Regarding the Commentary by Stacey Malkan and Carey Gillam, "The Future Of Food Needs Transparency And Integrity," July 24:
If we have entered the post-truth era, in which debate is framed largely by assertions disconnected from evidence and by the endless repetition of mendacious talking points, Malkan, Gillam and their lobbying organization, U.S. Right to Know, fit right in. Like all effective but dishonest propagandists, they take snippets of truth and combine them in ways that create falsehoods.
In their commentary, for example, they try to depict me as a long-time ally of the Monsanto Company. The record belies that claim. I wrote in the Los Angeles Times, for example, that "Monsanto's collusive, anti-competitive behavior corrupts the basic principle of the free market. It is this kind of industrial strategy that antitrust laws are intended to discourage."
There are many other examples, but I take Monsanto to task most aggressively in a commentary in the prestigious, peer-reviewed journal "Nature Biotechnology": "But deep–pocket players like Monsanto and CibaSeeds (now Novartis) are now paying the price for their successful anticompetitive strategy: The overregulation they engineered fed the anti-biotechnology myth that has poisoned the views of consumers, particularly in Europe and Japan."
The acrimony goes both ways. Monsanto Company officials have been publicly highly critical of me, as quotedin, "Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money and the Future of Food," a book by National Public Radio science correspondent Dan Charles:
" 'Henry has more or less called us traitors. He gets very intense,' says (Will Carpenter, Monsanto Government Relations executive). 'He really thought he was helping us. But I told him once that I didn't think we could stand much more of his help.'
" '(Monsanto's) Guarraia is less polite. 'Henry Miller,' he says grimly, 'did more harm to biotechnology than (anti-science, anti-technology activist) Jeremy Rifkin ever did. He put the government completely at odds with the critics.' "
(As a government regulator at the time, I was arguing for a more scientific and risk-based approach to regulation, while the big agribusiness companies wanted a high regulatory bar that would discriminate against startups.)
Moreover, the claim by Malkan and Gillam that I was any sort of booster, let alone a "key supporter" of Philip Morris' campaign to fight tobacco regulations, is laughable. I'm a physician, for God's sake. My views are clear; I wrote, "Cigarette smoking is one of the major preventable scourges of human health. . .tobacco is an inherently, irredeemably dangerous product. Unlike drugs, it isn't beneficial in any way; and unlike food, it isn't a necessity."
No Monsanto Man
If I'm a friend of Monsanto and Philip Morris, this is surely a case of "with a friend like this, who needs enemies." And for the record, I have never received anything of value from either company.
Malkan and Gillam claim in their commentary, "For the record, we have no ties whatsoever to Russia." Oh, really? They participate regularly in interviews with Russian state media and propaganda outlets (here, here, and here, for example) and promote claims generated by Russian troll attacks on U.S. agricultural interests (see this, especially the screenshot), while smearing academics who oppose their radical anti-science, anti-capitalism views.
That would make them, at the very least, what Lenin called "useful idiots" who assist the Russian regime, available for supportive commentary via the social media echo chamber when needed to deliver disinformation (e.g., this, this, and this).
The ultimate irony is that Malkan, Gillam and their lobbying organization are exactly what they accuse others of: They are the true shills – bought and paid for by organic and "natural products" commercial interests who bilk the public with inferior products sold at outrageous prices. The good news is that they are on the wrong side of history. Science, technology and truth will win in the end.
- Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology. His most recent book is "The Frankenfood Myth."