Thursday, September 5, 2019

Roundup lawsuits shed light on Monsanto's internal — and controversial — PR strategies

ST. LOUIS — More than a year after Bayer gobbled it up, Monsanto has managed to stay in the headlines, thanks to a mountain of lawsuits that allege its moneymaking weedkiller Roundup causes cancer. Like Monsanto, Bayer insists the widely used product is safe, but three big jury verdicts have found otherwise.
 “It’s been a little bit more noisy than expected,” Liam Condon, president of Bayer’s crop science division, conceded during a recent visit to the company’s St. Louis-area facilities. “The noise is completely related to glyphosate,” he added, referring to the active ingredient in Roundup. “For sure, there’s a speed bump with the glyphosate litigation, but that’s not going to last forever.”
But the product liability lawsuits — the company is now being sued by more than 18,400 plaintiffs — haven’t just raised questions about a weedkiller that’s been on the market since the early 1970s, they’ve also offered a rare glimpse into Monsanto’s internal public relations strategy when under fire.
To shape public perception about Roundup, the biotechnology giant formerly headquartered in Creve Coeur engaged in a coordinated push to counteract negative publicity — efforts that included moves to discredit critical journalists and activists, and also aimed to influence search engine results online, according to records divulged in the lawsuits against the company.
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, Los Angeles-based trial lawyers who have handled many of the anti-Roundup cases, have been selectively posting Monsanto documents, including internal correspondence, starting in 2017.
The latest trove of documents, released in July, detail a range of glyphosate-targeted efforts from Monsanto officials over the years.

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