Accuracy in Media

That “Right to Know” business can be a two-edged sword.

Carey Gillam, a veteran anti-Monsanto activist, heads an organization called “Right to Know” that seeks to force governments to declare that glyphosate, a key ingredient in the world’s most popular plant pesticides, causes cancer and thus should be removed from food — a move that would take down the entire genetically modified organism food movement.

Typical of her work is a piece on Environmental Health News in which Gillam claimed Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, held a hearing on Feb. 6 “aimed squarely at attacking some of the world’s top career scientists.”

Echoing the sentiments of her hero, Rachel Carson, whose fearmongering on DDT led to the deaths of millions of people from malaria, Gillam urged governments to support virtually any claim, no matter how frivolous, that glyphosate causes cancer.

“Though the hearing is titled ‘In Defense of Scientific Integrity: Examining the IARC Monograph Program and Glyphosate Review,’ the irony of the descriptor is not lost on those who have been following Smith’s efforts to derail and defund this cancer research agency.”

But where does the support for her and other anti-GMO crusaders come from?

It appears Russians are trying to influence agricultural policy just as they appear to be trying to influence our political scene.

According to researchers at Iowa State University, as reported in the Des Moines Register, Russia is “trying to influence Americans’ attitudes toward genetically engineered crops and biotechnology.”

It is funding articles to be shared online that question the safety of GMOs “in an effort to hurt U.S. agricultural interests and bolster its position as the ‘ecologically clean alternative’ to genetically engineered food,” it quoted professor Shawn Dorius, as saying.

Dorius and Carolyn Lawrence-Dill, an associate professor in the Iowa State departments of agronomy and genetics, development and cell biology headed the research, which studied into how the U.S. media portrays genetic engineering and biotechnology has revealed that HuffPost, to which Gillam is a frequent contributor on this subject, writes the most “anti-GMO” articles, with CNN close behind.

The researchers found Russian news organizations RT and Sputnik used the term GMO in more articles than HuffPost, Fox News, CNN, Breitbart and NBC combined.

Researchers said an RT article headlined, “Complex abortion debate emerges over Zika virus-infected fetuses,’ was a link to another article entitled, ‘GMO mosquitos could be cause of Zika outbreak.”

The U.S. government declared GMOs safe for food two decades.

“GMO foods are perfectly healthy and the technique has the possibility to reduce starvation and malnutrition when it is reviewed in the right way,” Bill Gates said last week. 

The National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the European Commission have also declared GMOs safe.

Undermining faith in U.S. agriculture provides an opening for Russian farmers to present themselves as the “’ecologically clean alternative,’” Dorius said. Agriculture is Russia’s second-largest industry after oil and gas.

If it can succeed in planting doubt, this could pose a huge problem for American farmers, who have embraced the technology. Ninety percent of the corn and soybeans grown in Iowa are genetically engineered to better tolerate herbicides and pesticides.

“Stirring the anti-GMO pot would serve a great many of Russia’s political, economic and military objectives,” Dorius told the Register. “The idea is an asymmetrical war … where you look at where you’re weak and your opponent is strong, and you’re really trying to undermine their strength.”

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