Shredding `The Ecologist'.The day before the October issue of the London-based Ecologist was to be released, the magazine's co-editor Zac Goldsmith Frank Zacharias "Zac" Robin Goldsmith (born January 20 1975), son of billionaire Sir James Goldsmith, is an environmental activist and editor of The Ecologist.
Goldsmith joined the Conservative Party in 2005. received an unexpected call. Penwells, The Ecologist's printer for the past twenty-five years, expressed deep concern about the content of the issue. Under British law, a printer (as well as retailers and wholesalers) can be held liable for distributing libelous In the nature of a written Defamation ,a communication that tends to injure reputation. material.
Goldsmith assured Penwells that the new issue had been thoroughly checked and reviewed. He reminded the printer that The Ecologist had never been sued in twenty-nine years, despite consistently railing against multinational corporations
But it wasn't just the content of the latest issue that made Penwells skittish skit·tish
1. Moving quickly and lightly; lively.
2. Restlessly active or nervous; restive.
3. Undependably variable; mercurial or fickle.
4. Shy; bashful. ; it was also The Ecologist's subject--the multinational biotech giant Monsanto--a company with a reputation for playing hardball with the media. The following day, Penwells asked The Ecologist to send a letter to Monsanto's lawyers requesting that if the issue were considered libelous, Monsanto would agree to sue only the editors, editorial board, and owners. Monsanto refused to agree. The next day, Penwells shredded 14,000 copies of The Ecologist.
Penwells has refused to comment publicly on why it pulped The Ecologist. The printer claims that it was not contacted by Monsanto prior to its decision to shred the magazine. That claim is supported by Monsanto's director of corporate communications Corporate communications is the process of facilitating information and knowledge exchanges with internal and key external groups and individuals that have a direct relationship with an enterprise. in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. , Philip Angell: "The first we heard about this was when The Guardian [a British newspaper] contacted us about the destruction of the magazine." Angell says it was not surprising that the printer was concerned about the issue's content. "It is pretty inflammatory," he says.
"If it is true that there had been no contact, then that, as far as we are concerned, is even more alarming," says Goldsmith. "That a company like Monsanto can bring about a near-censorship with little more than its reputation puts the very future of the so-called free press into question."
The Ecologist soon found another printer to print the Monsanto issue. But the magazine's troubles didn't end there. Wholesale distributors WHSmith, John Menzies John Menzies plc is a Scottish business established in 1833. It has two main divisions: Menzies Distribution and Menzies Aviation. Menzies Distribution is a major distributor of newspapers and magazines throughout the United Kingdom. , and Surridge Dawsons all said they would not make the issue available to customers due to potential legal problems. Nevertheless, the issue is in high demand and may require a reprint, says Goldsmith.
But legal action surrounding The Ecologist's Monsanto issue seems unlikely. "We haven't seen the issue, and we're not taking legal action," says Monsanto's Angell. "That is not to say that it doesn't contain lots and lots of flaws."
Goldsmith isn't surprised. "To sue us would lead to their having to prove their social and ecological innocence publicly," he says. "They would be foolish to do so."
The controversial issue--entitled "The Monsanto Files: Can We Survive Genetic Engineering?"--came in response to the company's multimillion dollar advertising campaign throughout Europe this past summer. Europe has experienced mass opposition to biotech products. Protesters in France and Britain have ripped up crops of genetically engineered genetically engineered adjective Recombinant, see there corn and soya produced by Monsanto. Consumer acceptance of engineered food has collapsed since 1997, when Monsanto mixed its genetically engineered soya beans with ordinary soya--a practice European consumers viewed as an attempt to infiltrate the market undetected. European farmers have been vocal, particularly in France, in their distrust of the push by large American companies to control their seeds. European environmental groups argue that genetically engineered crops are untested and could spread pesticide-resistant genes to weeds, while public-health organizations question the lack of research on the health effects of eating genetically engineered crops.
Monsanto's ad campaign attempted to persuade European consumers and key decision-makers of the benefits of biotechnology. The ads proclaim Monsanto's commitment to the environment and boast that biotechnology will help feed the hungry of the world. The ads also called for a free and open discussion about Monsanto's new products: "Food biotechnology is a matter of opinions. Monsanto believes you should hear all of them."
But according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. memos prepared for Monsanto, the ad campaign has been an unmitigated un·mit·i·gat·ed
1. Not diminished or moderated in intensity or severity; unrelieved: unmitigated suffering.
2. failure. Research conducted for Monsanto by Stan Greenberg A political scientist who received his Bachelor's Degree from Miami University and his Ph.D. from Harvard, Greenberg spent a decade teaching at Yale University before becoming a political consultant. , pollster poll·ster
One that takes public-opinion surveys. Also called polltaker.
Word History: The suffix -ster is nowadays most familiar in words like pollster, jokester, huckster, to Bill Clinton and Tony Blair Noun 1. Tony Blair - British statesman who became prime minister in 1997 (born in 1953)
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, Blair , found that there is substantial opposition to Monsanto by the public, media, and retailers, who object to the company's efforts to introduce genetically modified genetically modified
(of an organism) having DNA which has been altered for the purpose of improvement or correction of defects
genetically modified genetic adj [food etc] → food into Europe.
"The latest survey shows an ongoing collapse of public support for biotechnology and GM [genetically modified] foods," says the memo, which was leaked to Greenpeace. "At each point in this project, we keep thinking that we have reached the low point and that public thinking will stabilize, but we apparently have not reached that point. The latest survey shows a steady decline over the year, which may have accelerated in the most recent period."
The Ecologist's "Monsanto Files" begins with an open letter to Monsanto's CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. and chairman Robert Shapiro, characterizing the company's ads as full of "apparent contradictions.... In the past you have had a hard time accommodating the view of your critics. Indeed, as the following pages make clear, you have been quick to stifle any debate that might threaten your interests."
The "Monsanto Files" traces the company's history of strong-arm tactics with the American media. In early 1998, the company pressured a Fox TV affiliate in Tampa to change a story critical of Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone bovine growth hormone
A naturally occurring hormone of cattle that regulates growth and milk production. It may also be produced artificially by genetic engineering techniques and administered to cows to increase milk production. (rBGH). The two reporters on the story, Jane Akre and Steve Wilson, refused to air a report they considered inaccurate and dishonest, and they were subsequently fired. (See The Progressive, July 1998.) The Dairy Coalition, an industry group in Washington, D.C., has been on the front lines for Monsanto in defending rBGH with the media. Dairy Coalition documents reveal its efforts to pressure reporters at The Boston Globe and USA Today to squash stories on the possible human health effects of drinking milk from cows injected with rBGH. A February 1996 internal Dairy Coalition memo brags of how the group managed to bump New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Times reporter Marian Burros off the rBGH beat entirely and shift coverage to the paper's more sympathetic health reporters. In May 1998, a proposed book called Against the Grain, on the dangers of agricultural biotechnology, was halted when the book's publisher, Vital Health Publishing, received a threatening letter from Monsanto charging that it was potentially libelous. The book has since been printed and is now available through Common Courage Press.
The company has continued these tactics in Europe. Last summer, three representatives of Monsanto visited The Guardian to voice their objections to the paper's coverage of biotechnology. The BBC BBC
in full British Broadcasting Corp.
Publicly financed broadcasting system in Britain. A private company at its founding in 1922, it was replaced by a public corporation under royal charter in 1927. has also heard complaints from the company. And Monsanto has sued a number of European anti-biotech activists--their stories are also detailed in The Ecologist.
Monsanto's Angell denies that the company has attempted to intimidate journalists, but says Monsanto will defend its reputation. "We believe strongly in the quality of our science, and the quality of the regulatory review of our products. We will be very aggressive in challenging anything that questions that process," says Angell.
According to the U.S. distributor, demand for the Monsanto issue is heavy. Those interested in ordering a copy can contact the U.S. office of The Ecologist at (510) 548-4915. Much of the issue is on The Ecologist's web site: www.gn.apc.org/Ecologist.
Ben Lilliston is a freelance writer living in Duluth, Minnesota.