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Writing – Health – Life
States of not knowing 

Snowflake, AZ

I have a new book out! It's called Snowflake, AZ and you can find out more about it here. Or watch this short video...
A short trailer for Snowflake, AZ. The link in opens youtube.

It is without question the most personal book I have ever written, being the story of Ash, a young person who becomes ill without an explanation, or at least without an explanation that current orthodox medicine believes in.

It's about the health of the individual, it's about the health of our planet. It's about resilience and the strength of love to endure.

This is the cover in the UK...
...and this one is the US cover. I like them both and they appear to be related.

For one thing, it's pretty apparent that the story takes place in Arizona, which was where I met the people who half-inspired the book - sufferers of MCS, a condition that most doctors still deny exists. Despite the fact that we are filling our world with countless chemicals about which we know far too little.

Which brings me neatly to the subject of this month's interview...
Five questions with...



Carey Gillam's book Whitewash tells the story of Monsanto, and how, for decades, they have orchestrated a cover-up of their product glyphosate, better known as Roundup. Roundup isn't just something the weekend gardener sprays on their driveway to kill weeds. That's small change compared with the multi-billion dollar use in agriculture, where Monsanto also developed GMO crops resistant to their pesticide, creating a trap from which farmers find it almost impossible to escape. Great profits for Monsanto, but at what cost to human, and planetary health?
1 - Hi Carey, thanks very much for agreeing to be ‘undiagnosed’. If readers haven't switched to organic food by the time they finish Whitewash, I'd guess they worked for Monsanto. Firstly, please tell us how it came about.
CG: I started covering farming, agriculture, Monsanto and the pesticide industry in 1998 for the global news wire Reuters. An editor at the publishing house Island Press had been following my work at Reuters and approached me in 2015 asking if I would be interested in writing a book about all of the agrochemical/pesticide issues I had been uncovering. I did not have time to write a book and wasn’t sure anyone would really want to read an entire book about these issues, despite the fact that I knew they were profoundly important to human and environmental health, and I knew from covering the industry for so long that our regulators were dropping the ball on protecting us. I eventually left Reuters in late 2015 and signed a contract with Island Press in early 2016 to start writing Whitewash. I also signed on as a researcher with the nonprofit group US Right to Know.  
2 - You describe how Monsanto (now owned by Bayer) spent years covering up the links between their product and cancer; how they fudged reports, colluded with the EPA, put pressure on scientists to give glyphosate a clean bill of health and so on. Did you personally ever feel this pressure as a journalist trying to get to the truth about this subject?
CG: Lord yes. That was a key strategy by Monsanto – to pressure me and other senior journalists who had been on the beat long enough to know when Monsanto’s messaging didn’t match what was actually happening in the real world. They hassled and harassed me, my editors, my sources. At one point they tried to get me pulled from my beat at Reuters and I had to involve senior management in New York because my regional manager was so rattled. They also were behind front groups that worked to discredit me. In 2014, an organization called Academics Review published two scathing articles about my work at Reuters writing about Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops and its Roundup herbicide business. Monsanto had been unhappy with some of my stories, complaining that I should not be including the views of company critics. Academics Review amplified those complaints under the guise of being an independent association. But after I left Reuters, internal Monsanto emails emerged that showed that Monsanto had set up Academics Review specifically to act as an attack dog against people like me who were exposing problems with the company’s products. We also now have evidence of multiple Monsanto-paid front groups engaging in similar efforts to discredit me and other journalists scrutinizing the company's business practices. 
3 - Like me, you grew up somewhere rural. As children, and even as adults, we often make the mistake when we look at the countryside that it’s all ‘natural’, but of course, finding a true wilderness is very rare these days. Most land shows the effects of Mankind, and agriculture. A further step, in finding that “Big Ag” is less concerned about people’s health and the that of the planet than profit making, can be distressing. Did there come a time therefore when you felt this awarenesses growing, that not all is well with the way we make food, and the way we’re told about it? 
CG: Frankly, I didn’t think a thing about food production, environmental sustainability, etc… until the late 1990s when I was assigned to the farming/ag beat and covering the companies that were reforming agricultural practices. As I write in Whitewash, the beat required that I learn the industry from the ground up, which meant spending a lot of time with farmers. I’ve literally visited several hundred farms in the last 20 years all across the country, and I’ve come to have profound respect and appreciation for the work farmers do for us. It’s been the corporate efforts to dominate and control what farmers do that I find alarming, and the lax regulatory structure that protects corporate profit interests much more than public well-being.
4 - Would you say you that people will focus on the carcinogenic properties of Roundup that you describe in Whitewash? You also discuss how it's believed to be responsible for a wealth of other health problems, from autism to gluten intolerance, hormone imbalances to kidney damage.
CG: This book is not aimed at proving a causal connection to any disease – I’m reporting on a range of scientific studies showing a range of concerns, such as reproductive problems, kidney and liver disease and on the growing litigation that does focus on the cancer connection. Nor is this book about what I think about any one issue. Whitewash is a meticulously researched presentation of the history of Monsanto and its push to make Roundup prevalent in our world; the science showing the dangers of this widespread use; the company’s deception in trying to cover up the dangers; and the utter failure of the regulatory structure to protect people and the environment. 
5 - What’s the single most alarming thing you came across in the whole sorry story? 
CG: There are so many alarming revelations. The company’s practice of ghostwriting papers to be published in scientific journals is just crazy scary. These papers look like they’re coming from scientists working independently of Monsanto. So when someone reads a paper that declares Roundup and/or glyphosate is perfectly safe, it appears credible when in fact it was orchestrated by Monsanto as a way to protect sales. The documents show that has occurred over and over again. Some internal emails show the company celebrating these deceptions. It’s also really disappointing and frustrating to see the emails in which Monsanto engages with certain EPA officials. I have emails in which Monsanto sends the EPA “talking points,” telling the agency what to say about the company’s products, and emails in which Monsanto engages the EPA in an effort to kill off a review of glyphosate toxicity by a separate agency. There are emails like this that go back decades showing Monsanto pressuring the EPA to help it protect its profits at every turn, and the EPA frequently complying.
Thanks again for your book, and for agreeing to tell us more about it. Just before we let you go, what are you working on at the moment?

CG: I’m working on another book at the moment, a possible screenplay, consulting on a documentary film, and continuing to do research for US Right to Know. Our group is small – we mostly file Freedom of Information requests with regulators and universities to try to keep the truth flowing about food policies and practices. But several big companies and industry players are trying hard to shut us down. We’re seeking donations, new funders, so please keep us in mind for charitable giving. 
A big thank you again to Carey for agreeing to be interviewed. The story in Whitewash is, frankly, alarming to say the least. If you feel you'd like to know more take a look at Carey's website. If you want to know about the organisations she's involved with now, and possibly even raise funds or make donations, you can find  US Right to Know here, and Justice Pesticides here.

She can also be found here on twitter.

See you next month...

Copyright © 2019 Marcus Sedgwick, All rights reserved.

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