Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Controversial pesticide research all but vanished from a major conference (usrtk.org)
199 points by stareatgoats 14 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 84 comments

I gave up reading the article about halfway when they hadn't mentioned at all how the program committee of the conference is assembled. That corporations sponsor academic conferences is natural: there are a lot of reasons it's useful: recruiting, networking, cooperating with other researchers, etc. And they're the part of those scientific communities that has the spare money to be able to provide sponsorships. That the article spent so long trying to convince me that this was sinister is bizarre.

> That corporations sponsor academic conferences is natural

But of course, not all "natural" things are ideal.

Pervasive corporate influence over scientific communication and funding puts a really big thumb on the scale of which programs get pursued and which findings get acknowledged and explored.

It doesn't make sense to forbid corporate participation in research altogether (that would be bad too), but it's prudent to look at real-world examples in real research domains to see if important work contrary to moneyed interests is being stifled or misrepresented by way of these money+power dynamics.

Why would eliminating corporate funding in academic research be bad?

The way it stands now is that it’s a nice tax write of the the company and a great way to play the heads I win tails you lose game.

Not all science is performed by way of academic research. Industry performs research too, and the best way to ground both biased industrial research and impractical/naive academic research is to have the two communities engaged as commingled peers, where both have standing in funding and process and are each obliged to provide justification and transparency to the other.

> impractical/naive academic research

I think this is a common confusion. You need impractical/naive research because that's how exploration gets done. If you heavily bias the search towards areas of the search space that you've already seen a lot then you've basically killed science and its ability to deliver useful results.

The phrase "Eliminate corporations from academic research" does a lot of heavy lifting here.

If a company wants to bring a pesticide to market. We would like them to bear the brunt of safety research costs before they launch. You might say that product safety is different from pure academic research.

We're just arguing semantics and incentives at that point. Like giving them a tax break for that research. Sure that sucks. But how else shall we make it happen.

> The way it stands now is that it’s a nice tax write of the the company and a great way to play the heads I win tails you lose game.

What do you mean by this? Can you elaborate?

Corporations can fund research in ways that allow them to suppress results that threaten their profits. If science is conducted in these ways, corporations can fund science (for which they receive tax benefits) and if the results are positive, it gets published and the corporation wins because the research supports their business model (tails, I win). If the research results does not support their business model, they can decline to publish it (tails, you lose).

There are ways to do science that avoid this kind of corruption.

Name three academic institutions that would sign a contract that prevented them from publishing adverse results. You are at least fifty years out of date on this argument.

A) They don't have to have that in writing, it's very implicity understood that you don't bite the hand that feeds. B) Even if they do find adverse results, depending on what they are (e.g. actively harmful versus negative results) you may have a hard time publishing them since journals don't care much for negative results.

Presumably he means you can use company funds to donate to a pro-pesticide charity/NGO, and then use that donation to claim a tax credit (around 50%, subject to some limits). It's not really a "heads I win tails you lose" situation though. If you donate $100k, and claim the tax credits, you're still out $50k. You might get back more than $50k worth of monetary benefits from whatever the NGO/charity does, but that's not really guaranteed. It's like buying some junk on wish.com with a 50% coupon and saying that it's a "heads I win tails you lose" because if it turns out to be not junk, then you win, but if it's shit you still saved 50%. A far more straightforward and honest way of describing it would just be to say that they get a discount on their charity spend.

That's also money you're spending out of your "profit" instead of netting it off as an expense, so it's really a fairly minor discount on pre-allocating money over a multi-year horizon for purposes that can be structured as a charity.

> Why would eliminating corporate funding in academic research be bad?

The honest answer is because there isn't enough funding through government and philanthropy.

You'll find a really odd opinion, that many people think engineering endeavors are significantly more important than research ones. When instead the truth is that both are two sides of the same coin. After all, research funds the next generation of engineering.

I think there's an unfortunate effect of this because there is quite a bit of science that is beholden to corporate... let's say "motivations"(?) rather than more free intellectual pursuit. Then the money that is more free is much more competitive and frankly people are metric hacking to get there (publish or perish paradigm is weird when you have to frequently publish novel works). The system was fine but the environment changes and eventually all metrics are hacked.

For personal values, I think it is quite important to fund research. From the very basic low level to even higher engineering research.[0] I'd actually be in favor of 5-10xing the federal science budget. I'd argue this should be primarily funded through federal grants, because people will take that research and go make things which will then be sold (world wide) and we'll tax through that. It's like venture capital if it was less risky but had a longer time frame for ROI.

The category of "General Science, Space, and Technology" accounts for 20.5 bn dollars[1]. The problem is, people understand this to be a big number and hear about these huge costs (often of projects that last decades!), but this is actually 0.4% of the 2024 budget! 64% of that (13.2bn) is going into space flight, research, and supporting activities. The other 7.3bn is going to the rest of science! To put this into perspective, we spend 8.4bn dollars on salaries and expenses for Social Security. The Navy gets 16bn for research, Army 11.5, Air Force 8.2, and another 14 on "Defense Wide" (so a total of ~50bn).

edit: To be clear, I'm not against corporate funding of science or even corporations working with academics for research. I think it can often work out great. But I think there needs to be some balance or academia gets captured by industry. I think we can think of some where this may have happened (or is in danger of), including domains closely related to the topics HN cares about the most.

[0] If you're unfamiliar, the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is a often referenced and useful (albeit vague) map to point to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_readiness_level

[1] https://www.usaspending.gov/explorer

[side note] A fun thing I do is talk about the ultra wealthy's wealth in terms of "CERNs" instead of dollars. Because numbers in the billions are just unimaginable (I have a physics degree and work with numbers this large -- or the inverse -- and if you tell me you understand this more than an abstract concept, I'll call you a liar). But we can imagine a CERN (which is funded by several countries btw and not a significant part of any of those budgets. Despite being the largest if not most expensive physics experiment ever). Which is a (roughly) 10 billion dollar super project that took (roughly) 10 years to build and costs (roughly) 1 billion dollars a year to operate. This actually makes for a good comparison for people like billionaires because their money is so massive that it is often growing far faster than they can actually conceivably spend it. Maybe the best example of this is Mackenzie Scott who in 2019 got $35.6bn in Amazon stock when divorcing Bezos, has given away $14 billion (5.8 in 2020 alone!) AND Forbes has her at 34.9 billion in net worth (Amazon has done 30% better than VOO since 2019 for context. So, not counting her givings, it's the difference of about 5bn)

I would say the right word is “emergent” not “natural”

Like a cell becoming cancerous.

I also found the article to be far too verbose and the parts I read mostly tried to imply some malfeasance, but there was hardly any specific accusations.

Industry sponsorship is entirely normal for scientific conferences, they would not really be possible without it. This also isn't an issue usually, the sponsors get some advertisment on the conference and some space to represent themselves. If sponsors actually would affect the talk selection that certainly would be a very serious problem, but I didn't see any real evidence of that in the article.

They spell out that:

"This face of Corteva Agriscience, ... that has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization ... "


"However, during hundreds of sessions on these subjects, a significant topic went missing: scholarly research on one of Corteva’s products – neonicotinoids, a factor in one of the most controversial, high-profile areas of research in entomology."

The article discusses quite a few angles about neonics. Close to the conclusion it quotes a researcher from the Uni of Minnesota:

"I don’t think the scientific meetings are run by them or overrun by them," she said. ... "You donate money, you get a perk. . . . It doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t."

So, an issue that even I (a civilian) have heard of fails to be mentioned at a massive conference that should be discussing it (int al). That conference has a major sponsor who also manufacturer's said "issue". Also it seems to be accepted that if you pay, you get perks.

That's an insinuation, not an accusation of anything specific at all. There are lots of reasons that in that particular year neonicotinoids were under-represented at the conference. The article basically presents one possible hand-wavy explanation as if it must be the explanation, and then offers no evidence of a link at all. Yes those companies sponsor the organizers of the conference, and yes the topic in question was under-represented relative to the article's expectations. No there is not necessarily a causal link between those statements.

A lot of arguments are hand wavy these days but neonics are nasty in my opinion.

I live in a UK county that is quite rural and there is a lot of farming here. It was also a testing ground for blasting badgers into the middle of next week 'cause bovine TB. Yay, go: Somerset (we also bring you the Glastonbury music festy and Chedder cheese and possibly "England" if you squint hard enough - that's a D Trump grade assertion!)

We can debate cause and effect but I suspect if I suggested you sniff a neonic, you might politely refuse on health grounds. They are not nice compounds and there is damn good evidence that neonics damage insects and may cause damage further up the food chain.

This conference should discuss all interested issues, regardless of sponsors. It didn't and you and I both know why not. There is no if or but.

> corporations sponsor academic conferences is natural

There is a vocal minority that treats "corporation" as a dirty word. This sort of writing is fodder for them. It doesn't actually have to make a point, just point out that corporations exist. It's helps campaigns get out the vote and electeds' staffers filter out stupid feedback.

Yes, along with capitalism, free markets, anti-union - once you have enough positive confirmation bias momentum on words already agreed upon as bad, then all you need is a little ad hominem implication nudge and you captured a large number of readers.

> along with capitalism, free markets, anti-union

On the other side you have socialism, DEI and cisgender. You really don't have to make a point to get that section riled up, just mention the term. (One could literally start a speech to the respective crowds by repeating a single word, e.g. corporations or socialism, taking a dramatic pause, and get a strong response.)

And again, it's safe to toss out policy feedback that obsesses over these terms. (Both the far left and right also have a weird obsession with capitalising random words. I think it seems evocative of Enlightenment-era English?)

Absolutely. It goes both ways. I just realized I may have implied otherwise. I was sticking to the negative words that go with corporation.

The article extensively details how insecticide companies, and neonic producers in particular, have a huge role in the organization leadership, funding, and its conferences. It quotes people who describe how industry infiltrates professional and academic organizations and influence.

At that "halfway" mark, the author describes employees of these companies gish-galloping conference presenters.

Then the author describes a couple of scientists in the ESA describing how neonic research isn't selected because it doesn't "add anything new." except the author then shows that neonic research and citations are both growing - the complete opposite of what several ESA people said.

These insecticide companies are getting to keep their cake (aggressively challenging neonic research as poorly supported) and eat it too (suppress representation of neonic research at their conferences because "it doesn't add anything new" and "is settled science.")

> the author describes a couple of scientists in the ESA describing how neonic research isn't selected because it doesn't "add anything new." except the author then shows that neonic research and citations are both growing

I suppose this needs to be expanded on. It could be that neonic research is growing, but that the papers being submitted aren't adding anything novel.

OP's point stands. Burying the lede after, essentially, a series of paragraphs that filters the readership to a particular political bent is bad writing.

That’s because USRTK is an organic industry funded PR group. They get paid to attack conventional agriculture. They are quick to point out corporate sponsors yet they themselves are a corporate sponsor.

This kind of “it must be sinister because … look at all the things that weren’t there!” Is highly damaging to the pursuit of science. It’s like gas lighting … so disappointing . The absence of anything is NOT proof that was purposely omitted

useful for careers, maybe

> That corporations sponsor academic conferences is natural: there are a lot of reasons it's useful: recruiting, networking, cooperating with other researchers, etc.

And for manipulating the scientific consensus, for rewarding scholars that agree with them, etc.

But who actually cares? I don't think anyone was saying that sponsoring scientific conferences wasn't useful for corporations. It's a straw man. The question is whether it's good for science and public health, specifically in the case of neonicotinoids.

> And they're the part of those scientific communities that has the spare money to be able to provide sponsorships.

The fewer challenges to what is currently profitable to them, the more spare money they have.

you know whats funny is how we have become so efficient at producing food the government literally has to stop companies from producing it more efficiently or it would crash prices and cause economic disruptions.

and restaurants throw out millions of tons of edible food every night but if you try to eat it you get arrested for stealing. your true crime was upsetting supply/demand. if people realized they could get free food at like 9pm every night then demand would plummet, so would prices, the restaurants would all go out of business. artificial scarcity is the business model of a huge section of the economy.

but then there is also all this attempt by companies to make new chemicals to grow food more efficiently. and the government wont stop that. its ok if you are more efficient just not TOO much more efficient. if you made a chemical that could drop the price of corn by 99% ... the government would probably have to stop that in order to support prices.

its like we have this weird machine where we have 5 different brake pedals and 5 different accelerators and different people are constantly trying to push all 10 of them.

the bees get caught in the middle.

I am a food system scholar and endorse this 100%

have you got any further reading on this topic?

A tough question indeed. The literature IMHO only covers some limited aspects and partial views to the whole system. Then there is the paywall problem for scientific literature. Honestly I don't know where to start.

EDITED: A suggested starting point https://eatforum.org/

The research community is talking about creating a body to summarise existing knowledge for the public and decision-making communities --- the IPCC sort, but no one knows why is it not happening yet.

My local garden place use to tell me roundup was safe to drink.

A few years later the that big cancer lawsuit hit the news.

I work in agriculture as an agronomist, and did some time putting out small plots sprays.

I absolutely fucking hate the drinking roundup meme. Yeah sure, pure Glyphosate has an acute toxicity similar to that of table salt (in rodents). So if you’re a rodent you can drink a solution of it similar to what you could tolerate with a salt water solution. But this says nothing of long term effects and is not a realistic situation and is fucking stupid.

Glyphosate on its own is completely ineffective, it requires adjuvants in order to do its work, for the same reason you use dish soap when washing plates. You will never see pure glyphosate used unless you’re working in research where you’re intending to mix it with something. It’s like all that research that equivocates coffee with caffeine, but even worse.

Roundup is always glyphosate plus surfactants, in fact the water/surfactant mix will typically be the majority of the bottle. Not only will these surfactants strip the protective mucus from your gut, it’s help the gylphsate cross barriers it would never be able to on its own, where it causes all sorts of havoc.

If someone drinks undiluted roundup, they will die in a painful way, though that requires managing to get it down, which typically only happens in suicide attempts. A fully diluted solution intended for spraying is much, much safer, but still likely to make you very sick on ingestion or significant skin exposure like if you get drenched in it.

Any study on the short or long term safety of pure glyphosate is worse than worthless, it’s outright misleading because Glyphosate is not Roundup.

Bonus: most adjuvants (which often make up the majority of the chemicals we actually spray out) are exempted from the types of registration and safety trials we typically apply to pesticides. Only a few states are starting to make changes to that (California and Oregon or Washington I think, been a while since I’ve looked at it).

You buried the lead. Do you think roundup is unsafe or safe?

That is a fundamentally incorrect way to think about things, there is no such thing as a safe pesticide. If it was safe, it wouldn't have any usable detrimental effect.

On the list of things I worry about when it comes to acute chemical exposure (eye danger, lung danger, absorption through skin), the various kinds of Roundup and associated generic formulations is personally down at the bottom as "least concern" at all levels of exposure. If I had to be drenched in a pesticide, this is the one I would choose offhand. It'd still be bad, chemical concentrate is not a joke.

I cannot speak to it's potential long term effects like cancer, as I neither have the skill, time, or desire to search through and evaluate the mess of biased literature available. Given my religious use of PPE and the short 3 year period of applicating small plot trials, my current level of concern for it's potential cancer effects is also "least concern". What's actually going to kill me is a heart attack/stroke given my family history, so I spend my limited mental and physical energy on maintaining a healthy weight and exercise.

It seems pretty clear to me that they think that Roundup, in the form that is sold to regular consumers, is unsafe to drink.

They even provided a detailed and rational explanation for why they hold this opinion.

Not to take away from your comment, but for those who clicked comments before reading, this article is about neonics not roundup

> In 2022, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) carried out a hazard assessment of glyphosate and concluded that it did not meet the scientific criteria to be classified as a carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic substance. EFSA used ECHA’s hazard classification for the purposes of the EU risk assessment on glyphosate.


Assessments by EFSA/ECHA are mainly based on studies and reports collected by the manufacturers. They rely in those being complete and honest.

Monsantos internal email correspondence was rather explicit on how they would rather reach out to their contacts and kill any study they did not approve of before it could become problematic.

Salt saturated water is also dangerous and lethal to drink. Does that mean that eating a little bit of salt, or any regular portion you'd usually come across in food, would be unsafe and lethal?

A lawsuit != scientific evidence... which points the otherway

Sure... but Roundup definitely causes cancer in humans. It's well established at this point.

"One international scientific organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), classified glyphosate in Group 2A, "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. In 2017, California environmental regulators listed glyphosate as “known to the state to cause cancer.”"

That's not to mention the strong-arming, harassment, and threats towards researchers publishing papers that paint Monsanto and Bayer in a negative light. [1]

1. https://usrtk.org/monsanto/attacks-on-scientists-journalists...

> International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), classified glyphosate in Group 2A, "probably carcinogenic to humans"

Group 2A includes red meat and hot coffee [1].

To the extent glyphosphate is problematic, it's in being toxic [2], not carcinogenic. (Though again, we can speak similarly of barbecue [3].)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IARC_group_2A

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9101768/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4993204/

> To the extent glyphosphate is problematic, it's in being toxi [2], not carcinogenic.

This is a fair assessment based on the published scientific literature. But you have to take into account the fact that the owners of glyphosate have

1) surveilled, harassed, defamed, and threatened individual scientists and

2) paid millions of dollars to ethically dubious scientists to publish articles in favor of the safety of glyphosate

3) paid billions of dollars to victims of glyphosate exposure because they were found liable (or thought they would be) of causing them harm

Given those facts, I think it's reasonable to assume that glyphosate is pretty f*cking bad for you and it's truly mind boggling that people feel the need to defend it.

It feels like everyone you talk to on the topic is a bureaucrat in the Soviet Union engaging in doublespeak. Clearly, the people harassing, threatening, surveilling, defaming, and bribing are the baddies. Clearly, they have something to hide.

> you have to take into account the fact that the owners of glyphosate have...

Monsanto was absolutely shady. That doesn't change the biochemistry of glyphosphate.

> it's reasonable to assume that glyphosate is pretty f-cking bad for you

Almost every industry has someone being shady. Concluding adversely from that is not reasonable. (It's literally ad hominem, concluding an argument by way of the speaker's character and motives.)

You said "Roundup definitely causes cancer in humans" and then provided sources. Your sources don't support that assertion beyond a very weak definition of causation, at which point we're back to it being similarly carcinogenic to widely-consumed foodstuffs.

Sure, there aren't many sources on my side of the argument because everyone who tried to publish was either threatened, harassed, surveilled, or bribed.

I'll give you that one.

> there aren't many sources on my side of the argument because everyone who tried to publish was either threatened, harassed, surveilled, or bribed

Right, a global conspiracy despite the repeated attempts by scientists who were being funded by interests opposite to Monsanto's trying to find evidence.

If you want a conspiracy, try this one: focus people on the provably-weak claims around carcinogenicity to distract from the stronger ones around toxicity.

> Right, a global conspiracy

It's not up for debate. It happened.

We know the threats, harassment, surveillance, and bribery happened. We know the specific people, the specific threats, the specific dollar amounts.

> It's not up for debate. It happened

False equivalence and straw man [1][2]. You claimed "everyone who tried to publish was either threatened, harassed, surveilled, or bribed." You're trying to conclude that argument by showing some people were threatened, harassed, surveilled or bribed.

Going back to your first post, you made a claim and provided sources that don't support it. Now you're backing up into, essentially, "trust me." This isn't arguing in good faith.

> We know the threats, harassment, surveillance, and bribery happened. We know the specific people, the specific threats, the specific dollar amounts

Sure. These actions apply to plenty of things. That doesn't prove the inverse.

The bottom line is there is a multi-billion dollar pay-out for anyone who can show Roundup causes cancer. As a $50bn company, Monsanto has weight, but it's in the low tier among the heavyweights.

Hell, if someone has convincing research and is scared, hit me up. I'll indemnify you against civil claims, finance the litigation and even pay for personal security and countersurveillance (if they're caught illegally surveilling, it adds to the damages). In exchange, I want my costs back first plus 51% of the damages.

SIDE NOTE: Memkit looks cool.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_equivalence

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

I mean, I agree with your claims about my logical fallacies.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: If we could magically determine the truthiness of all these statements and I had to bet money, I would take my side.

> what I'm trying to say is: If we could magically determine the truthiness of all these statements and I had to bet money, I would take my side.

This is, in my opinion, a more-compelling statement than "Roundup definitely causes cancer in humans. It's well established at this point."

(Also, Roundup != glyphosphate. The nastiest bit in Roundup may be the surfactants [1].)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyethoxylated_tallow_amine#H...

I admittedly get annoyed when people link to video and audio, but in this case, the best source I can think of for information about how IARC classification works is a Stronger By Science podcast episode about Aspartame: https://www.strongerbyscience.com/podcast-episode-116/

If you ever have five hours to listen to someone geek out over esoteric history and regulatory state stuff, in a way that is presumably somewhat tangential to your political bents (presuming you have no strong opinions about strength training), this is a very good non-political source of information. JumpCrissCross gives the short version, but IARC's class 2 is probably not what you think it is. It's not just that it contains a whole lot of stuff I guarantee you ingest regularly without thinking about it. It's not meant to be an advisory to consumers at all. It's a recommendation to researchers about what sorts of compounds are worth putting further research into. The way the media reports about it is wrong and misleading to the people it scares.

The thing about that fact pattern is I would expect the same thing if the chemical was completely inert. This makes it very difficult to infer guilt or innocence based on Behavior alone

Is there anything in CA that is not known to cause cancer?

There's actually a list, but it's really big and includes possible exposure to toast (acrylamide) and beer (ethanol). There's also no compensation or incentive for doing any work to prove that a warning isn't justified, so everyone errs on the side of spamming them everywhere.

The evidence for alcohol consumption causing cancer is actually pretty strong:


> evidence for alcohol consumption causing cancer is actually pretty strong

As it is for red meat and hot drinks. These are low-magnitude high-significance effects.

It's really not.

Then why is Monsanto presenting pre-written papers and "high quality drafts" to scientists and journalists to "edit" and put their names on?


Then why has Monsanto settled one hundred thousand claims and paid ten billion dollars in judgements against them and settlements?

Then why was a top official at the EPA emailing Monsanto executives saying he should "get a medal" if he was able to kill the CDC's study?


Because glyphosphate is almost certainly toxic. We have evidence for that. (Roundup is more toxic than glyphosphate alone [1].)

That doesn't mean it's carcinogenic in a colloquial sense--we don't have evidence for that, again, beyond the carcinogenic capacity of commonly-eaten foods.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glyphosate#Toxicity

I mean what do you make of the threats towards researchers? Surely that has limited the amount of scientific evidence published against the safety of Bayer's products, no?

It's also a damning piece of evidence in and of itself, at least stochastically speaking.

>I mean what do you make of the threats towards researchers?


This is a decent summary of one tiny fraction of their unethical doings: https://usrtk.org/monsanto/attacks-on-scientists-journalists...

Skimming the first few parts, since the linked article is long and I'd like to avoid engaging in a gish gallop:

>when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, her scientific analysis of the harms of DDT, Monsanto engaged in targeted personal attacks to try to undermine her research

They said mean things, but calling it a "threat" seems like a stretch. Moreover after clicking through some of the links I still have no idea what they actually said aside from some well chosen quotes.

>In the lead up to IARC’s report, Monsanto rolled out an “an unprecedented and harsh strategy” to discredit experts, wrote Colorado School of Public Health Dean Jonathan Samet. Monsanto’s attacks, he said, amounted to an “attack on expert review” itself.

I skimmed the linked article and it doesn't offer specifics about what the "attacks" actually were.

>Journalists at France’s largest newspaper Le Monde, in their award-winning series about the Monsanto Papers, described the Monsanto-led attack on IARC as “an effort to destroy the United Nations’ cancer agency by any means possible.”

Skimming the linked source, it looks like the "attacks" in question are FOIA requests.

>Following that email exchange, GLP went on to publish dozens of articles critical of the cancer agency — many of them personal attacks on the scientists involved in the glyphosate review, and some of them written by former chemical industry lobbyists and climate science skeptics.

See first reply in this comment.

>Engaging climate science denialists

bad/questionable, not exactly "threatening"

>Another document reveals that Monsanto consultants drafted at least one letter calling for an investigation of the “flawed” IARC process — and designed to look like it was written by a member of Congress.

1. The process is arguably flawed, as other commenters have mentioned. I think it's fair game to criticize them for that

2. I looked at the linked document and I can't imagine how anyone thinks it "look like it was written by a member of Congress". Nowhere does it claim that it's written by a congressman, and the signature block just says "NAME"? Is this even a real letter that was sent to Dr. Collins, or a draft letter that they wanted an actual congressman to send?

I can't help but think of the movie Erin Brockovich:

Erin Brockovich: By the way, we had that water brought in specially for you folks. Came from a well in Hinkley. Ms. Sanchez: [Puts down the glass, without drinking] I think this meeting is over. Ed Masry: Damn right it is.

Would you personally spray Roundup directly on your skin?

Because if you've ever treated a large area of your plot with weed killer with a spray indicator, it's clear as day that stuff is getting all over you with the slightest breeze.

I have a friend that suffered the exact type of lymph cancer that Roundup is supposed to cause. He used Roundup in his properties for years.

When I was a bench tech, back in the early eighties, we had gallon jugs of trichlor, all over the building. Each tech had a bottle at their bench.

We were explicitly told, by management, that it was completely harmless.

Yep. I don't buy it.

Fair. I don't believe the company that bribed the head of the EPA gives a sh*t about "science" or the health of their customers. This affects my view of how safe their product is.

This is the real world, not a philosophical sandbox. I understand that a person's character should be ontologically castrated from their argument in a philosophical sandbox. But 99% of the time that a company does evil shit like this in the real world, they have very strong reason to do so. It's increasingly likely that Monsanto/Bayer don't want the scientific process to run its natural course. They feel the need to intervene. Why?

I've used roundup on weeds around my house and not been especially fussed when it gets on my skin.

sure: hand-held household application is different to indiscriminate spraying from a pumped tank on the back of a truck

> hand-held household application is different to indiscriminate spraying from a pumped tank on the back of a truck

Critically, it appears the surfactants in Roundup are the nasty bit, not glyphosphate. To my knowledge, they don't permeate the skin. But if you're inhaling it, it's in your blood stream. It shouldn't be shocking that a chemical your body isn't used to designed to keep organic compounds apart messes with at least some of your biochemistry.

There is no controversy at all among entomologists and biologists : pesticides are responsible for the huge destruction of insects, birds and biodiversity in general; they're probably very dangerous even to us. But money.

Pesticides are a factor in insect loss, but they are VERY far from the major cause of lost biodiversity in general. The major causes are overwhelmingly environmental destruction (e.g., the clearcutting of virtually all old growth forests) and the introduction of invasive species and diseases.

I think you're probably right globally and historically. However, I think the parent's point is still valid for many localities. Sure, the medium to large animal diversity is probably low in our already mostly destroyed habitats (cities, suburbs, etc) but the insecticides are likely to be destroying what's left for the remaining insects and small animals.

> Pesticides are a factor in insect loss, but they are VERY far from the major cause of lost biodiversity in general

Oh hey, look at that - the exact position of the insecticide industry...

...which does not explain why bee die-offs in various countries (at different times) have coincided with the introduction of neonic pesticides in that country.

It's the exact position of anyone who studies ecology and conservation.

Bees are certainly being killed by pesticides.

However, the claim is not about bees. It's about Earth's biodiversity in general. Pesticides are certainly a factor here, but pesticides are not why tuna are overfished, or why elm trees are being wiped out, or why domestic cats are killing songbirds, or why the Amazon rainforest is getting bulldozed, or why polar bears don't have enough ice to hunt seals, etc., etc.

So....this seemingly just reflects a shift in research priorities, and there is no evidence provided to the contrary, and no reason to remark at all, except that

>Several entomologists who organized panels in bee science for the conference said that they were surprised to hear that research about the effects of neonicotinoids on bees had all but vanished from the program.

but then also:

> they also said that the field has shifted to an approach that accounts for multiple stressors on individual bees and hives, rather than studies of individual factors, and that the research presented at the conference reflects that way of thinking.

This seems like a real nothing-burger of an article. Research interests ebb and flow. Science is as subject to fads as almost anything else, and conferences more than most things tend to reflect these fads.

As someone who has worked for one of these multinational, I could have never imagined the stigma I would have when I said where I worked. On a wedding for example the discussion literally went silent when I said I worked for such a company. What nobody knew is that worked in GIS maps to warn farmers not to apply these pesticides near waterways. So I became more careful about clickbait titles and the hate against these companies and what is really having an effect in these ecology.

Of course we spent millions on marketing and selling more was the target of our sales teams. The problem is more that the whole field faces immense pressure, stigma and lack if alternatives - making it unsexy for funding or to even talk about it. I would welcome more innovation in that space and a constructive discussion instead of feeding the stigma.. ps: I don’t work there anymore…

The clear implication of this headline is that pesticide research was deliberately covered up. A few paragraphs in the writer makes it obvious that faceless corporations are to blame. Here's the lede:

>Only four papers and posters that examined [the effects of neonicotinoids on bees] made it into the conference, out of nearly 100 papers, posters and symposia on bee science.

(Now it makes sense why the headline says all but vanished)

Specifically, this is referring to a conference of the Entomologist Society of America. "Entomology" being the study of all insects. Bees, ants, katydids, flies, etc. How much out of a sample of 100 papers/posts/symposia should insect scientists be presenting new research on neonicotinoids and bees? Should it be more or less than 4%? Should it be 30%? 50%? I don't know, how on earth would I know that?

Actual entomologists quoted: "I’ve never had a problem getting a neonic paper in a symposium", "For any given subject within entomology, what is covered in ESA conference programs reflects the ebb and flow of interest in it among the community and the focus of research being conducted in the field."

However, this writer knows it's a lot more than 4%. How does she know this? Well here's an extensive study of a (probably nefarious) corporate partnership program by the ESA that accounts for... 3 to 3.5 percent of the society’s total annual revenue, and here's some people who argue that corporations are too involved with science. You do the math!

The writer also repeats some variation of "pipeline to industry" six times in an attempt to horrify the reader. Why you should be surprised or angry that entomologists are by and large working regular jobs for private businesses after graduating, is also left as an exercise for the reader.

Including this particular anecdote is also pretty telling:

>Emily May, a pollinator conservation biologist who studies pesticides for the Xerces Society, a Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit group, recounted facing intimidation by agrochemical industry attendees after her talk.

>She spoke at the meeting about how government regulators focus on the effects of individual pesticides on pollinators without factoring in the cumulative effects of a range of chemicals.

>After she spoke, she said, five people from the audience stepped up and fired off highly technical questions, such as whether she had completed indexes of cumulative effects.

>“Questions came in with ‘Have you done indexes about toxicity?’ . . . They were just getting very technical in their specific pushback on approaches to looking at cumulative toxicity,” May said.

>“It was like my worst-case scenario, really. It made me nervous about the next conference I presented at, to be honest. It’s hard. People wanted to make me look bad.”

>The source of that onslaught of technical questions: Employees of agrochemical companies, May said.

Am I crazy to think that a conference is not where you get your ideas uncritically accepted, but challenged on a "specific" and "technical" level? Am I crazy for thinking that agrochemical industry stooges should probably be torn to shreds when up against a biologist who has done the research?

We don't need to close our eyes and pretend like there's nothing to fear from corporations. There was an entomologist quoted saying "I’m not going to deny that there is an uninterest, or a bias, to not talk about pesticides and bees", which isn't nothing, but this was clearly drawn out as a response to some kind of pointed question from the writer about the ESA and neonicotonoids.

I get that it gets clicks and eyeballs to play into certain narratives. Are we even slightly worried that if you rely on lazy and dishonest innuendo too much, everyone will become just as lazy and won't believe you when you finally break an important story that goes against their priors?

Obviously nobody can trust The Science any more, too much big money involved. The best you can do is try to keep up with bro-science, which is often decades ahead of The Science, and avoid any new chemicals, food additives, drugs or therapies for several decades until we learn if they're really, actually safe or not by observing what happens to the guinea pigs called the general public. At this point we've all seen enough evidence to have destroyed either some, or all trust in The Science, anybody left using Science Juice or Science Gas or Science Pills either doesn't care, or wouldn't even if they knew.

Absolutely. I began thinking this way when I was the guinea pig, and suffered a permanent life-alerting effect from a medication, which was anecdotally reported despite there being no official correlation or link by the "science"

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact