Climate Science Deniers Aren’t The Only Ones Using The Tobacco Industry Playbook

A stunning expose by 100Reporters and Environmental Health News underscores how far some companies will go to squelch a scientific review of the impact of their products.

Award-winning reporter Clare Howard, now with the investigative journalism nonprofit, “100Reporters,” has a must-read piece on the length one company went to in order to discredit critics:

To protect profits threatened by a lawsuit over its controversial herbicide atrazine, Syngenta Crop Protection launched an aggressive multi-million dollar campaign that included hiring a detective agency to investigate scientists on a federal advisory panel, looking into the personal life of a judge and commissioning a psychological profile of a leading scientist critical of atrazine.

The Switzerland-based pesticide manufacturer also routinely paid “third-party allies” to appear to be independent supporters, and kept a list of 130 people and groups it could recruit as experts without disclosing ties to the company.

Recently unsealed court documents reveal a corporate strategy to discredit critics and to strip plaintiffs from the class-action case. The company specifically targeted one of atrazine’s fiercest and most outspoken critics, Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, whose research suggests that atrazine feminizes male frogs.

The campaign is spelled out in hundreds of pages of memos, invoices and other documents from Illinois’ Madison County Circuit Court, that were initially sealed as part of a 2004 lawsuit filed by Holiday Shores Sanitary District. The new documents, along with an earlier tranche released in late 2011, open a window on the company’s strategy to defeat a lawsuit that, it maintained, could have effectively ended sales of atrazine in the United States.

Of course, it’s not like there is an infinite supply of anti-science guns for hire. So we see again some of the usual suspects. Climate Progress has written in the past about how “Steve Milloy, Anti-Science Tobacco Apologist, Now Denies Coal Plant Pollution Kills People.”

Howard details his involvement with Atrazine:

Steven Milloy, publisher of and president of Citizens for the Integrity of Science, is also in Syngenta’s Supportive Third Party Stakeholders Database.

In a Dec. 3, 2004, email to Syngenta, Milloy requests a grant of $15,000 for the nonprofit Free Enterprise Education Institute for an atrazine stewardship cost-benefit analysis project.

In a letter dated Aug. 6, 2008, Milloy requests a $25,000 grant for the nonprofit Free Enterprise Project of the National Center for Public Policy Research. In an email on that date, he writes, “send the check to me as usual and I’ll take care of it.”

While Op-Eds aim to shape public opinion, economic and cost-benefit analyses were also important, because EPA rulings on pesticide use are based on health, environmental and economic effects.

Junk science, indeed.

13 Responses to Climate Science Deniers Aren’t The Only Ones Using The Tobacco Industry Playbook

  1. they have no shame

  2. Dano says:

    I like it that Tyrone Hayes was ready for the smear campaign. Chapela wasn’t ready for Andura Smetacek, however. Michael Mann seems to be ready.

    How sad is it that so much time is wasted protecting oneself against the smear campaigns of vested interests?



  3. Jeff Huggins says:

    Although these dynamics are often matters of degree — in the sense that some companies step over the “lines” much more so than other companies — the general and broader ethos that motivates (and is seen to “justify”, or at least explain) such actions is the deeply-held view that the leaders of companies are supposed to do (nearly) whatever it takes to maximize and protect profits, AND that it is understandable that they do so and shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    Although that view is not identical to the idea (held by some) that profit growth is always a good thing, or to the idea that it is at least necessary and usually good in the way our present economic system works, the two ideas are intertwined and influence each other. The “growth-growth-growth” paradigm is accompanied by the mandate on corporate leaders to “grow, or else!”, which is seen to explain and to a substantial degree justify the idea that it is a corporate leader’s job to “do nearly whatever it takes! — to grow”.



  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    They lack shame, they are totally indifferent to the harm that they cause others, they are infinitely, insatiably, greedy, they are unscrupulous, and when required, they find violence quite acceptable, so long as it is totally one-sided. Any resistance to their power is ‘terrorism’. Meet our Masters.

  5. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Evil is a human characteristic. We are all capable of it, and certain clever individuals have become ‘entrepreneurs of evil’, ‘leveraging’ their natural advantage in doing things that better types would reject as wicked, to make money, the religion of our times. As far as late Market Fundamentalist capitalism is concerned, these people are really devout, true, believers.

  6. pj says:

    It was frightening to read in this article that male frogs are being feminized by the herbacide Atrazine. Could this also be happening to the American male? Fabulous article!

  7. Merrelyn Emery says:

    There are several chemicals that feminize. Quantity and quality of sperm counts have been going down for some time, ME

  8. Martin V says:

    It’s worth noting that the EU banned Atrazine in 2004 “because of its persistent groundwater contamination”. Interesting Wiki article about it:

    As Noam Chomsky and other have noted: Corporations will do whatever they can get away with. Chomsky recently spoke in Denver and focused the last 12 minutes on how we’re wrecking nature for short term profit (which I filmed). Sobering. Chomsky has a long history of uncovering the methods of propaganda and coercion used by governments and corporations.

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yes. Christopher Pearson often expressed dismay at that development.

  10. This is how it is done.
    The shady world within.

  11. Obstreperous Applesauce says:

    Greed or primitive compulsion? The flash is the signal, the arrogance is the perquisite for being the biggest, baddest tree thrashing chimp around. Screw all else.

    Scientists think definitions are for refining–to better clarify their understanding. The rest of the world takes a more lawyerly, adversarial view. It’s a game of pushing the boundaries of definitions to gain an advantage… or because what-the-hell. That’s the kind of closed, blinkered world we live in. Break through that and we might stand a chance as a species.

  12. J4Zonian says:

    Many primitive peoples have not exhibited this. There’s no evidence this is a natural tendency or genetic component of humans; the evidence strongly suggests instead that it’s an artifact of so-called civilization.

  13. Obstreperous Applesauce says:

    The evidence is that better designed social systems, ‘primitive’ or otherwise, minimize bad behavior and it’s effects.