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Monday, February 13, 2012

Revealed: How Syngenta Investigated the Press and Shaped the News About its Controversial Weed-Killer Atrazine

Feb. 7, 2012: Revealed: How Syngenta Investigated the Press and Shaped the News About its Controversial Weed-Killer Atrazine - Alternet.org

 A new investigation shows the global chemical company spent millions spinning news coverage and tracking journalists as concern grew over potential health risks of atrazine.

Documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, recently unsealed as part of a major lawsuit against Syngenta, reveal how the global chemical company's PR team investigated the press and spent millions to spin news coverage and public perceptions in the face of growing concerns about potential health risks from the widely used weed-killer "atrazine."

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This story is part of a new series about this PR campaign to influence the media, potential jurors, potential plaintiffs, farmers, politicians, scientists, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the midst of reviews of the weed-killer's potential to act as an endocrine disruptor, over the past decade or so.

Dealing with Meddlesome Reporters

Two years ago, on March 2, 2010, Huffington Post Investigative Fund (HuffPo) reporter Danielle Ivory contacted Syngenta Corporation Director of Corporate Communications-North America Paul Minehart and asked, as reporters do, a few questions.

Little did she know her questions to Syngenta - which reported sales of over $11 billion that year, almost half of which, $5 billion, was profit - would provoke the creation of a secret dossier on her.

According to emails discovered by St. Louis attorney Stephen Tillery in a class action to get Syngenta to compensate local water utilities for the cost of filtering Syngenta's weed-killer out of drinking water supplies, the Syngenta team did not simply respond to her questions with the usual PR spin. (Syngenta sought to keep this information out of the public eye in that case, Holiday Shore Sanitary District v. Syngenta Crop Protection et al., but a trial court in Illinois rejected the company's claims and "unsealed" some emails and materials last year, making them part of the public record.)

Ivory told Minehart she had been informed by a source that a new federal class action would soon be filed against Syngenta Crop Protection Incorporated ("Syngenta CP"), a subsidiary/division of Syngenta AG ("SAG"), a global holding company located in Switzerland.

Over a dozen municipal and county operators of water districts in Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, and Iowa were planning to sue Syngenta CP - whose U.S. headquarters is in Greensboro, North Carolina - and SAG for the costs associated with removing atrazine from their community's drinking water.

Read complete report..

Related:

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Feb. 1, 2012: The Frog of War

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