“Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer,
and the Corruption of Science”
by Carey Gillam (Twitter @careygillam)
Island Press, 2017
Review by Susan Poirier
Anyone concerned about food safety will gain invaluable perspective of the ubiquitous use of Roundup and its impact on our food, public health, and environment in Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science. Author Carey Gillam is an investigative journalist and research director of the consumer group U.S. Right To Know and a former senior correspondent for Reuters.
Glyphosate—the key ingredient in Roundup and the herbicide that Monsanto has touted as safe for decades—is the most widely used chemical in America with 286 million pounds applied in 2015, up from 18.7 million pounds in 1991. In fact “no herbicide has come remotely close to such intensive and wide-spread use.”—(Whitewash, Chapter 3).
Things are often not what they may appear so if Monsanto’s claim of ‘safety’ seems too good to be true, that’s because it is. The chemical glyphosate along with Monsanto’s GMO seeds developed in the 1990’s have profoundly altered traditional agricultural practices and our food supply.
Whitewash reveals how Monsanto used pressure tactics and relied on inside contacts within government agencies to slant and suppress cancer research and food safety studies.
“But the EPA is hardly unique in its attitude toward glyphosate or its willingness to bend to corporate pressure. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not only green-lighted but promoted the use of glyphosate-tolerant crops, all while repeatedly refusing to scrutinize what levels of residue the chemical has been leaving in our food.”—(Whitewash, Chapter 11)
On their website, the mission of the Environmental Protection Agency states “chemicals in the marketplace are reviewed for safety,”and in the 1980’s the EPA’s own scientists stated that Roundup could cause cancer. The World Health Organization recognized Roundup as carcinogenic in 2015. Yet the EPA chose just weeks ago to reiterate their position that glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
Monsanto just lost its third Roundup-cancer trial and has been ordered to pay $2 billion in punitive damages to Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a couple who have both been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma linked to exposure to Roundup. There are thousands more cases pending against Monsanto that could go to trial.
I read Whitewash once-through and then re-read several key chapters for a solid overview of the decades of deception that have coincided with Monsanto’s mega-power rise and global influence in the herbicide and GMO seed markets.
For those like myself, who want to give the benefit of the doubt and believe that government agencies and especially the EPA would never be willing to compromise public health under corporate pressure, Whitewash may be unnerving but necessary. I will no longer inadvertently forget to check for the ‘non-GMO’ label (as well as USDA Organic) on the food I buy.
Knowledge is power and the first step to effecting change. With ever-increasing vulnerability of chemical contamination in our food, Whitewash offers insight and impetus to demand truth and change in how our food is grown and assurances of food safety.
Carey Gillam. Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science. Island Press, 2017. http://careygillam.com/book
About EPA - Our Mission and What We Do. An official website of the United States government. https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/our-mission-and-what-we-do
Beyond Pesticides. Contradicting Scientific Evidence, EPA Releases Interim Decision Denying Glyphosate Carcinogenicity. May 9, 2019.
Democracy Now! As EPA Insists Weed Killer Roundup is Safe, a Jury Orders Monsanto to Pay $2B to couple With Cancer. May 16, 2019.
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