Greed, Lies and Glyphosate: The Portier Papers

See the French and the Italian translations

This is an exposé of how one scientist, Christopher Portier, is bringing down the reputation of science, scientific regulatory advice and a WHO agency. It calls to question the funding, transparency and motivation of the anti-glyphosate campaigners, the role of IARC in the American anti-corporate litigation practices, and the quality of the scientists who engage with them. It demonstrates how the entire campaign against glyphosate has been built on greed and deceit.

This blog is based on statements in Christopher Portier’s deposition in the liability litigation hearings related to the cases against Monsanto’s Roundup (commonly known as the “Monsanto Papers”). Portier was the external special adviser to the IARC working group that prepared their famous “glyphosate is probably carcinogenic” decision.  This exposé will highlight the following information:

  • During the same week that IARC had published its opinion on glyphosate’s carcinogenicity, Christopher Portier signed a lucrative contract to be a litigation consultant for two law firms preparing to sue Monsanto on behalf of glyphosate cancer victims.
  • This contract has remunerated Portier for at least 160,000 USD (until June, 2017) for initial preparatory work as a litigation consultant (plus travel).
  • This contract contained a confidentiality clause restricting Portier from transparently declaring this employment to others he comes in contact with. Further to that, Portier has even stated that he has not been paid a cent for work he’s done on glyphosate.
  • It became clear, in emails provided in the deposition, that Portier’s role in the ban-glyphosate movement was crucial. He promised in an email to IARC that he would protect their reputation, the monograph conclusion and handle the BfR and EFSA rejections of IARC’s findings.
  • Portier admitted in the deposition that prior to the IARC glyphosate meetings, where he served as the only external expert adviser, he had never worked and had no experience with glyphosate.

I am still too shocked to know where to start! Perhaps a bit of history.

Background

Glyphosate is a mildly toxic herbicide widely used by EU farmers to control weeds and enable conservation agriculture practices that protect and improve soil health. This off-patent substance has been used effectively for over 40 years and still, to a large extent, delivers what farmers need, cheaply and sustainably. Outside of Europe, it is also used in combination with herbicide-resistant modified seeds (most well-known as the base for Monsanto’s Roundup used with Roundup-Ready seeds).

In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published its findings on glyphosate (and several insecticides), judging the herbicide to be probably carcinogenic. This sparked a wave of campaigning among the environmental activist community, the anti-GMO NGOs and the organic food industry lobby for a ban on glyphosate. All other scientific bodies and research institutes have rejected IARC’s conclusion, without exception. The European Commission has been trying for two years to renew the authorisation for glyphosate, but at each point has been blocked by Member States.  It is likely that next month’s last attempt will fail and glyphosate will be removed from European markets.

Christopher Portier chaired an IARC committee in 2014 that proposed glyphosate as a substance to be studied by the monograph working group, to which he was named as the only invited technical specialist. I was alarmed to find Portier attached to this IARC panel given his affiliation with the Environmental Defense Fund, an American NGO running anti-pesticides campaigns since the 1960s. For two years, I have been documenting how IARC, and Portier in particular, have been acting with an activist zeal to push a clear anti-glyphosate, anti-Monsanto agenda (having written over 20 blogs on this scandal). Portier is part of what I have called the carpetbagger wave of American anti-GMO activists bringing funds, staff and strategies from Washington to the much more fertile precautionista lobbying terrain in Brussels.

signed on as litigation consultant in week of lancet
This seems to be a type of revolving door: work to classify a substance, then work to sue the companies

Portier submitted his deposition at the offices of the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg on 5 September 2017. This blog is based on statements from the transcript of this meeting, published by USRTK. All screenshots are taken from this document with page numbers visible therein. The Q refers to the Attorney for the Defendant and the A is the answer provided by Portier.  Portier also submitted an expert report prior to this meeting (referred to as “the report”).

 

Milking the Monsanto Honeypot

160k
He has no idea what the total is??? I would notice 160K in my bank account!

At the time IARC published its conclusions on glyphosate, Christopher Portier joined two law firms (Lundy, Lundy, Soleau & South and Weitz & Luxenberg) as a litigation consultant. He had even been in contact with Mr Lundy two months before joining the glyphosate working group meeting. As a consultant, Portier’s billing rate, according the report he submitted prior to the deposition, is 450 USD per hour.

As of June, 2017, Portier had billed Lundy, Lundy, Soleau & South 160,000 USD for initial document preparation.

His role is to read documents and advise the lawyers on scientific matters as the two firms prepared lawsuits against Monsanto. That Lundy, Lundy, Soleau & South and Weitz & Luxenberg (see newspaper clipping below) were planning a Monsanto litigation strategy before IARC had even held their glyphosate working group meeting, and lining up their dream team, should come as no surprise – these class-action lawyers are a different breed of opportunist.

But Portier was not thinking like a scientist when he planned out this retirement scheme.

19 hours for two pages
I wonder how much Chris will charge for reading my blog?

One could imagine that a long series of protracted lawsuits against Monsanto would be quite lucrative to the good scientist. What I found remarkable, as did the lawyers, is how meticulous Dr Portier has been on his research. He billed the law firm for 19 hours of work to read a two-page memo.

19 hours to read two pages (at 450 USD/hour).

This suggests that the law firm either has enough cash to splash, very lax accounting practices or they are letting Portier invoice for other fees they would rather keep off the books. I know which answer I believe.

This over-billing could compensate for Portier’s busy globe-trotting lifestyle, visiting capitals from Auckland to Ottawa – wherever there were meetings to consider banning glyphosate. I don’t suspect he was doing this out of the goodness of his heart.

Hypocrite hypothesis
How dare those scientists be economically motivated!

Now the Risk-Monger is not envious (he has enough money to live well and provide enough free time to blog), except that I can’t help but notice the hypocrisy. Nor could the Attorneys for the Defendant. Here you have a scientist pulling in truckloads of cash to read a few documents (or memos) and then goes on the activist attack to criticise industry-funded researchers or those who might have their decisions skewed by “economic motivations”.

On the bright side, whenever industry funds research, they usually disclose their funding. I wonder if Dr Portier is equally transparent about who is paying his rent?

Portier, kettle, black! No Transparency

One of the problems with Portier’s contract with the law firm is that, like many legal relationships, it was imperative to maintain confidentiality. A kind of “lawyer-client privilege”, but for scientists. In other words, Chris could get paid so long as he did not tell anyone he was acting as their litigation consultant.

Could not disclose CoI lawfirm
I wonder what Saint Martin of the Transparent thinks about this. I’m sure he’ll spin it!

Portier was not allowed (bound by contract) to be transparent. He could not tell the media, journals, the public or other experts who was paying his rent. In fact, if anyone tried to force the good scientist to disclose his funding sources, he could push the panic button and his lawyers would come in, represent him and bring him to safety.  (“I believe that’s what Part C says.”) Now call me naive, but I thought that kind of protection was only provided to mafia accountants.

During the deposition, the attorney for the defendant went systematically through every meeting, every paper, letter or activity and Portier admitted, at each point, that he had not identified his conflict of interest or acknowledged the law firms. But he still attacks Monsanto on this.

So Portier travels the world, meets the European Commissioner for Health, travels to the European Chemicals Agency for tea, advises the German Bundestag and meets with almost every health or environment minister across the European Union fighting the good fight to ban glyphosate while at the same time screwing Monsanto. But in the back of his mind must have been this latent, nagging discomfort that at some time during the conversation, any conversation, someone would turn to him and say: “So tell me, Chris, who is funding your activities?”.

lied to media that no one had paid him an no COI
It took the attorney for the defense about four pages to convince Chris he had been full-frontal lying.

By the time of the deposition, when all was finally opened up and put on the table, Portier must have been exhausted from carrying that burden.

 

To the contrary, Christopher Portier seemed to be quite comfortable lying about his funding. He even embellished his story with hyperbole. While he had received at least 160,000 USD to cover his activities, he would turn around and declare to a journalist that “no one had paid him a cent” and that he “had no conflict of interest whatsoever”. “Whatsoever” Chris? Seriously? Did you really have to add that word when you were fully bought and paid for?

In Portier’s defense, it could be a matter of simple ignorance. He may be another one of those people who think ‘conflict of interest’ only happens to evil corporate people. In the CV that he filed in his report, Portier failed to mention that he had been working for the Environmental Defense Fund. Also during the deposition (p 38-39), he scoffed at people who had thought his work for EDF could have been “perceived” as a conflict of interest. Perhaps being listed in the monograph working group as merely an “Invited Specialist” must still be eating him up inside.

After the publication of his deposition, his paymasters had to back down. When appearing in front of the European Parliament yesterday, Portier absolved himself by acknowledging who he was working for.

The New Anti-Corporate Bonanza

cancerkiller
Trawling for cancer victims. In the fine print: If No Recovery, No Fees or Costs are Charged!

There has been much focus on how industry money is influencing policy debates, but scant attention to how certain “class-action-driven” law firms are using flimsy evidence (usually from IARC) to organise large-scale litigation bonanzas against corporations.

During the time of the tobacco lawsuits, a certain breed of lawyer emerged – one who could identify victims and negotiate quick settlements. Revenues grew nicely either through large jury payouts or compromises. Lawyers attract victims with “no cost, no fee up front” policies, with legal fees taken only when there is a pay-out (sometimes up to 50%).

But once the tobacco industry negotiated a truce with the American government (in exchange for a bit of honesty about the effects of smoking), these lawyers had to go elsewhere for their cash-flow. Each IARC monograph creates a new potential industrial sector for these snakes to feed on.

These law firms are also turning to campaigns and policy debates to ensure public outrage over the victims of alleged corporate malfeasance, running slick communications sites and, in the case of Weitz & Luxenberg (one of Portier’s Sugar Daddies … as well as Erin Brockovich’s), working with NGOs like US Right to Know.

This is what I would like to call the Oreskes Principle. Naomi Oreskes organised a conference with the Union of Concerned Scientists including some rather unscrupulous lawyers, NGO actors and academics in 2012 to see how to “tobacconise” other industries. This shockingly open strategy tries to find the means to put companies under continuous litigation pressure until they either change their strategy or go out of business. In 2012, they looked at ways to sue oil companies like ExxonMobil for climate change, and sure enough, several years later, the New York State Attorney General subpoenaed Exxon (and their consultants) for possible litigation for misleading investors on potential climate change effects.

The key goal of the Oreskes Principle is to run emotional campaigns, before going to the jury, to create enough public outrage that no jury would ever be able to be objective or capable of discerning facts from fear campaign materials. Manipulate public perception, create fear or outrage by cooperating with activists, gurus and NGOs, find a corporate scapegoat and litigate the hell out of them. Sound familiar?

This strategy is being played out now not only with Monsanto, but with Johnson & Johnson who are presently battling over 4500 lawsuits (with a recent 417 million USD decision against them) related to the suspected link between cancer and talcum powder (taken from another woefully written IARC monograph). There are several other IARC-driven examples of ongoing class action lawsuits (from certain industrial solvents to diesel exhaust fumes). With every hazard-based monograph, IARC is filling the trough for unscrupulous class-action lawyers to pony up some victims and trick a scientifically illiterate jury. Just add a litigation consultant from the original monograph working group to add credibility and watch the revenues come rolling in.

One problem I have with this (actually, I have dozens of problems with this model) is that law firms (especially the class action breed) are not at all transparent. We know, for example, that Weitz & Luxenberg are working with USRTK, they say so (only because Carey is managing their victim services), but we don’t know how much they are paying the NGO to help “subjectify” potential jurors or if they are funding other NGOs. How much do these law firms support activist groups?

One wonders how much IARC is aware of this, how much they play into the litigation trough and how aware the IARC working group scientists are of the potential available income as a “litigation consultant”. Clearly Portier knew about it and could barely wait for the ink to dry on the monograph before cashing in.

Portier: The Key to the Glyphosate Ban

email attacking EFSA on behalf of IARC being agent of change
Attacking EFSA and the BfR to save IARC? Or to save a special honey pot?

Portier, in an email to the directors in IARC, took it upon himself to ‘heroically’ save IARC’s glyphosate monograph and to preserve IARC’s reputation as the leader in the fight to change how substances are reviewed. In the message posted here, Portier valiantly promised his IARC friends to be the agency’s defender! This suggests that he has been, since the IARC monograph working group meeting, the chief driver defending both IARC and its decision on glyphosate.

So what would Portier’s disgrace mean for IARC’s glyphosate monograph? If the monograph were retracted, what would happen to all of those class-action lawsuits against Monsanto? What would happen to all of those lovely lucrative consulting fees?

I do not believe Portier has worked so tirelessly over the last two years because of the need to defend the accuracy of the science or concern for public health, but rather, should IARC be forced to retract this monograph:

  • the thousands of lawsuits filed against Monsanto would be lost,
  • Portier’s lucrative consulting contract with these two law firms would be lost
  • his scientific reputation would be lost.

So out of personal greed, Christopher Portier led a two-year attack against EFSA and the BfR to undermine their scientific credibility on glyphosate, visiting European capitals, interfering in regulatory agency activities and living a life of total deception. Sweet!

But the science is not there. Glyphosate, by any risk assessment standards, is not carcinogenic. No other agency has supported IARC’s controversial conclusion. Not one!

Now comes the truly awful part of this terrible story.

Is Portier even an Expert?

had no experiece working on glypho prior to 112
Portier acknowledges that prior to the IARC WG meeting, the expert adviser had never looked at any scientific evidence on glyphosate.

Prior to showing up at IARC to be the external expert special adviser to Monograph 112 on glyphosate, Christopher Portier admitted, in his deposition, that he had never worked on glyphosate – that he had never even looked at any of the evidence on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate. He is, by education, a statistician who had previously worked on a wide variety of subjects including mobile phones.

Many would wonder first why IARC would invite Portier to be the only invited expert adviser if he had never worked, had never published or had never been engaged with the pesticide toxicology community in general or with glyphosate in particular. Well, anyone who has looked at that little agency in Lyon will understand that IARC is not really very scientific, but more like a club of activist scientists and special interests. Kurt Straif and Kate Guyton knew Chris very well – the actual scientific capacity didn’t matter!

More interesting is why Portier decided to accept to serve in this vital function on what he knew would be a controversial monograph if he had no credible academic background, clearly a conflict of interest (working for an anti-pesticides NGO) and no real reason to be in the room. Did he accept the task because of the lucrative consulting contract he would get as an advisor to the law firms already planning to sue the pants off of Monsanto? Was it his hatred of industry science and the Monsanto conspiracies he had already been publishing on? Was it his desire to change the risk assessment approach (with glyphosate as his launch pad)? Probably all of these reasons, but I believe his desire post IARC publication was largely guided by personal interest and greed.

One thing is clear, his reasoning was not driven by any desire to advance the science or ensure sound science-based policy!

If Portier had Worked for Monsanto…

I can’t help thinking of the depth of the double standards here. Christopher Portier acted out clear self-interest for a lucrative consulting contract, did not disclose who was paying him as he lobbied at the highest levels, had his interests aligned with the continued regulatory belief that glyphosate was carcinogenic and had led people to believe he was an expert on glyphosate. His combative actions have torn apart trust in science, trust in regulations and trust in conventional agriculture. He has aligned himself with an army of self-interested lobbyists and activists who are charging Monsanto with the very things Christopher has admitted in his deposition to have done.

The science does not side with Portier … at all. Nor does the truth. Nor do norms of basic human decency.

Tomorrow I will go to give a lecture and see my cardiologist. This blog may get some circulation, maybe a reprint or two among those who agree that the science should be respected. The organic lobby activists will largely ignore this and continue to attack Monsanto (they might say, in a Machiavellian tone, that Chris needed to do this in order to get people to see how terrible Monsanto is). The clever wordsmiths in the movement may even elevate Portier to the messianic level because I used less than polite adjectives (and I’ll be under more attack by people paid to hate). By next week, this will be forgotten and I’ll be writing about something like endocrine disrupting chemicals.

How do we get out of this outrageously stupid narrative? How do we get people to wake up and see that the entire move to ban glyphosate, to hurt farmers and affect consumers has been based on greed and lies? How do we get regulators to show courage and do their jobs?

I can’t answer that … I can only hope others start asking such questions as well.

Personal Comment

Many Risk-Monger followers will have noticed the abuse I have received in the last few weeks, particularly in the Belgian and French media, related to the anti-glyphosate campaign, with baseless claims of me being the poster-boy of Monsanto lobbying. They will recall how I started my criticisms of IARC’s monograph 112 over 30 months ago just after the publication of their glyphosate findings, with the mainstream media picking the IARCgate scandal only a year later and only after activists had succeeded in shutting my old blog page down because of my defence of glyphosate. They will see the daily attacks on me on social media (yesterday around 300 slurs on my twitter account alone) and must wonder how vindicated I am feeling to read Portier’s shockingly incriminating deposition.

I actually feel quite sad.
Sad for what these activists have done to the reputation of science.
Sad for the loss in public trust in the agencies regulating plant protection products.
Sad for how the farmers have been left voiceless and lost in the volume of opportunistic attacks by the organic food industry lobby.
Sad that Portier’s deposition has been out for a week now, and I am the first person to raise attention to it.
Sad that regulators in Brussels see this information, but still continue to move toward taking glyphosate off the market, out of fear of the enraged chemophobic mob this lobby has created in each European capital.

I am ashamed that characters like USRTK’s Carey Gillam, CEO’s Martin Pigeon and the European Green Party’s Bart Staes were standing up just yesterday in the European Parliament condemning Monsanto and casting doubt on the safety of glyphosate when they knew full well the lies and deception of the shambolic work of IARC and of Christopher Portier (sitting next to them), upon which their entire campaigns rested.

It is sad that today they will ignore the fact that their entire attack on glyphosate is based on lies and greed and no scientific facts, and tomorrow, Carey, Martin, Bart and thousands of other well-paid activist lobbyists will get up again and put all of their hate and energy into banning a beneficial agricultural product, not for any environmental or public health reason, but simply to win … to win a cynical campaign that is funded by an industry that is building its market up on creating public fear.

It is sad to think that tomorrow I will get up again, in vain, to try to get people to see these lies and greed.

I guess integrity doesn’t pay the rent.

 

 

39 Comments Add yours

  1. Great piece. Thank you. Good luck with cardiologist. When you share your excellent blog the text below the photo links it looks at a glance like Portier is defending glyphosate might be better edited slightly. Keep up the good work.

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    1. riskmonger says:

      Thanks – corrected – I was pretty tired when I was doing the online parts of the blog. Writing and researching this shook me up – having to spend three days looking at “awful” can do that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ellen Colpa says:

    Thanks for your work. Reality is almost worse than fiction.

    Ellen Colpa Diary farmer in France

    Envoyé de mon MF6475

    >

    Like

  3. Giovanni Tagliabue says:

    David, a little piece of info to console you: the link to this post is circulating in several closed email groups of scholars. Therefore, don’t be even sadder if you see few comments in this webpage: as you imagine, many scientists understandably want to stay out of sight of the anti-biotech brigade. They are not cowards, yet cannot afford to be mavericks like you and myself… 😉

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    1. riskmonger says:

      Thanks Giovanni – there have been a lot of emails circulating and I am happy to have opened some conversations. The ones that I replied to right away were the ones from scientists sharing how law firms are getting more aggressive at recruiting scientists as litigation consultants. They are stealth and I am just beginning to learn how deep they go into the debates – even funding research to prove something is carcinogenic or causes autism just to be able to litigate. Seems strange, but if the payouts go into the billions, then what’s a mille or two for science. See https://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2014/04/28/the-anti-vaccine-movement-and-a-trial-lawyer-funded-climate-of-fear/amp/. So if MMR was caused by class action lawyers trawling for a high-victim field, where else have they been? This is compromising research ethics and standards and scientists need to start talking about this. The NGOs may not be the real threats in the room – it may just be the very cunning lawyers in the next room.

      Like

  4. AlainCo says:

    analysis of how people get out of indoctrination in sect shows that the rational arguments agains the beliefs is useless.
    However the good way is to prove the violation of their own morality rules by leaders.

    This is how it worked too againsr the Catholic Church during the Reform.

    don’t use toxicology but use journalist methods… attack the fraudsters.

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  5. Jopari says:

    So, what Andrew Wakefield was for the MMR vaccine and Gilles-Eric Séralini for GMOs, Christopher Portier might be this for glyphosate: a hired scientist ready to sell out his integrity and his training for a cause or for money.

    I actually feel quite sad.
    Sad for what these activists have done to the reputation of science.
    Sad for the loss in public trust in the agencies regulating plant protection products.
    Sad for how the farmers have been left voiceless and lost in the volume of opportunistic attacks by the organic food industry lobby.
    Sad that Portier’s deposition has been out for a week now, and I am the first person to raise attention to it.
    Sad that regulators in Brussels see this information, but still continue to move toward taking glyphosate off the market, out of fear of the enraged chemophobic mob this lobby has created in each European capital.

    A larger point could be made on the standards of public debate.

    Subjects which should be discussed using facts and reason while respecting the advice given by specialists, such as energy policy, health measures and food safety, have been turned by them into emotive fear-mongering and conspiracist thinking.

    There, the expert and the specialist isn’t given a prepondering voice but can be themselves accused of evil intentions, not unlike, in some quarters, as depicted in The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

    All the Michèle Rivasi, Stéphanne Lhomme, Vandana Shiva, Jenny McCarthy et al. of the world have an overwhelming responsability in the current degradation of public debate in scientific matters, and I hope the rot will not expend too much in other fields.

    In order to meet the challenges of the current century, manking will need reason and reliance on facts, not fear-mongering driven doctrines and conspirationist thinking.

    Like

    1. riskmonger says:

      There is a lot to do. There have been shifts in regulator philosophy, dialogue process and accountability – I think we need to look at how the rules of the game have changed.

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      1. AlainCo says:

        thanks for the summary.

        Sad situation.

        in fact the roblems is that honest peole express two behaviors :
        * when media and politicians ask them their opinion, they say “sorry I’m busy, call me later”
        * they they accept to talks, they are coward : “probably, it is maybe not sure to be a little not so toxic as far as the study say”, instead of a clear “except few pathetic studies by activist and loose researshers, all agree that it is not toxic”

        the side of truths need to have activist too. I think of Zaruk, but also GRW. eople who can walk around the Internet, and I hope soon the media to sustain clear position endlessly, call fraudsters fraudsters, call facts facts, the way journalist hear from activist today.

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    2. biron says:

      What about Lennart Hardell for cell phones? Portier was on that committee too.

      https://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Monographs/vol102/mono102.pdf

      Like

      1. riskmonger says:

        I have seen articles suggesting he also had a conflict of interest there. I did not want to mix the two issues. While some admire his relentless conviction, others see his politicisation as going beyond, and endangering, the remit of regulatory science. I have written an article for a magazine column I write (published in November) saying how this approach threatens the scientific method.

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  6. Verna Lang says:

    I’m wondering whether Mr. Portier knew how much Andrew Wakefield was getting for scamming the world about the MMR vaccine back in 1998. “An investigation by journalist Brian Deer found that Wakefield had been paid £435,000 to advise lawyers for parents who believed their children had been harmed by MMR.” Portier sold out so cheaply compared to Fakefield. I guess he can’t even sell out his integrity with any sort of expertise.

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    1. riskmonger says:

      Portier has become the organic industry lobby’s Wakefield. Wakefield was disgraced, however we need to consider more how this happened. Both succumbed to greed and the need for attention but it is the source of this we need to focus on – class action law firms seem willing and able to do anything to increase their litigation chances. To fund bogus science in order to sue pharmaceutical companies or to line up a litigation team before IARC even passes judgment – both are despicable acts and it is time to shine more light on the little shits who run through the labs with a dollar tied to a string (credit James Carville). A bit like Harvey Weinstein, once this is out, people are starting to talk. There seems to have been a large number of “litigation consultants” going to IARC to sit on working groups. How much does IARC know about this – how eager are they to promote this given their anti-industry bias? How many more Wakefields or Portiers are there? I am just beginning to scratch the surface and I’m getting itchy!

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  7. Vin Minh says:

    this is disturbing to read. I was taught in culinary school about the evil Monsanto and graduated on to continue the same teachings to other culinary staff throughout the years. this included where to shop, what foods to buy, and which ones to avoid. Chefs like me have fueled the local first initiatives found throughout the country which include farm-to-table concept to avoid mass-produced produce that can only be achieved with pesticides from Monsanto. in turn, our bitching in the kitchen caused word to spread beyond our restaurant walls to the servers who worked for us and to the patrons who frequented our highly priced organic artisan food. Chefs like me made the shift to organic and non-GMO become the norm in the household of every American.

    Like

    1. riskmonger says:

      Farm to table is good thing to promote – any promotion of farmers is positive. But understanding farmers, and why they use, and need to use, agri-technology is essential. All food is safe (we should learn to trust our regulators and the scientific community more) and conventionally-farmed food goes through rigorous testing. I would focus on freshness, flavour, quality and calories – on the other hand, pesticides (either synthetic or those approved for organic farmers) are very low in toxicity (compared say to a cup of coffee) and is only confusing vulnerable people. Glyphosate has been a dreadful distraction to what we need to be thinking about. All for greed and increasing marketshare.

      Like

  8. Mahnaz says:

    In order to meet the challenges of the current century, manking will need to do research and find what is the truth in that particular scientific facts. Scientist s should prove reasons and reliances on facts. By telling just GMO is good or bad without any risk assessment from both anti and pro GMO creating fear-mongering driven doctrines and conspirationist thinking. However my question is,
    How many scientists so far proved no cancer or Autism or … any other risk by taking GMO. What Biosafety officers proven so far except the talk about precautionary principles. I think it is enough criticism
    Please pay attention and prove scientifically the risk assessment needed for each GM product.

    Like

    1. riskmonger says:

      Good points and we can agree. For each new agri-tech product to be approved for the market, there is a mountain of data and evidence that needs to be produced and evaluated. Those who keep saying ‘no, not enough’ will never be satisfied. Regulators need to see the activists’ motivation since their evidence is so woefully lacking.

      Like

  9. Cardinal Fang says:

    I’m sure you will be getting a lot of stick from the anti-GM brigade, so as a flip side to that – great job of exposing this Risk Monger. Keep it up!

    Like

    1. riskmonger says:

      They are smart enough to keep their head down on this one and wait till the media attention dies down. Only the desperate and the stupid are trying to justify this. Poor things.

      Like

  10. Nathan says:

    I know this may seem trivial, but the capital of New Zealand is Wellington, not Auckland

    Like

    1. riskmonger says:

      Thanks and sorry about that. I need to check where Portier travelled to lobby for the glyphosate ban – that he would fly to New Zealand to lobby this shows either an enormous heart or an enormous budget.

      Like

  11. Ian Coleman says:

    Ah…I’ve been repeating this IARC finding to people. Better get to messaging. Thanks for the great work!

    Like

  12. AlainCo says:

    I’l desperate, even Challenge (biz journal) is defending the well paid clowns
    https://www.challenges.fr/economie/la-nouvelle-attaque-de-monsanto-contre-les-anti-glyphosate-et-le-roundup_507210#xtor=EPR-3-%5BChaDerMin%5D-20171018

    how can we give lesson to Breitbart News with that kind of journalist

    Like

    1. riskmonger says:

      I actually expected the activists to attack me much earlier. The Le Monde article could not mention me by name (I assume their lawyers advised them they had no evidence and could face consequences of false allegations). Their only approach has been Argumentum ad Monsantium – accuse anyone of being a Monsanto shill. They try to imply that this blog was a Monsanto-based attack – but show no evidence. If you Google “Portier + deposition + Roundup”, which I did, then you arrive on the USRTK page with the deposition. Did Monsanto force USRTK to publish that? Come on!
      Martin Pigeon from Corporate Europe Observatory took this angle and then got the two Stephanes to waste an article with this sad, desperate attempt to deflect a really uncomfortable position (Martin’s group pays Stéphane Horel for “research work”). There are so many mistakes here – they clearly rushed it under duress. http://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2017/10/18/glyphosate-monsanto-tente-une-derniere-man-uvre-pour-sauver-le-roundup_5202606_3244.html
      Foucart, Horel and Pigeon all campaign for transparency but are now defending someone who secretly worked for a law firm and did not disclose his affiliations on at least ten lobbying occasions (but they found three). Their absolute hypocrisy is hilarious and I love watching their desperate meltdown. Only those in their tribe are buying it – the rest of the world sees how ridiculous their argument actually is.

      Like

  13. Jane Sooby says:

    I am an organic advocate and have consistently and publicly opposed those who base their anti-GM rhetoric on faulty science, including allegations about the toxicity of glyphosate and of GMOs themselves. I noticed a shift in their rhetoric from GMOs being somehow poisonous to the glyphosate residues being the source of toxicity. The problem is, scientific data do not support either assertion. Many of us organic folk do believe in real science! This article helps fill in many gaps about why the IARC would draw the conclusions it did. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. riskmonger says:

      Thank you. I never attack organic farmers (I have often stated how I find their efforts valuable for all farmers trying to improve their practices – especially for those developing conservation ag practices) but rather I find certain campaigns of lobby groups like OCA to be reprehensible and a threat to what organic farmers are trying to achieve. They are raising the fence and preventing farmers from working together. I feel organic farmers need to speak out against these opportunists. Good luck with that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jane Sooby says:

        Agreed. I believe that OCA does more harm to the organic movement than help. But scare tactics raise a lot of money! My response is solid policy work based on fact instead of fear. But who has more visibility? Certainly not us.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. bunkerdblog says:

    Similarly to what many journalists did accusing Monsanto, there is some over interpretation here. Not only Portier seems to have not been forbidden to state this conflict of interested, but he did it during his work for supporting IARC’s classification.
    He did it in his 2016 paper at BMJ with a hundred co-authors for defending IARC’s conclusions in opposition to EFSA’s ones: “Competing interests: CJP, MTS and DDW are providing advice to a US law firm involved in glyphosate litigation. CJP also works part-time for the Environmental Defense Fund on issues not related to pesticides.”
    He did it in his 2017 open letter to Jean-Claude Junker: “Disclosures: The opinions expressed here and the analyses done to support those opinions are mine alone and were conducted without any compensation. In my capacity as a private consultant I am an expert witness for a US law firm involved in glyphosate litigation. I also work part-time as a Senior Contributing Scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund IEDFJ on issues not related to glyphosate or other pesticides.”

    [1] Portier et al., “Differences in the carcinogenic evaluation of glyphosate between the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)”, BMJ, 2016
    [2] Christopher J. Portier, Open Letter to Jean-Claude Junker, president of the European Commission, May 28, 2017

    Like

    1. riskmonger says:

      I just love how I am being attacked for sharing what an awful person had done.
      In the deposition the contract with the law firm says he could not disclose. The lawyer gave examples (which were all cases) where he could not disclose his affiliation as a litigation consultant and Portier said “correct”. The deposition goes on and lists 10 situations where he did not disclose including his landmark lobbying letter to the European Commission that provoked EFSA – he said: Correct. You found several cases where he referred to himself as a witness (not a consultant) so therefore you think I have over-interpreted this. I just reported what Portier said – but when he reads it, maybe he realises how awful it is. So he goes to his activist friends in LeMonde and the answer is to attack me (for showing people what he said).
      Please think, consider that maybe, just maybe, someone from your tribe succumbed to greed and did lie (“I did not receive one cent!”) – stop attacking and consider how ridiculous your bias is making you look. It is as if there is a really bad fart in the room, and you are condemning me for opening the window.

      Like

      1. bunkerdblog says:

        Your reaction is surprising. Please know that I am often criticizing the two journalists from Le Monde who are attacking you for over-interpreting the content of the Monsanto Papers and publishing misleading representations of their content. And I do this on the basis of the content of the Monsanto Papers [1,2,3]. I even corrected Stéphane Foucart [4].
        I actively fight against the myths about glyphosate, GMOs and Monsanto [5,6,7, and so many more]. I published full blog articles against Vandana Shiva’s myth about Indian farmers’ suicides [8], a campaign from Greenpeace Belgium against glyphosate [9], a study from Générations Futures against glyphosate [10]. Each article was reblogged by Seppi.
        Almost everyday, I also am accused of being paid by Monsanto and insulted [5,6,7].
        So, Christopher Portier, “someone from [my] tribe”?! Please! You are clearly making very wrong assumptions. I understand you are in a very stressful situation making these deductions easy, but take care and “consider how ridiculous your bias is making you look”. (Sorry for having to throw this back at you.)

        So I know it’s quite upsetting and horrible to be consistently accused of being paid by people who have know idea what they are talking about. But when somebody is stating I am wrong providing some source, I try to read it carefully before insulting.
        You state that I “found several cases where he referred to himself as a witness (not a consultant)”. Not consultant? In the first case, Portier is said to “provide advice”. This is more like being a consultant than a witness, isn’t it? In the second case, this is actually less clear. I’ll give you that. He state being an “expert witness”, while still saying that this is “in [his] capacity as a private consultant”; but he does not clearly state he is a consultant.

        And the second comment (where I added a paragraph thinking you would delete this first one), I also stated that you could not accuse Portier of being motivated by greed, and that you made other unfounded accusations. I rest my case: you cannot know whether or not Portier would still have act this way without the contracts with the lawyers. In fact, Portier is also a convinced and motivated anti-pesticide activist, and pushed the IARC to take a look to glyphosate before being contact with the lawyers if I remember well.
        That does not mean is conflict of interest is a okay thing. That does not mean what Portier does is right. I actually think he is wrong, and I think his way to push IARC’s conclusion as relevant for politics and to attack EFSA’s work is dishonest.

        So please, consider that maybe, just maybe, people who most often agree with you can sometimes criticize you because you might be wrong. And just check who is mistaking.

        [1] https://twitter.com/Bunker_D_/status/870268939531636740
        [2] https://twitter.com/Bunker_D_/status/875671568663404544
        [3] https://twitter.com/Bunker_D_/status/909165085591052293
        [4] https://twitter.com/Bunker_D_/status/814878184931987456
        [5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gJn4EhlsY0&lc=z13phfewdqenfzmtv23qxxb51xnhc333r
        [6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE_IFslpOx8&lc=z23qxxb51xnhc333racdp43b0jpqjjcnei2coeuwr2lw03c010c
        [7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3VzkXeGsKA&lc=z23qxxb51xnhc333racdp43bwzli0qhcpsiuzr4q3nlw03c010c
        [8] http://bunkerd.fr/vandana-shiva/
        [9] http://bunkerd.fr/greenpeace-manipule/
        [10] http://bunkerd.fr/chiffres-rassurants-rapport-flippant-la-methode-generations-futures/

        Like

      2. riskmonger says:

        My apologies – you had referred to me earlier as a straw man on FB at a time when I was reading pages of accusations against me (around 100 tweets an hour) – that I was the awful stench in the room and poor Chris was the victim of my “rumours”. You ignored the deposition points and repeated the Le Monde claims that he was transparent. Hypocrites like Foucart and Pigeon, who are supposed to fight for transparency, were pretending their hero was transparent and picking a fight with me (without the balls to mention my name) – since the cowards wouldn’t face me directly, you got in the way. I had grouped you in with them and jumped to conclusions. Sorry if I was rough with you.
        That being said, I stand by my argument, if not the tone – to show a couple cases where Portier did disclose (although a witness is not the same as a consultant) does not justify all of the other cases, especially the Andriukaitis letter, where he hid his affiliation or simply lied. For the greed part – that he was in contact with the law firms beforehand and signed a contract so soon left me with a choice – calling him greedy, or worse, calling him vindictive (out to get Monsanto from the get-go). That would question his science which would have been a bigger insult. I gave him the benefit of a doubt and chose the former.

        Like

      3. bunkerdblog says:

        I did not intend to insult you of being a straw-man on Facebook. But once again, considering the situation, I clearly understand my words were interpreted so. Sorry I was not clear and let you read me this way: my critics to whoever (including friends and colleagues) are quite direct, but the situation was calling for more caution.
        My point was that you were making a straw-man about Foucart’s article, i.e. you were misrepresenting its content. Don’t get me wrong: there is an obvious double standard in the journalist’s reaction, and an unacceptable barely muted accusation about you; and I think this should be underlined. However, you were omitting the arguments I repeated here, and I do think it would have been better to address them. Because thinking about it, you are right: Portier does not make clear he was paid. His declarations allows people like Foucart to say “oh but he said it”, but this understanding of the declarations is only possible once you already know he is paid. “Head: I win; Tail: You loose.”

        Back to Portier, I rest my case about the accusations concerning his motivations: it is not possible to read is mind, and to know if he acted by pure greed or also simply by convinced activism. Just consider the Folta case: money to his lab does not prove this money was his motivation. The same goes with Portier even though it’s money to him directly: the guy might be taking money for doing what he would have done anyway, and giving specific advice to the lawyers.
        Nevertheless, note that I still think this is extremely relevant to reveal the conflicts of interest concerning Portier. It shows the beam in the eye of the anti-glyphosate crowd. It allows to explain that they cannot have it all and both support Portier’s work while blindly rejecting contrary sources because of “conflicts of interest”. Plus, this is basically a behavior to criticize, and raising the question of the motives (without answering to what cannot be answered) has to be done.

        Like

      4. bunkerdblog says:

        Oh and I forgot: even though I reject any statement about the actual motive of such and such act, hidden paid conflicts of interests are still dishonest. I am not saying that one cannot say that Portier is dishonest.

        Like

  15. bunkerdblog says:

    Similarly to what many journalists did accusing Monsanto, there is some over interpretation here. Not only Portier seems to have not been forbidden to state this conflict of interested, but he did it during his work for supporting IARC’s classification.
    He did it in his 2016 paper at BMJ with a hundred co-authors for defending IARC’s conclusions in opposition to EFSA’s ones: “Competing interests: CJP, MTS and DDW are providing advice to a US law firm involved in glyphosate litigation. CJP also works part-time for the Environmental Defense Fund on issues not related to pesticides.”
    He did it in his 2017 open letter to Jean-Claude Junker: “Disclosures: The opinions expressed here and the analyses done to support those opinions are mine alone and were conducted without any compensation. In my capacity as a private consultant I am an expert witness for a US law firm involved in glyphosate litigation. I also work part-time as a Senior Contributing Scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund IEDFJ on issues not related to glyphosate or other pesticides.”

    Also, many accusations are done here, with nothing to support them. In particular, nothing allows to state that Portier’s attacks on glyphosate since IARC’s classification were motivated by personal greed, and not by conviction. This is not better than people who accuses anybody defending GMOs to be paid to do so.

    [1] Portier et al., “Differences in the carcinogenic evaluation of glyphosate between the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)”, BMJ, 2016
    [2] Christopher J. Portier, Open Letter to Jean-Claude Junker, president of the European Commission, May 28, 2017

    Like

    1. riskmonger says:

      I replied to your apologist approach in a similar comment. The only you add here is that I am making accusations without support. Please read the deposition and make up your own mind. I am concerned at how class action law firms are corrupting scientists and influencing policies that will hurt consumers and farmers. You think I am being unfair – good – that motivates me to be even harder on these slime-ball law firms. You would make more sense to argue that Portier was a victim of these firms than to try to portray me as the one in the wrong.

      Liked by 1 person

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