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Monsanto’s Ghostwriting to Influence Science and Media

Back in 2010, I helped publish a decisive U.S. Senate report on medical ghostwriting, a process by which pharmaceutical companies draft a study and then publish it in a peer-reviewed journal, but with physicians signing on as authors—even if they may not be intimately familiar with the research and only lightly edited the text. Ghostwritten articles pollute medicine with corporate marketing designed to look like independent science. Despite our efforts, medical ghostwriting continues, and universities rarely punish professors.

Ghostwriting is most often exposed in biomedicine, but this is likely because there is a greater quantity of medical research, and because medical studies are more scrutinized and regulated. Nonetheless, ghostwriting has been uncovered in agriculture, based on documents made public through lawsuits and freedom of information act requests (FOIA).

Monsanto ghostwrote research and essays to promote the safety of the pesticide glyphosate. These essays were published on the websites of Monsanto front groups and in mainstream media outlets, while the studies ran in journals notorious for marketing corporate claims of safety in products such as tobacco, asbestos, and fossil fuels.