Be Skeptical of Wikipedia Skeptics
Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
Progressive Radio Network, July 23, 2019
As we have stated on many occasions in previous investigative reports, often it is not what Skeptics include on Wikipedia pages that raise concerns for alarm; equally important are the solid facts that are omitted, removed and/or censored. This is clearly the case for Wikipedia’s entries covering genetically modified crops (GMOs), pesticides such glyphosate or Roundup, and the biographies of prominent public advocates for the agro-chemical industry.
Starting in late 2017, Bayer-Monsanto’s Titanic for its crown-jewel product, the chemical herbicide, glyphosate, has been sorely punctured. Gaping holes are rapidly sinking profits and stock value as lawsuits mount over the herbicide’s carcinogenic effects. Investors are fleeing. After a California court awarded a former school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson, $289 million in damages for Roundup-caused non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as of last April over 13,000 lawsuits have been filed. Consequently, without seeming like another bogus website of fabricated and fake news, Wikipedia can’t ignore the world headlines about glyphosate’s deadly health risks. Nevertheless, a visit to Wikipedia’s “Roundup” and “Glyphosate” pages requires scrolling down many pages before any truth comes to light. The entries’ introductory paragraphs continue to tout outdated, compromised and false regulatory agency studies, favorable to the neoliberal corporate regime, declaring glyphosate is safe and poses no serious dangers to human health. The latter entry quickly offers the false impression that “consensus among national pesticide regulatory agencies and scientific organizations is that labeled uses of glyphosate have demonstrated no evidence of human carcinogenicity.”
To perpetuate this myth, an enormous of amount well-sourced information needed to be excluded and Skeptic editors assure that it is.
Beginning in 2017, the French magazine Le Monde published the Monsanto Papers, a series of a dozen investigative reports that earned its authors the European Press’s top Investigative Reporting Award in 2018. The reward is presented to the best reports that discover and reveal facts that have been hidden or concealed from the public and mainstream media. The papers provide detailed and written evidence based upon Monsanto internal emails and correspondence with paid operatives that the company has taken every opportunity imaginable to manipulate science, exert retaliatory pressure on regulatory agencies and processes, orchestrated elaborate schemes to aggressively intimidate its critics, and funded sophisticated public relations campaigns to defend its products against a growing body of scientific evidence that exposed glyphosate’s dangers to human health and ecological systems. Given the magnitude of the reporters’ revelations, we might expect to find it referenced in Wikipedia. But it is absent. Nor are the Monsanto Papers referenced in the company’s Wikipedia’s entry, which the Skeptic and Monsanto PR editors administer and make every effort to keep as innocent as feasibly possible.
Although there is no entry for “The Monsanto Papers,” Wikipedia does include an entry for GMO Answers, a website project started by the agricultural industry to give “expert” answers to the public concerns about GMO’s health and environmental risks. The project was started by the Council for Biotechnology Information (CBI), which includes BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta among its founders. The initiative is a pseudo-scientific effort to promulgate research that support GMO safety. The site is so corrupt and compromised by private interests, and has largely been ignored by the public, that it doesn’t warrant a page. Last year, Stacy Malkan, an attorney at US Right to Know, confirmed that tax records show CBI paid the public relations firm Ketchum $11 million over a 4-year period to manage GMO Answers. Ketchum has a long-standing relationship with Monsanto. But none of this is to be found on Wikipedia, which mischaracterizes GMO Answers as scientifically neutral.
In order to protect Monsanto, Skeptics have also had to protect GMO-related entries from the groundbreaking studies conducted by Dr. Gilles-Eric Seralini at the University of Caen in France, where he founded the Committee of Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering (CRIIGEN). In Europe, Serlaini has been an outspoken advocate for employing the precautionary principle on GMOs grown with glyphosate pesticides. Briefly, Seralini’s two-year study reproduced Monsanto’s own safety trials to determine whether there were adverse effects in rats fed genetically modified corn grown with Roundup. Monsanto’s published research only covered three months of the rats’ life. When Seralini and his French team reproduced and extended the length of Monsanto’s 3-month GMO maize rat-fed study for the full life of the animals, they observed profuse cancer and tumor development only after the 4th month of the study. The study was peer-reviewed and published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, and promptly fueled a vicious backlash orchestrated by Monsanto through a variety of scientific trade organizations and corporate front groups organized by Val Giddings, a Big Ag lobbyist and a former vice president at the Biotechnology Industry Organization in Washington.
To learn about the Seralini study, do not expect to find it referenced on entries directly related to Monsanto and its products. Wikipedia is unconcerned about academic integrity, balance and objectivity. On subjects where contemporary private interests are in heated public debate, the encyclopedia resorts to propaganda either preferentially pro or con, Therefore Wikipedia created a separate page, “Seralini Study,” which makes every effort to undermine the importance of its findings.
For the past five years, the Skeptic medical sect of Science Based Medicine has also stood behind the science supporting Monsanto’s glyphosate and GMOs in general. Writing on its website, Skeptic Dr. Stephen Novella attempts to make the case that the California Roundup lawsuits awarded to plaintiffs are scientifically unfounded. Yet, Novella, along with other Skeptic editors protecting Wikipedia’s agri-chemical pages have completely ignored all of Monsanto’s own sealed clinical trial data for glyphosate dating back to the latter half of the 1970s that was obtained from the EPA through a legislatively enforced FOIA submitted by Anthony Samsel, a former scientist with Arthur D Little and a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. As with Big Tobacco’s claims that smoking did not cause cancer, the EPA sat on evidence of Roundup’s health risks for decades.
Samsel received over 15,000 pages covering Monsanto’s research that has never made it to public light. Monsanto conducted hundreds of trials on mice, rats, beagle dogs, rabbits and other life. Among the many cancers and diseases Monsanto’s own research found associated with glyphosate are:
Adenoma cancer in the pituitary gland
Glioma tumors in the brain
Reticular cell sarcomas in the heart
Malignant tumors in the lungs
Salivary mandibular reticular cell carcinoma
Metastatic sarcomas of the lymph gland
Cancer of the bladder
Adrenal reticulum cell sarcomas
Basal cell squamous skin tumors
In female mammals there were cancers of the lung, liver, thymus, stomach, bladder adrenal
glands, ovaries, colon, uterus, parathyroid and mammary glands.
Whether it concerns GMOs, pesticides, vaccines, or conventional drug-based medicine, Wikipedia’s foremost egregious fraud is its sole reliance upon sources that only promulgate private corporate interests. Second, by supporting the recruitment of Skeptics, who hold with missionary zeal an ideological agenda to trumpet scientific materialism, to be the senior editors for these subjects, Jimmy Wales and his Foundation are shamefully deceiving the public and jeopardizing the health of potentially hundreds of millions of people.
Although Skeptic editors on Wikipedia primarily wage attacks on alternative medicine, they also protect the biographies of Skepticism’s leading spokespersons. Two leading pubic figures who serve as accessories for Big Agriculture are Kevin Folta and Mark Lynas. Each has a near stellar Wikipedia page, despite the numerous criticisms that have been leveled against them over the years. In the case of Folta, Wikipedia glosses over well-documented charges of misconduct. Folta and Lynas are also deeply connected with Skeptic organizations and are frequent speakers at Skeptic conferences, events and podcasts. In 2017, Folta was awarded a fellowship by Skepticism’s flagship organization the Center for Inquiry.
Wikipedia’s entry for Kevin Folta lauds him with undeserved praise. Folta holds the chair of horticulture sciences at the University of Florida who has been on the forefront for advocating agricultural genetic engineering. There is no mention of veteran journalist Carey Gillam’s investigations revealing that Folta “became a favorite friend for Monsanto and its public relations teams around 2013 as they looked for people to help them combat GMO labeling efforts.” However, starting in 2015, evidence emerged that, in our opinion demonstrated that Folta was not an independent free-thinking scientist as he led others to believe. It became enough of a national scandal that Nature magazine, the New York Times, Nature Biotechnology and other publications were compelled to report about it. Wikipedia likewise had to address the controversy. What New York Times writer Eric Lipton discovered was that the talking points Folta relied upon as he lectured across the nation were those drafted by the public relations firm Ketchum on behalf of the agricultural companies. It was also discovered that articles attributed to Folta on the GMO Answers website were actually ghostwritten by Ketchum. Wikipedia ignores these important findings that should deservingly put Folta’s character into a questionable public light.
Skeptics controlling Folta’s Wikipedia entry also reference Stephen Novella, who has no background in industrial agriculture who defends Folta. Novella and Folta are colleagues at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and have shared the stage together at Skeptic conferences.
Novella is a leading Skeptic in Science Based Medical sect and a prominent thought-leader in the Skeptic Movement. In his article “No Health Risks from GMOs”, published in the journal Skeptical Inquirer, the major publication for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a program funded by the Center for Inquiry, argues “there is a solid scientific consensus that currently approved GMO crops are safe for human consumption.” He attempts to convince readers that public fears about GMOs are scientifically unfounded and disparages any need for the “precautionary principle.” This is despite the scientific evidence to the contrary. A study published in the International Journal of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine examined over 3,000 people who had switched from a standard, heavily laced GMO diet to non-GMO. The results showed an 84% reduction in digestive problems, 60% decrease in fatigue, 51% reduction in mental problems such as anxiety and depression and a lessening of food allergies by 50%. Other health conditions showing improvement included memory and concentration, joint pain, gluten sensitivities and insomnia.
Mark Lynas is a British author, journalist and a former Greenpeace activist who is currently at the Cornell Alliance for Science (CAS), an industry-funded public relations campaign situated on the campus of Cornell University. As a former radical warning about climate change, Lynas since then advocates on behalf of industrial agriculture, genetic engineering and nuclear, perhaps having come to realize that it is far more financially lucrative to join the enemy. Since then, Lynas has, in our opinion, become a persona for GMO advocates. Surely, switching sides has been profitable as well. CAS receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote PR efforts to gain the public’s acceptance of GMOs. The Foundation’s Deputy Director Rob Horsch earlier spent 25 years developing Monsanto’s research and development strategies. According to the watch organization US Right to Know, the Alliance’s mission is to train journalists and marketers “to conduct public relations and political advocacy that aligns with the agrichemical industry’s agenda.” Wikipedia’s entry for CAS makes no mention of the documentation through FOIA’s that confirms that the Alliance serves as a media front group for GMO advocacy.
This is the situation we have before us. Monsanto’s own sealed files, expert and whistle-blower testimonies during three separate lawsuit trials, and multiple investigative reports should convince us that the company deserves its position as one of the most hated corporations in the world. Monsanto’s development of perhaps the most dispersed poison on the planet, and knowingly lying about its health risks is perfectly in keeping with its overarching character. This is the same company that gave us DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs, aspartame, and bio-engineered bovine growth hormone for dairy products, in every situation, Monsanto profited first from these products. Then it hired scientists at universities and funded research to validate its products. And finally, the company lied about their toxicity and dangers to the environment. In the court room, until more recently, the company consistently walks away after paying paltry fines. No executive is held criminally liable. Yet, it is the so-called Silicon Valley god-king Jimmy Wales and his motley band of Wikipedia Skeptics, bereft of any experience in the subjects they edit, who hide the truth and disseminate misinformation. In turn they become the arbiters of what is perceived as being the truth for all things related to GMOs, health and medicine.