The “Monsanto Papers” revelations continue. Newly declassified documents revealed their strategies to renew the controversial weedkiller RoundUp in the European Union. Focus on this new scandal.
We all know Monsanto – owned by Bayer since 2018 – especially because of its numerous scandals. For years glyphosate – the main ingredient of Roundup – was into the spotlight especially because it’s suspected to be carcinogenic. Documents published in May revealed the tactics used by Monsanto to influence opinion leaders in public debate on this controversial molecule.
The first file is a graph, dated 2016, with both logos of Monsanto and the communication agency Publicis which maps crucial actors in the debate on glyphosate in France. These opinion leaders are ranked according to their level of support for Monsanto and their influence.
This graph is not the only document. In May, French media Le Monde released files that show the use of stakeholder mapping to track attitudes and target messages of 200 French personalities – including journalists and politicians – in order to promote RoundUp during the “Glyphosate Renewal Campaign”.
In 2016 and 2017, a secret lobbying campaign was run by FleishmanHillard, a tentacular corporation, for Monsanto. The communication agency was charged to compile for it a list of its principles opponents.
Thanks to the Sidley Austin report – paid by Bayer after French medias revelations – we now know that 1 500 personalities in 7 different countries were targeted, watched and listed by Monsanto. Journalists, activists, scientists, politicians and syndicalists were secretly observed and rated from zero to five based on their credibility, their influence, and their level of support for Monsanto.
The trick doesn’t stop there: personalities who had been profiled by the firm were not just marked. They were also targeted by personalized lobbying strategies. A file called “Glyphosate target” lists 74 priority targets divided into 4 groups: the “allies“, the “potential allies to recruit“, the stakeholders “to be educated” and those “to be monitored“.
Two-thirds of people listed in this document are classified to potentially became pro-glyphosate. To tip them to the side of Monsanto, this table develop a personalized action plan for each target: meet one-to-one, send educational tools, individualized comments…
For the stakeholders “to be monitored“, it was a little bit different: strategies of marginalization are mentioned in the file. It’s written that it was necessary for example “to isolate” Segolene Royal, who was at the time the French Minister of the Environment, and who is notoriously in favour of a prohibition of glyphosate.
After these revelations raised by French medias, Bayer contacted Sidley Austin, a law firm in Brussels, to investigate. On 5 September 2019, the German pharmaceutic group published the report and announced that there was nothing illegal by tactics employed by FleishmanHillard :
“There is no question that the […] stakeholder lists created were detailed, methodical, and designed to strongly advocate Monsanto’s positions to stakeholders and to the public. But […] we did not find evidence to support the French media’s allegations regarding the illegality of the stakeholder lists.”
But, the Sidley Austin report reveals also interesting facts and information about the “Glyphosate Renewal Campaign” run by FleishmanHillard for Monsanto. The contract between both firms for the European Union campaign was worth €14.5 million.
This Statement of Work is in contradiction with previous Monsanto declaration. In 2016, the group said that their lobbying budget was less than 400 000 euros. This show that the pesticide industry’s lobby is more important than is claimed publicly. Monsanto has clearly influence and manipulate opinion leaders to renew its license for glyphosate.