, that implies that she is still deceptive.

The laboratory that conducted the tests was Microbe Inotech Laboratories in St. Louis. Microbe, founded by former Monsanto Co. scientist Bruce Hemming, has been sought out by an array of food companies, consumer groups and others to conduct glyphosate residue testing over the last few years.

A nice tried and tested trick: associate the independent lab with Monsanto and imply that everyone is afraid and testing for glyphosate (including Monsanto). Did the Alliance for Natural Health actually have to go all the way to St Louis to do their tests? What sort of budget do they have and was it worth so much extra cost to make that cheap Monsanto association? Reality is that these lab vipers will take anyone’s money for a cheap lab-test and are profiting from the fear of glyphosate with a special webpage for online personal glyphosate tests. In the words of the great James Carville, it is amazing what you can find when you run through a trailer park with a dollar tied to a string!

The ANH said the findings indicate that glyphosate is entering the food supply in a variety of ways, including being sprayed on crops like wheat to help accelerate the crop into harvest, and through livestock feed that accumulates in poultry and other animals. Corn and soybeans, chief ingredients in livestock feed, are genetically engineered to withstand being sprayed directly with glyphosate herbicides. Wheat, used to make bread, is not.

Glyphosate has many uses, but the author here is trying to say that it should only be used on GM crops (and we already know GMOs are bad). So there she goes again, playing the wheat desiccation line … that farmers enjoy spending their time and money (on pesticides and diesel) to poison the public. While glyphosate can be used to stop the growing process in wheat, it only might be used where wheat is grown in colder Northern climates in cases of emergencies – a late winter delaying the short planting season or a very wet autumn – where the alternative is losing the entire crop. It does not “accelerate the harvest” – it saves it! To suggest that a farmer willingly sprays a pesticide when nature does the trick for free when the wheat is fully ripe is offensive and ignorant. I invite Carey to show me a farmer in Kansas who thinks like she assumes – otherwise stop presenting an image of farmers as ignorant and careless. It is revolting!

ANH said its testing indicates that “Americans are consuming glyphosate in common foods on a daily basis.” The group acknowledged that most of the samples that showed glyphosate residue registered at levels below what U.S. regulators consider an “allowable daily intake.” But ANH pointed out that what is considered safe in the United States is far higher than what is allowed in the European Union, and said that some critics believe commercial formulations of glyphosate-based herbicides are more toxic than glyphosate alone.

The author knows she is writing to a numerically illiterate population (one that buys lottery tickets to pay off credit-card debt) so the numbers don’t matter and in any case, we can throw doubt on whether our regulators even know what an allowable daily intake is. A note to author: ADI stands for acceptable daily intake, not much less common “allowable”. The five-page report from the NGO is not very scientific and the data is not very precise – most of the findings came up negative (less than 75 parts per billion where the ADI is 1750 ppb per kg body weight. Do the math!

The chemical cocktail argument is tired and stupid, but that doesn’t stop the doubt-monster from using it to build up her fear-pot. “Some critics” (who? Greenpeace, SumOfUs?) “believe” (speculative) that “formulations are more toxic than glyphosate” – why do they believe this – because glyphosate is less toxic than cookies so they need to keep the argument going (remember the “save the bees” nonsense!)? So what formulations are causing us to worry more about cancer and toxicity (and cancer … remember, I need to use the word “cancer” at least three times in a sentence to create the right effect … so cancer!)?

The French government (essentially Ségolène Royal) recently banned tallowamines, surfactants that act to reduce the surface tension in water to allow, in the case of glyphosate, the diluted herbicide to stick to the leaves. Originally coming from sheep or beef tallow, it is a natural product and thus allowed for use in pesticides approved for organic farming. Tallowamines are also used in shampoos, cosmetics and toothpaste, but apparently in France, no longer with glyphosate!  Do I really need to be so afraid of very low trace levels of this product that I put on my toothbrush? Carey, shame on you – even among your tribe that is excessively stupid!

“The fact that it is showing up in foods like eggs and coffee creamer, which don’t directly contact the herbicide, shows that it’s being passed on by animals who ingest it in their feed,” said Gretchen DuBeau, executive and legal director of ANH-USA. “This is contrary to everything that regulators and industry scientists have been telling the public.”

Nice use of the quote segway (Communications Spin 101) but you have to be responsible for the nonsense the NGO is suggesting. The American word “creamer” (like “whitener”) implies that it is not dairy but coming from a vegetable base – in this case from soy (a known endocrine disrupter) and not passed on from cows (dairy tests in this study failed to pass minimum detection levels). So by removing the word “soy” in order to make the conclusion that animals are passing glyphosate onto us via our coffee is nicely fabricated … something I would call a blatant lie. In any case, if you are really worried about cancer, I would recommend you read the IARC publications on red meat and coffee.

But let’s look at the shocking levels of glyphosate that the study identified for soy-based creamer: the levels found in the tests varied between 75 and 104 parts per billion whereas the acceptable daily intake for soy-based creamer is 20,000 parts per billion, meaning I would need to drink  200 litres of creamer a day or 4,000 cups of café au lait per day to get to any level of risk exposure. I am sure Carey, in her 20+ years of experience, knows this, but decided the deception was worth adding to the fear-pot. Tsk, tsk, tsk!

Questions about the safety of glyphosate, the herbicide found in Monsanto’s branded Roundup and other weed-killing products, and about glyphosate’s prevalence in the food supply are spreading around the globe. Public interest is high a year after glyphosate was dubbed as probably carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Both the European Union and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are evaluating future uses of glyphosate now, and the U.S. Senate is wrangling over proposals to label foods made with genetically engineered ingredients. Fears about glyphosate levels on foods made with GMO crops is one factor in calls by some consumer groups for mandatory labeling.

This is an obvious lobbying plug for the campaign objectives of USRTK, who, as we are witnessing at the moment, is very effective at manufacturing baseless public fears through deceptive and emotional language. Now tying glyphosate up with GMOs is just widening the fear-pot (another non-natural, Monsanto induced attack on consumer health) but makes no sense unless you are an opportunist. The need for glyphosate is for controlling weeds that steal nutrients from the soil – GMOs allow for later application of herbicides and better no-till farming, but it doesn’t imply that getting rid of one will stop the other. Herbicides will continue to be used without GMOs (as they are in Europe) and glyphosate, for 41 years, has been the most efficient and safest. The alternatives will be far worse for farmers, the environment and consumers. So not only is Carey talking nonsense here, but her ideas are quite dangerous.

Like the ANH, several organizations, companies and individuals are seeking to determine if glyphosate is present in certain foods and beverages.

So what does the Food and Drug Administration, the nation’s top food safety regulatory agency, have to say about all this? The fact is that the FDA really doesn’t want to talk about glyphosate. At all.

Source: Kevin Folta

The NGOs are jumping up and down about minimal trace levels of glyphosate in beer and wine . If you test for something – anything (trace levels of urine in cocktail peanut bowls), you will find it. But we have to be reasonable and consider the  acceptable daily intake and understand the benefits. Carey doesn’t get this and doesn’t realise the hypocrisy she is promoting. Pesticides approved for organic farming are by and large more toxic than glyphosate, but they are not regulated – if the same standards were to be leveled on organic toxins, all crop protection products (organic and conventional) would be banned and, overnight, we would have a larger food security crisis. Do these activist campaigners have the honesty to accept that the double standards they are promoting are largely hypocritical, or are they just patently stupid (probably both)?

In February, I broke the story that the FDA was for the first time about to start assessing foods for residues of the glyphosate. The agency has been under pressure from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) for failing to do such assessments and for not disclosing that short-coming to the public. (FDA is due to report back to the GAO in June on what actions it has taken to meet the GAO recommendations.) In February FDA would only provide a few details of its plans to test foods for glyphosate, saying it was “considering assignments… to measure glyphosate in soybeans, corn, milk, and eggs, among other potential foods.”

This is an extremely deceptive activist technique of trying to push regulators to do something they had never committed to do: by communicating the hell out of the story you have just made up and then letting the publicly-charged wave of approval (from one’s now terrified tribe) leave the regulator with little choice. When a spokesperson says something to a journalist in Newsweek and three months later no official statement has been made, then the only point to draw is that it was an unguarded slip.

So I thought this week was a good time to ask the FDA for an update on where the agency stands on its testing. But as was the case in February, the FDA was reluctant to discuss the issue of glyphosate residue testing. FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher declined to answer questions seeking to know if the testing program had started yet, and if there were any changes to the foods to be assessed. I also asked if FDA was consulting with Monsanto officials and scientists about methodology or other matters related to the testing. Sucher replied that “FDA’s work is moving forward” but she could not “share” anything further, including information “about communications with any specific companies.”

The best way to succeed is to destroy trust in both the institutions and industry (as well as any scientists that support them with something called “research findings”). If you can rip apart the reputation of government regulators as working with the evil M, then so much easier the public trust demolition will become. Kudos again Carey! But what is the point of doing this, if not to just break up the system that supports so many people, from farmers to consumers? I get that it is your ideology, Carey, and that you are driven to win at any cost, but where is your integrity and decency?

Why is the FDA’s work in this area so secretive? This publicly funded regulatory agency has the power to proactively address many of the questions and concerns that consumers are raising. FDA has been conducting what it calls the “Total Diet Study (TDS)” since 1961 as an ongoing program that monitors levels of about 800 contaminants and nutrients in the average U.S. diet. To conduct the study, the agency says it buys, prepares, and analyzes about 280 kinds of foods and beverages from representative areas of the country, four times a year.

It is not secretive – they are not doing it because they are not stupid. Carey is trying to bring in an unrelated study to try to legitimise her story.

The program began as a way to monitor for radioactive contamination of foods, but has expanded to include pesticide residues, industrial and other toxic chemicals, and nutrient elements. “The ongoing nature of the study enables us to track trends in the average American diet and inform the development of interventions to reduce or minimize risks, when needed,” the FDA states on its website.
But while it has spent years analyzing levels of pesticide residues on food, the FDA, like the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has steadfastly avoided testing for glyphosate residues in the American food supply despite the fact that both test annually for other types of pesticide residues.

We are talking about residues of pesticides on food that consumers eat (apples, strawberries, grapes …) – not feed or cash-crops and not for low-toxic herbicides that are used well outside of the harvest period. When will the NGO activists and organic lobbyists get that glyphosate is not the evil product killing everyone, making them sterile and causing the rise in autism. Stephanie Seneff talks a clever talk, but she has done ZERO research and the scientific consensus is perfectly clear (except for one nasty little activist zealot from the Environmental Defense Fund who wormed his way into IARC). This manufactured madness has to stop!

For its part, Monsanto, which last year recorded roughly $5 billion in glyphosate herbicide-related revenues, says years of science show glyphosate is safe. Monsanto officials maintain that there is no data that has ever indicated residue levels of glyphosate that are more than a fraction of the EPA’s allowable daily intake or of concern.
But how would we know that? Without routine and reliable government testing, consumers are left wondering who to trust, and how to find the truth.

Lovely technique – end the outrage with a mention to how much money Monsanto makes a year (and don’t mention the billion+ USD they spend on research) and cast doubt on their claims that we know anything. Indeed, how do we know, we just don’t know … but … cue X-Files music, … the truth is out there (… just follow the USRTK).


So most people would read an article like this, feel afraid, angry and confirmed in their belief that industry, especially that evil Monsanto, and conventional farmers are only out for profits, poison and an obsession to give me cancer. Share if you care!!!

I read this bullshit and see someone who is lying, creating fear and doing her best as a paid lobbyist to destroy the reputation of conventional farming to help the organic industry prosper. I see someone very successful in what she does, but with no ethical integrity and no concern for the consequences on food security of her twisted ideology and uncompromising dogma.

But I suppose I am in the minority!


6 Comments Add yours

  1. probahblah says:

    The religious obsession with Purity is an age-old issue. If it was not about synthetic compounds in negligible concentrations, it would have to be about Purity of the mind, social class, race, or something else.


    1. riskmonger says:

      Living by dogma means every piece has to fit or the whole system comes crashing down. Why Greenpeace got a case of the stupids when they tried to reject the value of Golden Rice. The New Breeding Techniques will further challenge the reasoning capacity of the eco-zealots – it is going to be a crazy ride over the next year!


  2. Jack says:

    Unfortuntely, there is no amount of science that will ever satisfy these people, because it would undermine their way of life (or is it really more about their business model?). This is what we get from having so little to truly worry about – we make stuff up.


    1. riskmonger says:

      Thanks Jack – Dr Anne Glover, when she was the European Commission Chief Scientific Adviser said: You can be against GMOs and feel better not consuming them and that is fine, but do not try to say that the science supports you on this. One reason why the NGOs got her kicked out! People may believe something is wrong with glyphosate or the companies that sell the products – and they have that right – but when they start to try to prove through lab tests that there is a real issue, that is when they start to look silly.


  3. Anders Valland says:

    Thank you for a good article. This is very typical behaviour of any NGO, lobbyits and other special-interest person today. what I am midding in you analysis, though, is a sense of why? Why do they do it? You say that this person knows, or ought to know, what she is doing – so why is she doing it? What makes people blatantly lie about these things, what is it that motivates them to let go of reason and build a fortress of lies? What is inside that fortress that they so dearly need to protect?


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