Anatomy of a Newsweek Valentine to the Anti-GMO Movement
Imagine a press call like this:
Giant Oil Company Executive: We are here to talk to a scientist who has authored a new study called: “Huffing Oil Prevents Cancer”
Scientist: I estimate that those who have huffed oil every day for 22 years will never get cancer. Based on my study, all people should buy more oil and huff it daily.
Reporter: That is a great headline. I will write this story in 4 hours.
Giant Oil Company Executive: Here is a list of references and links.
Scientist: I am a scientist. You do not need to verify or fact-check.
Reporter: I love oil! I will write it a Valentine.
Far-fetched? Well, not really. This happens routinely in media coverage about GMOs. For the most part, press coverage goes something like this: The Good Guys (organic companies and environmental organizations) vs. The Bad Guys (biotech, agriculture, and food companies). The good guys are called “consumer groups” and the bad guys are called “industry.” Bad guys spend all the money, lie to consumers and poison the planet: good guys are just struggling, selfless “non-profits” trying to save us from Monsanto.
And last week, one of us (Julie), got an inside view into how easy it is to spin anti-GMO information and how easy it is to get at least one reporter to swallow it whole.
The Environmental Working Group, an anti-GMO activist group, hosted a press call on Feb. 2 to discuss the latest “study” about glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp (you can read the report here). Anti-GMOers blame glyphosate for pretty much everything from allergies to cancer to bad presidential candidates.
The study was written by Dr. Chuck Benbrook, a controversial figure you can read