Half the Truth is a Lie, Part One

A couple of weeks ago when I was thumbing through The New York Times, I couldn’t help but notice the blue and white full-page advertisement placed by Bayer/Monsanto in defense of Roundup/glyphosate. The heading reads “Let’s talk about Roundup® herbicides”. Oh no!

The company is launching a campaign to convince the public that the pesticide won’t harm our health. When big corporations see their profits are threatened, (please see previous two posts for explanation of this) they launch massive campaigns designed to manipulate the public’s opinion. These campaigns will be filled with propaganda and disinformation, including paid ads disguised as news meant to create doubt. An unsuspecting reader might read these ads and be convinced the stuff is safe enough to drink in a martini every night. And the corporation certainly doesn’t want you to know that most GMO food has been modified to withstand increasingly strong applications of the stuff, and that the pesticide is showing up in our food, soil, water and air with increasing frequency.

But here’s the thing: a lie can be told via a “half-truth”. It’s lying by omission. It’s lying by presenting only part of the story and omitting the full context.

So knowing that, let’s read the ad between the lines:

“Glyphosate-based herbicides, which include most Roundup® products, are among the most rigorously studied products of their kind”. What they don’t want you to know:

That the chemical companies hire scientists to do the research necessary to get pesticides approved by regulators,[1] so the scientists are bought and paid for by the chemical companies. This naturally creates a conflict of interest dynamic, because the scientists will feel duty, obligation and loyalty to the authorizing power over them. The scientist might feel pressure to conform to the company’s objectives and standards. Under this pressure, the researchers often skew the findings, fail to question fundamental premises, and suppress awareness of contradictions so that the results favor industry profits over the public’s health. Then when agribusiness companies answer questions about pesticide safety, they can claim with authority that decades of scientific studies have shown the chemicals to be safe for human use and that no credible scientific evidence exists otherwise.

As you can see, it’s all in the family – at least in the feudalistic one, where the corporations are the overlords. So now you’ve read between the lines and you know more of the truth than you did before.


Advertisement in The New York Times, Wednesday, March 27, 2019

[1] Danny Hakim, “Scientists Loved and Loathed by an  Agrochemical Giant,” New York Times, December 31, 2016, accessed at  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/31/business/scientists-loved-and-loathed-by-syngenta-an-agrochemical-giant.html

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