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Is Bayer Behind a Hit List of Organic & Natural Health Advocates?

Has the unholy alliance between agribusiness and the pharmaceutical industry, exemplified by the Bayer-Monsanto merger, given these corporations an added incentive to team up to take out their biggest detractors?

That possibility occurred to us when, despite our reticence and self-censorship, the Organic Consumers Association was put on a hit list of vaccine safety advocates known as the “Disinformation Dozen.”

We noticed that Voices for Vaccines was one of the pharmaceutical front-groups that’s been circulating the hit list and that it is a project of the Task Force for Global Health, which is funded by vaccine and pharmaceutical companies―including Bayer.

We might be mainly concerned with Bayer’s agribusiness interests, but we can’t forget that it is also a vaccine company.

Bayer will be manufacturing 160 million doses of CureVac’s mRNA-based vaccine candidate CVnCoV in 2022. The agreement between Bayer and CureVac also covers potential SARS-CoV-2 variants. GlaxoSmithKline is in on the deal, too.

Is this why Monsanto’s favorite trolls are working overtime looking for COVID-related ways to smear their opponents?

Recently, Monsanto troll Mary Mangan has been targeting the Organic Consumers Association’s investigations into the origins of COVID-19.

It never occurred to us that Bayer would be concerned about our campaign to ban gain-of-function experiments on potential pandemic pathogens, but it turns out they could be impacted by it.

On June 9, The Intercept reported that Bayer wants to build an expanded biological research facility on its 46-acre campus in Berkeley, California, and it is seeking the Berkeley City Council’s approval of a 30-year development plan, including a request that restrictions on certain kinds of DNA research be lifted. Bayer claims that it will not manipulate viral particles to make them more pathogenic, but the company has refused to commit in writing to ruling out all the research on viruses and bacteria that could be considered gain-of-function.

This has made us ever more eager to learn who’s behind the hit list.

We haven’t cracked the case yet, but circumstantial evidence points to the Vaccine Confidence Project funded by GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, and two organizations Bayer is represented by, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and the Innovative Medicines Initiative.

Bayer isn’t just a member of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, it has two representatives among its leadership. Stefan Oelrich, head of Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals Division is a board member & patient access chair. Reinhard Franzen, head of Bayer’s Commercial Operations in Europe, Middle East & Africa is a corporate delegate.

The Innovative Medicines Initiative is a public-private partnership controlled by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. Bayer participates in the Strategic Governing Groups on Immunology, Diabetes/Metabolic Disorders, Neurodegeneration, Translational Safety, and Oncology.

This Bayer-backed Vaccine Confidence Project has been researching how social media messages about vaccine safety might influence people’s decisions to vaccinate and one of their studies was used in the report that accompanied the hit list. (More on that Vaccine Confidence Project study here.)

Ironically, while Bayer and its allied corporations are supposedly concerned about “vaccine confidence” in rich countries, they’re simultaneously lobbying to protect their patent rights to stop poor countries from manufacturing their vaccines. In “Big Pharma’s EU Lobbying Could Spell Disaster for Global South Vaccine Waivers,” Jacobin Magazine reports:

Last year, German giant Bayer spent more than €4.25 million on lobbying, more than any other company in the EU after Google, Facebook, and Microsoft. … FTI Consulting Belgium, the European arm of the Washington, DC public relations firm, is another one of the top spenders lobbying the European Parliament and the European Commission. The firm’s clients include COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, and several other pharmaceutical companies, according to EU disclosure records.

Do they want people to get the vaccines?

It looks to us like they’re just exploiting the COVID crisis every which way they can, from making money to silencing their critics.

That article gave us another clue. It mentioned that FTI Consulting was working for the pharmaceutical companies. 

FTI Consulting is one of “Bayer’s Shady PR Firms.” It’s infamous for creating deceptive astro-turf front groups for Monsanto and the fossil fuels industry. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine that the hit list could be part of an FTI front group campaign.

Anti-Vax Watch doesn’t have a single human being attached to its name and we have no idea who funds it. 

The so-called Center for Countering Digital Hate doesn’t reveal its funding, either. 

Restless Development’s biggest funder is MasterCard, which just happens to be FTI Consulting’s wealthiest client

Could FTI be the consulting group behind the curtain?

An article on FTI’s website begins:

The growing influence of social media alongside a shift in how people obtain and consume news has led to the rapid spread of misinformation about the origins of the COVID-19 virus. What impact will this have on public health and the acceptance of a vaccine?

Then, FTI goes into an analysis of Twitter mentions of the MMR vaccine. Somehow they arrived at this baseless (and not very significant) assumption (without evidence that vaccine decisions were made on the basis of information gleaned from social media):

The data obtained by the FTI Consulting team suggests that of the 3 percentage-point fall in vaccination coverage in the 5-year period from 2014-2018, over half was caused by misinformation. There is a knock-on effect on public health, as on average, a 1% decrease in vaccination coverage is associated with a 2% increase in the measles incidence rate.

This is very similar to the Vaccine Confidence Project study.

Another link between FTI Consulting and the hit list is the target of the article, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, a doctor who was falsely accused of scientific and medical misconduct after he discovered a correlation between vaccination and autism.

We’ll keep trying to figure out exactly what Bayer’s doing behind closed doors to discredit and deplatform the Organic Consumers Association. In the meantime, you can read what Iain Davis has dug up:

CCDH – The Centre For Cancel Culture And Digital Hypocrisy – Part 1 by Iain Davis, August 9, 2020

CCDH – The Centre For Cancel Culture And Digital Hypocrisy – Part 2 by Iain Davis, August 9, 2020