While having an interesting discussion on the concerns of Monsanto’s widely used biocide glyphosate, better known as Round Up, I stumbled onto a corporate land mine. I received a torrent of vulgar insults, veiled threats and a blistering critique of my reputation as an environmental biology and marine science instructor of nearly 34 years. A simple conversation with a student I had in class nearly 20 years escalated into exposing the playbook of big tobacco and chemical company fierce defenders.
I replied to a post about roundup, Monsanto’s widely used herbicide. I questioned if this known biocide, Roundup, that is now being found in beer and wine is indeed safe?
Yes: I understand that the levels of Roundup in beer and wine, were found in incredibly low concentrations, in parts per billion, significantly lower than the 1-300 ppm allowed by the EPA in food crops. I was just following along in this discussion. And: I do have genuine concerns about the safely of Roundup. A study in Environmental Sciences Europe documents a staggering amount of this biocide, 1.8 million tons of glyphosate, has be used since its introduction in 1974. Worldwide, 9.4½million tons of the chemical have been sprayed onto fields. Now, homeowners can apply Glyphosate on their lawns, engineered to kill those weeks while our nation is literally awash in chemical poisons. Are we absolutely sure that Roundup does not cause cancer or disrupts crucial hormone messaging in our bodies? Having three grandchildren I worry. I worry a great deal. ï¿½Consider that Roundup use has exploded, with the onset of Roundup ready crops what are we putting into our soil and groundwater and foods? To put this into perspective, that 1.8 million tons is equivalent to the weight of water in over 2,300 Olympic-sized swimming pool or enough to spray half a pound of Roundup on every cultivated acre of land in the world! I am old enough to remember the complicit nature of tobacco ads and other corporate backed science: now, I am told that Roundup in my grandchildren’s cereal is no problem?
Another gentleman, suggested a site to check out, written by a friend of his at the University of Washington, a well-respected microbiologist with a Ph. D. The site took me to an organization called the American Council on Health and Science ACHS). I was aware of this organization, having read a piece that suggested human population was not a huge ecological concern and seemingly suggested that exposure to mercury and secondhand smoke were exaggerated. I gave my concerns that ACHS was primarily in the business of advocating for products made by Monsanto and others.
Then: the floodgates of accusations and insults began. “John, you just played the industry card. Now you come off as more of a political hack than a scientist. I recall that you were a science teacher at my high school, but even a cursory look at your Facebook page shows that your intensely leftist political inclinations likely color your worldview more than any background you have in science.”
This young man is right in one aspect, that years of walking through clearcut forests and knowing families who have had to live in cancer clusters do shape your life’s narrative.
In the classroom, which he never stepped foot in, I took great pride in three facets of education: give the peer reviewed data, including “science” that may contradict the public view of science, let the students examine a multitude of literature and then: form their own conclusions. Again, he balked at my suggestion that ACHA had a sizable bias in regards to defending corporations and their products. To which he replied, “John, so you’re are suggesting my friend Alex Berezow-VP of Scientific Affairs at ACSH-is dishonest? Really? You don’t know anything about him.”
I was stunned. It seemed this young man was having a circular conversation with himself. No, I had no clue about Doctor Berezow, nor did I mention him: so, where did this claim of “dishonesty” arise? I chalked it up to the new world of discussions on Facebook were knee jerk reactions, misplaced anger and bold assumptions are made.
He again accused me of maligning his friend, who I never mentioned and referred to me as using, “corporations are bad, hippie bullshit.”
Then came the icing on the cake. Alex Berezow, the esteemed PhD microbiologist began a productive discussion by calling me a “POS” or a piece of shit. Then, he stated, “John Borowski if you’re going to rely on conspiracy websites to make your decisions about me, then you need psychiatric assistance.”
Now, mind you, I don’t know this person, never have commented on this person and simply referenced the ACHS. For this information: I didn’t go on Breitbart or Fox News or the Daily Caller: now, those are conspiracy websites.
Upon some research: I found he considers the NY Times and even Scientific America as unreliable sources.
He goes on to state: “What’s wrong with Scientific American? For a long while, Scientific American became the headquarters for left-wing social justice warriors and others who felt bashing conservatives was more important than reporting good science. (Previously, that dubious distinction went to ScienceBlogs, but nobody reads that anymore.) SciAm’s best content is generally stuff they reprint from other outlets.” Corporate tactic number one: attack the messenger? Only “corporate backed science” is reliable?
I mentioned that in the past, ACHS had even denied global warming, to which he replied, “John Borowski, We don’t deny global warming. You are a despicable liar. You were a science teacher? Good Heavens. Now wonder Americans are so scientifically illiterate.”
To be blunt: I was rude in return. I told him to “fuck off.” My Jersey attitude came out. So: I pushed back, suggesting that “you cannot run from your propaganda.” By the way, Mr. Berezow, your organization did deny global warming, writing “there is no scientific consensus concerning global warming.” ACSH, 1998.
And, after reading a fine article, by the author, Gary Ruskin, I was made privy to other dubious scientific claims by ACHS:
+ Argued that fracking “doesn’ t pollute water or air.” Daily Caller, 2013
+ Claimed that “There has never been a case of ill health linked to the regulated, approved use of pesticides in this country.” Tobacco Documents Library, UCSF, The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition document page 9, 1995 .
+ Declared that “There is no evidence that BPA [bisphenol A] in consumer products of any type, including cash register receipts, are harmful to health.” ACSH, 2012
+ Argued that the exposure to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, “in conventional seafood causes no harm in humans.” ACSH, 2010.
The conversation drew to close. “Hey John, my next article is going to be about you and how our education systems sucks because too many talentless losers like you go into teaching. We get more than 500k readers per month. I’m going to make you famous.”
Wow. The leadership at the American Council of Science and Health must take great pride in their eloquent spokesman? “Piece of shit, you need psychiatric assistance” and a veiled threat about “making me famous” and insulting my profession. So, now, there is a serious case of making a reasoned and rational case for your organization? This is why many fear taking on corporations. They play to win and apparently, believe corporate dollars can generate any outcomes they want? To publish “debunked” science that appeases their corporate cronies? The last question Mr. Berezow asked was if I had been fired from my last teaching job. Where did that come from?
I thought I was done: but, he continued today. “John, are you a 9/11 truther? This article seems to suggest you flirt with that conspiracy. Not many people I know use the term ‘the bogeyman of terrorism,’ considering that terrorism is an actual thing.” No, Mr. Berezow, I am aware of terrorism, I had two relatives at the trade towers during this horrific attack. You misstated a part of an article. We had now moved from insults to conspiracy accusations.
Not to be outdone by this foolish question, he followed up with, “By the way, this is what John once wrote about biotech scientists like me: We commit ‘crimes against nature and against humanity.’ And: ‘Like Big Tobacco these industries know they are doing grave harm to our living life-support system and to our people, even killing people but they do it anyway and lie about it.”
Apparently, Mr. Berezow went trolling today, looking up articles that I had written in the past, ranging from CounterPunch to the NY Times to Commondreams. Yes, Mr. Berezow, I did suggest and stand behind the truth that certain biotech interests commit crimes against nature. Do the compounds Agent Orange, PCBs and C8 ring a bell? All cases of compounds that were crafted by organizations like yours give cover and defend; even their creators acknowledged their dangers?
So: what am I take away from this? A man, I don’t know, who I never criticized goes on a profane and immature tirade against someone who never mentioned him?
Is this organization above constructive criticism? Is he threatening me with claims of “making you famous.” Is it a case of corporate thin skin or a more ominous act of being a corporate thug? Why would he feel the need to attack a retired ecologist who enjoyed a successful career as a teacher?
Yes, Mr. Berezow, your credentials are impressive and “some” of your articles seem convincing. However, as a “Doctor” of science, your bedside manner, in your words, “sucks”. Big money from huge corporations does invoke a sense of power and arrogance I imagine you relish: but, money cannot buy the Truth or scare off people who just want to know if corporations like Monsanto or Exxon have the best interests of my grandkids at heart?
Apparently, how dare a person question the motive of an industry front group that advocates for the tobacco, agrochemical, fossil fuel, cosmetics and pharmaceutical corporate giants? Apparently, to question those who defend the mighty industrial behemoths must tread lightly. How convenient is it to assassinate the character of person based on one simple statement on Facebook?