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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Debate Intensifies Over "The Monsanto Years" by Neil Young + Promise of the Real

Since the release of Neil Young + Promise of the Real's album "The Monsanto Years", we have seen a counter attack here at TW by Monsanto Corporation supporters attempting to confuse the debate over food safety.

Much of this designed to cause average consumers to throw up their hands and declare that this discussion is just too complicated while they continue with their old habits.

So what's the real truth about Monsanto and food safety? As with everything, we say use discernment, think for yourself and ask questions.

In the meantime, here are some details on how the big corporate propaganda campaigns operate on "These Hired “Experts” Are Infiltrating The Media To Confuse You About Food…" (via

Every day more people are becoming aware of the chemical pesticides, synthetic food additives, antibiotics, and growth promoting drugs that are used to make conventional food products, and are choosing cleaner organic food thanks to you! People like us are raising up against the companies that are creating these toxic chemicals and boycotting major brands that have been mainstays in American supermarkets for decades. You can find organics just about everywhere now – Walmart, Target, airports, Chipotle, Panera and you can even get organic tea at Wendy’s. It’s obvious that the conventional food sector is not happy about this growth in organic foods and subsequent decline in their profits. They are so unhappy that they’ll spin whatever they can in the media to hold on to their share of the food economy. 

That’s why this brand new report that just came out last month is so important to read: Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications Are Shaping The Story Of Food by Kari Hamerschlag, Anna Lappé, and Stacy Malkan.

This report exposes the dirty tactics that Big Food and agrochemical companies have implemented to combat the organic food movement. They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on stealth public relations (PR) campaigns, using deceptive front groups to push coordinated messages that attack organic food, and activists like me, while defending the continued use of synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs, and chemical food additives. We are being bombarded with their messages that are making their way to the pages of the largest media outlets and onto the evening news.

As exposed in their report, four of the largest food and chemical trade associations are spending insane amounts of money – over half a billion dollars from 2009 to 2013! They also uncovered that 14 of the largest front groups working for the industry spent about $126 million during that same time period, often without fully disclosing where their funding comes from. This amount of spending is unprecedented!

Front Groups Spending

graphic on page 9 of report

This just goes to show how much they want to ensure that they can continue profiting off of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and cheap food additives – and to do this, they are doing everything they can to sway public opinion.

What do you think when you hear quotes in the media like these?

“Organic is no better than conventional and not worth the money.”

“U.S. meat production is safe, efficient and does not overuse antibiotics.”

“We need GMOs to feed the world.”

“Organic foodies are elitist.”

Corporate interests are at play!

Who is really telling the story here? Is it a non-profit organization that is working for the public good or for corporate interests? The Big Food and agrochemical companies are relying heavily on front groups to promote these types of messages in the media, and they even go as far as training seemingly independent farmers, bloggers, and scientists to act as expert sources for journalists. Front groups appear to be independent, but are actually run by experienced PR firms or industry trade groups that have their profits hanging in the balance. You’ll often see these front groups and their trained messengers quoted in the media without any mention of their connections to the industries they work for, and without any conflict of interest disclaimers. It’s all a sham!

The Spinning Food report exposes all of the big front groups that are seen quoted in the media, so we can become more aware of their tactics, and more vigilant about looking out for propaganda.

For instance, the “U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA)” is a front group that’s funded by biotech and chemical companies like DuPont, Dow and Monsanto and they spend about $10 million every year promoting the use of routine antibiotics in farm animals, GMOs, and the safety of chemical synthetic pesticides. They have reportedly trained at least 8,500 farmers and ranchers in 22 states with a spokesperson training program where “participants learn how to engage with consumers, using USFRA talking points and research on consumer attitudes”. These trained spokespeople have been quoted in the media without any disclosure of their ties to this group. For example, this article was published in the Star Tribune listing the author simply as “Suzanne Vold is a Minnesota dairy farmer and mother of three”, when she was actually a trained public messenger for USFRA

They want you to think yoga mat chemicals in our food are safe! 

Marketing messages from the front group “Center for Food Integrity (CFI)” are making their way into the media as well. Their members include the National Restaurant Association (which includes Subway as a member), the American Farm Bureau Federation, and companies like Monsanto and Tyson, with a primary mission to downplay any public concerns about chemical food additives:

“When issues arise, teams are activated to determine how to engage. For example, when Subway responded to pressure from the blogger known as Food Babe and announced it would stop using azodicarbonamide in its bread, an Issues Advisory Team acted quickly to add unbiased, fact-based information to the conversation.” – Center For Food Integrity, August 2014

This is an example of why I have been heavily attacked for campaigning for the removal of food additives – additives that are banned or regulated in other countries because of health risks. They accuse me of all sorts of things – “I’m not qualified”, “I’m not a scientist”, they dig up old errors on my blog that I have removed or corrected and they bring it up over and over again as a way to discredit me. The truth is (as many of you have seen through my campaigns) there are plenty of scientists and consumer organizations (including my advisory council) that back my work and there is a mountain of evidence that synthetic, carcinogenic and neurotoxic insecticides are bad for human health and the environment. 

Other front groups, like the “Alliance for Food and Farming” are funded by conventional produce farmers, and they continually attack EWG’s Dirty Dozen Guide on pesticides in conventional produce. Several other front groups like the “Council for Biotechnology Information” and “The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food” advocate for GMOs, and “Keep Food Affordable” advocates for conventional (non-organic) meat and egg producers.

The food and chemical companies will do anything to win over women.

I’m sure you saw or heard about the Monsanto ads that were plastered all over women’s publications like Shape, Parents, and O Magazines earlier this year. They use several tactics like these to get their messages into the public eye, but they mainly target a female audience, because women “account for over 70 percent of consumer spending and are responsible for most food purchasing decisions”. The website “” is funded by the Alliance for Food and Farming (the front group mentioned above that fights for conventional agriculture), and has a huge “MOM’S DESERVE THE TRUTH” banner on their front page, which also links to a “mommy-blogger” post that defends their stance against EWG’s pesticide guide.

Moms deserve the truth pic

The Pork Network warns farmers about “Crunchy Mamas”, demonizing moms who are concerned about the conditions on factory farms. The BlogHer Network conferences (the largest women blogging network in the country) have been sponsored by several Big Food companies and the front group “CommonGround”, in an obvious attempt to influence the content on blogs. Last year, Monsanto paid bloggers $150 to attend a brunch following the BlogHer conference to learn “where your food comes from” and “how farmers are using fewer resources to feed a growing population”. When I spoke at BlogHer Food in May last year, Monsanto and their PR firm were in the audience taking notes feverishly. As a female activist, I’m particularly disgusted with these attempts to try to persuade, undermine, and discredit me and other female bloggers, especially mothers who are trying to change our unhealthy food system. 

What should we do with this information?

I’ve just scratched the surface here on the compelling information found in the free Spinning Food report, so I hope you head on over and read it in its entirety. Familiarize yourself with the key PR players and front groups – and most importantly – share it far and wide!

All of us that are advocating for simpler, organic, and safer food are up against huge corporations (and shady front groups) with deep wallets. It’s going to take all of us together to keep the messages that are circulating in the media truthful and balanced.

Speak up and share this information!

Next time you read a biased piece that tries to convince you that conventional food is better or undermines organics or attacks activists like us, speak up. We all need to use increased scrutiny when reading about these topics in the media.

There is a lot of corporate propaganda out there, but we won’t be swayed, will we?



Labels: , ,


At 7/29/2015 02:40:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...


1. "we have seen a counter-attack here at TW attempting to confuse the debate over food safety". If you including me in this, I find that statement insulting. Is it not possible that people just disagree? I trust you are sincere in your beliefs, as you should trust people posting here who disagree.

2. There is no greater spreader of fear and misinformation than the "food babe". I can link to 100's of articles demonstrating this, they are easy to find if you google it. This is the one I find most humorous, perhaps not the nicest as I would be, but so on-point, and with lots of helpful links for further reading:

I got to get back to work...I may return here with a point-by-point discussion.
Sincerely, a Neil Young music fan, not paid by Monsanto.

At 7/29/2015 02:51:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

Nice try johnnyutensils, but sorry your ad hominem attacks just won't work here.

The New York Times Best Selling book 'The Food Babe Way' was reviewed by several doctors positively and went through 2 independent fact checks and a legal review.

Solid work that trumps a lame Gawker link.

Sincerely, a Neil Young music fan, not paid by Monsanto.

At 7/29/2015 03:03:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hmmmm. I guess I really don't want to argue here, as we will never agree. I hope you understand that Neil Young fans come in all shapes and forms. Thanks for all your work on keeping up with Neil Young news over the years, I do appreciate all of your work and will continue to follow in that regard.

At 7/29/2015 04:09:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

Then came paranoia, and it ran away with me ...

At 7/29/2015 05:42:00 PM, Blogger anon said...

Bunch thought nazis....

At 7/29/2015 06:36:00 PM, Blogger Greg Mantho said...

Awesome post, Thrasher. This is how all vested interests work, trotting out their bought and paid for "studies", or revisionist history, etc., never acknowledging that the little guys in these battles don't have the money or the means to produce opposing studies- just as farmers have no hope of going the distance in a law suit. Nearly all studies originate from the government, academia, and big pharma, and it is beyond dispute that the three are in bed with each other. Is a college professor hoping for tenure going to sound a contradictory note? Are government employees and "researchers" going to kill the golden goose that supplies the almighty financial contributions, or destroy the possibility of landing an eventual cushy job with big pharma? Big pharma? Nothing more need be said. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of good and decent people doing what they think is right, and positive contributions have been made right across the board, but the idea that science and research is objective and independent, is just a bad joke. Do a little reading about how the Rockefeller family rehabilitated their reputation through the use of high priced public relations firms, or recall the spin doctors trivializing the fact that a sitting president addressed a national audience and lied through his teeth, and you will begin to understand what a farce this whole Monsanto pushback really is.

A Friend Of Yours

At 7/29/2015 07:06:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

"What is the color when black is burned?"

I suspect we all have an answer, and we'd all be right (or wrong).

Hey, I haven't heard yet--has Neil accepted Monsanto's invitation to meet?

Take my advice
Don't listen to me

At 7/30/2015 10:06:00 AM, Blogger Paul Dionne said...

(double sigh....)

Thrasher, you have a lot of fervor, but I don't see how johnny utensils post is an ad hominen attack,
in fact he is quite right about the stance taken by those who disagree with the Neil is always right HEY HO! approach here; most times, I avoid Thrasher's Wheat - it drives me batty -
I agree with all that Neil SHOULD debate Monsanto -

paul dionne

At 7/30/2015 12:40:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

@Greg - thanks for actually addressing the content of the post unlike JohnnyU.

Your point about how just because science proves something is spot on. Often, science proves something that the research conveniently funded to provide a predetermined conclusion. And that is not "science".

@Paul - Good to hear from you. It's been awhile.

We found that JohnnyU had not read the post and merely resorted to attacking the author via a Gawker link which had nothing whatsoever to do with the report cited: "Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications Are Shaping The Story Of Food" by Kari Hamerschlag, Anna Lappé, and Stacy Malkan.

The post -- as Greg M points out -- is about how the Big Corporations contaminate debates with their various front groups. Anyone who takes the time to look at the graph table above and really ponder what it means should be absolutely shocked if they're not tuned into the pervasiveness of the corporate propaganda machine.

sorry to hear we here at TW drive you batty. And seriously, why might that be? We often hear about various TW myths floating about the 'net and are somewhat puzzled and amused so any insight would be appreciated. Because when we go to concerts, rustfests, etc, it seems that folks like what we do here. And quite often we're asked about who are these "Doubters" that are always posting on TW?

well, maybe we can discuss further over a beer at Bridge this year?!

At 7/30/2015 01:59:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Thrasher this is crucially important stuff and everything is interrelated. Dismiss the divise doubters and keep up the great work.
-- A Neil Young fan and NOT a corporate shill

At 7/30/2015 02:02:00 PM, Blogger Babbo B. said...

I thought Paul was very clear about what drives him (and others of us) batty: the sycophantic tone that permeates everything here, which leads to the labeling of anyone who dares to question Neil as a "doubter."

At 7/30/2015 02:28:00 PM, Blogger thrasher said...

OK Babbo B., fair point.

So "the sycophantic tone". Everyone has their perspective. When we defend FITR or MY as being vital to NY's catalog, important "message albums", look what happens:

So it cuts both ways. You can't have folks come here and attack these albums as weak and preachy, then be labeled as "sycophantic". Neil was very specific about what he was getting at by labeling as "doubters".

Frankly, it makes no sense how much energy some folks put into coming to a fan site to bash the artist. and then to bash the blogger for supporting the artist? why not just walk on?

Do people really not understand the concept of unconditional love?

But here's a deal. We don't like labels. So how about we stop calling TW/NY readers/supporters sycophants and maybe they won't call you doubters.


At 7/30/2015 09:03:00 PM, Blogger TopangaDaze said...

I feel that on balance this site has just about the right mix. There are plenty of sycophantic fans and quite a few who offer honest critical analysis. Every now and then there are a few posters who go out of their way to bash Neil on anything and everything, and I try to ignore them (though it's not easy).

To some I may be considered a basher, but I'm a huge fan, just not fanatical by definition. I believe it's important to be critically honest, like a good parent must be to their kids at times. Yes, show them and let them know unconditional love, but it must be balanced with authentic honesty.

Neil's been a big part of all our families (warts and all). This site is a place where I feel we can all be honest in sharing our thoughts, both good and bad. But like most families, when an "outsider" criticizes I sense we all have Neil's back on this site and in the world at large.

Thrasher: Thanks again for all you do. Like Neil, your heart is definitely in the right place and you provide us all with a great outlet to vent, learn, share and belong.

Take my advice
Don't listen to me
(except for my sincere gratitude)

At 7/31/2015 09:59:00 AM, Blogger thrasher said...

@ TopangaDaze - Thank you for that measured response.

Let's leave it here. We're trying to do our best here at TW to provide balanced coverage and not be swayed by manipulative forces at work.

And if you have any doubts about why anyone would bother with a little fan blog, see how we handle comments and why.

At 7/31/2015 06:28:00 PM, Blogger Seamus Mc Donnell said...

I love this album as it speaks to me and touches on my beliefs. Simple as.


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