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Roundup: used by farmers on genetically engineered crops and homeowners on backyard gardens around the world. It’s a product of giant agrichemical company Monsanto and its story is now being told by a courageous journalist in her powerful new book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.
Over the last three decades, journalist Carey Gillam has covered some of the most important stories to unfold in the United States, from the aftermath of hurricane Katrina to the racially charged riots in Ferguson, Missouri. It’s the ongoing tale of Monsanto Company’s pesticide known as Roundup, however, that has become her focus, raising awareness of its dangers her purpose.

Uncovering dangerous deception

Known to scientists as glyphosate, the chemical is a weed killer. The main ingredient in Roundup-branded herbicides, it’s used by farmers on genetically engineered crops and homeowners on backyard gardens around the world.
But the substance does more than destroy unwelcome plants. A growing body of research points to its damaging effects on human and environmental health.
There’s another layer to the story that Gillam is helping bring to light. It’s how Monsanto and the agricultural-chemistry industry as a whole are working relentlessly to suppress that research, to bury evidence of harm—oftentimes succeeding.
“With big power, many times there are very strategic, intentional efforts to deceive consumers, policymakers, lawmakers, and others, and that has very clearly been the case with the agrochemical industry and Monsanto and glyphosate specifically,” Gillam says. “There’s no arguing that this company, at least when it comes to this chemical, has spent decades deceiving us.
“The company has ghostwritten research papers to try to fool people into thinking that independent scientists were vouching for the safety of this chemical,” she adds. “It has set up front groups to act as echo chambers to issue press releases that are created fraudulently to promote safety messages. They’ve worked very actively to discredit scientists and journalists … That’s what makes me mad.”

Turning anger into prose

Gillam has turned that anger into tireless work uncovering accurate information about glyphosate, its impact on people and the planet, and Monsanto’s power and influence over decision-makers.

Research director for consumer group

A former senior correspondent for Reuters International News Service, where she was first assigned to the “ag beat” in 1999, Gillam is the research director of the Oakland, California-based US Right to Know. The data-driven consumer group is dedicated to issues surrounding food, agriculture, and health and to seeking truthful information that would otherwise be hidden or difficult to find.

Author of powerful exposé

She’s also the author of Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science(Island Press, 2017). The book is full of disturbing, eye-opening details about the dangers of glyphosate and the industry manipulation of scientific research.
Gillam points to a recent example of the way the agrochemical sector, with Monsanto in the lead, is flexing its muscle to obscure independent findings related to Roundup’s effects.
She says that documents show the company laid out detailed plans to smear scientists associated with the International Association on Research into Cancer (IARC) by launching a front group called Academics Review. Its website is subtitled “Testing popular claims against peer-reviewed science.”
One of the Academics Review founders is Bruce Chassy, a food microbiologist who, according to the New York Times, worked closely with Monsanto to lobby the Environmental Protection Agency while receiving grant money from the company before he retired from a full-time research position.
In Whitewash, Gillam delves into evidence suggesting that the pesticide may trigger other health problems (aside from cancer), including endocrine disruption and kidney disease.
Beyond the concerns that people rightly have about the toxic substance being detected everywhere from strawberries to cereal, she explores how heavy use of glyphosate is showing detrimental effects on soil itself, which could have devastating effects on the world’s food supply, biodiversity, and beneficial insect populations— in other words, on the very health of the Earth.
“They harassed me for years. I just thought, ‘Boy, I must be doing a really good job.'” -Carey Gilliam

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