I've been a science writer and editor for nearly eight years. During this time, I've learned a few things.
Perhaps the most important is that science is never enough. It doesn't matter if you have facts, data, and logic on your side, a substantial proportion of people will reject what you say and call you bad names. The reason, usually, is because they have an ideological conflict of interest -- by far, the worst kind of conflict of interest. That is, they are so dedicated to a particular viewpoint, that literally nothing will change their minds. That is anathema to science.
Editors must be aware of that fact. Otherwise, they are likely to be bamboozled. And that's exactly what happened to The Guardian, a newspaper that historically has been at least decent at reporting science*.
Carey Gillam Keeps Lying About Glyphosate
Carey Gillam is an anti-GMO activist who once wrote for Reuters, but no longer does. An e-mail obtained from a FOIA request shows that her activism may be why. Indeed, Gillam's work has been described as "polemical, sometimes fraudulent and routinely misleading."
Any editor worth his or her salt should think twice before allowing Gillam to publish anything, particularly when it comes to GMOs. Alas, that didn't happen here:
Literally, the very first sentence of the article is a lie. Gillam wrote: "US government scientists have detected a weedkiller linked to cancer in an array of commonly consumed foods..." That's a bald-faced lie. Period.
The scientific consensus is that glyphosate does not cause cancer. The EPA, FDA, EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), and WHO (World Health Organization) all have arrived at the same conclusion. The only odd one out is IARC, a bizarre little outfit inside the WHO. Why? Investigations have revealed that IARC insiders are engaged in scientific fraud and have massive financial conflicts of interest.
Is any of that mentioned in the article? Nope, of course not.
The content of the article is also suspect. Instead of waiting for an official report from the FDA, Gillam obtained e-mails from a FOIA request. Her article is framed to make it appear as if the FDA is covering up unsafe levels of glyphosate in the food supply. But her own source contradicts that assertion:
While developing his method he tested grain corn and found one sample to contain 6.5 ppm. The corn he tested was not an official sample, therefor [sic] no regulatory status can be assigned.
So, one sample had a high glyphosate level. One out of how many? 100? 1000? We don't know, because the email has little context. That's why we wait on official peer-reviewed reports, not on individual data points cherry-picked out of e-mails. Does The Guardian article mention that incredibly important caveat? No.
This journalistic malpractice should have been enough to prevent this article from being published. But there's yet another reason: Gillam works for an organization, U.S. Right to Know, that receives the majority of its funding from the Organic Consumers Association (OCA)? The OCA is a group of conspiracy theorists:
In addition to being vehemently anti-GMO, the OCA also publishes anti-vaccine propaganda, promotes alternative medicine, lies about nuclear power, and peddles all sorts of conspiracy theories, including 9/11 trutherism, chemtrails, and FEMA's secret plan to implement martial law. The head of the OCA is Ronnie Cummins, a man who has no moral qualms about doing interviews on the Russian propaganda network, RT.
The bottom line: Carey Gillam is a well-known anti-GMO activist who rejects the scientific consensus, regularly reports easily provable lies, and works for an organization that gets most of its money from 9/11 truthers. Despite all that, The Guardian published her article anyway.
That's science "journalism" in 2018.
*Note: I'm being charitable. I want to believe that The Guardian was bamboozled, rather than purposefully sensationalizing bad science. Of course, they've done just that very recently when they claimed that a glass of wine will shorten your life by 30 minutes.