Carey Gillam and Ashley James
Whitewash is a riveting book exposing the truth behind companies like Monsanto. There have been a lot of studies showing how Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide is harmful to our health but Whitewash dives more in-depth into that. Today’s episode is a treat because we have the author of Whitewash, Carey Gillam to talk about how this weed killer is affecting our industry, economy and most of all, our health.
Carey Gillam recalls that from such a young age, she wanted to be anything else other than being a journalist. She was 11 or 12 years old, when Watergate happened and learned a lot of thing from that event.
As she grew older, All the President’s Men became her favorite movie and eventually found her passion in bringing forth information as a journalist. And she feels lucky to be doing that for over three decades now.
“We travel to really interesting places, meet people and learn about really interesting things and tell everybody else. It’s not even a job but rather an adventure,” said Carey Gillam.
Carey Gillam’s early years including covering real estate and the banking industry as well as sports and transportation. She also says there is a certain level of deception and secrecy that goes on behind the corporate veil and political circles. So, it’s not uncommon for journalists to be exposing things.
Food And Agriculture
Carey Gillam’s work over the past two decades focused on the big business of food and agriculture. She saw how dependent our modern system of farming has become on pesticide use.
“Pesticides are tied to a wide range of disease and health problems. They are used so pervasively. I’ve become quite passionate about sharing my research with others,” said Carey Gillam. “So, they can make informed choices about the foods they eat and feed their families. It also includes the policies they support or oppose that pertain to food and agriculture.”
In the 1990s, Reuters wanted Carey Gillam to move to Kansas City and start writing about food and agriculture. Monsanto was based in the Midwest and had just introduced genetically-engineered crops. They were revolutionizing farming and agricultural practices.
“At first, I was impressed. Monsanto welcomed me in. I saw the labs and talked to the scientists and got to visit some of their demonstration fields,” said Carey Gillam. “All they had out really then was herbicide tolerance. Which of course is not about the consumer but about encouraging the use of herbicide, primarily glyphosate.”
To those who are unaware, glyphosate is the most widely used weed killer in the world. It’s what Monsanto uses in roundup. So, they developed genetically-engineered roundup-ready crops. The farmers would spray the crops directly with roundup, and that’s what genetically-engineering crops were all about in the 1990s.
“So, this GMO did not turn out to be what the companies were saying it would be. And what they are saying now is not about feeding the world. It’s about selling chemicals,” said Carey Gillam.
She adds, “Monsanto at one point wanted to engineer a roundup wheat. But farmers didn’t want to spray wheat with herbicide. It was a big battle for many years. It’s all about profit for a big handful of corporations.”
Carey Gillam reveals that there are many scientists, researchers, medical professionals who do believe and are very concerned with what is currently happening. We went from forty million pounds of glyphosate use in the 1990s every year to about three hundred million pounds a year now.
It is sprayed not only on these GMO crops, but the companies have encouraged to spray it on things like wheat. Researchers have found it predominantly in flour. It is also used in orange groves and vineyards.
“We have allowed ourselves to be doused in pesticides and to be set up in a pesticide-dependent food production system. It’s not just glyphosate. Many other harmful pesticides are being used widely in our food system,” said Carey Gillam.
She adds, “These pesticides are tied to a whole array of diseases and human health problems. Other health issues include kidney disease, thyroid and reproductive issues, birth defects, lower birth rate babies, neurodevelopmental problems in children, ADHD, and autism.”
Carey Gillam also says the science varies. Some are certain, and some are less certain. She believes people from different sides can point to various research studies to support their views. But there’s a reason for concern.
“Insecticide use has fallen. A lot of that doesn’t account for the fact that we are now putting insecticide directly on the seeds rather than spraying on the crops,” said Carey Gillam. “Another thing that is not accounted for is that genetic engineering is having crops create their toxins, their insecticides so that the crop itself becomes the toxin.”
Carey Gillam’s primary mission is to balance out the conversation, the level of education and information so people can make informed decisions. This way, public policy can be truly protective of public health. That’s what she’s hoping that comes out of her book Whitewash.
“I’ve been very cautious in covering this industry. Untruths don’t serve anybody well. When I went to testify before the European Parliament, they asked me to come and speak at the fall of 2017 about these matters,” said Carey Gillam.
She adds, “They were looking at re-licensing glyphosate. There have been decades of deception around this particular chemical. It’s perpetrated by a handful of companies, notably Monsanto and that’s documented.”
The EPA was only formed in the 1970s and has a backlog of regulatory reviews. Carey Gilliam shares that in the United States, we have the mindset that until you prove that it’s dangerous, it pretty much can go out to the marketplace.
To avoid unhealthy products, Carey Gillam buys a lot of organic food. But there are times when she buys food products that aren’t organic.
“It comes down to personal choice and situation. On the other hand, pesticides, synthetic pesticides, chemicals are regulated through the EPA and the office of pesticide programs. USDA can get involved for things that are incorporated into the plant itself,” explains Carey Gillam.
“Scientists have been trying to raise the alarm bell in the last few years. But we lost our balance. We need to pay attention to what these chemicals do to our environment and our health,” said Carey Gillam. “And that’s what led to the formation of the EPA. There was a sense of trying to balance the scales. I believe that we lost that sense of balance. And we desperately need to regain it.”
Do The Research
According to Carey Gillam, glyphosate was synthesized and discovered many years ago by pharmaceutical interests. Glyphosate and roundup did make farming easier for farmers when it first came out. And that’s why farmers loved the system.
“But the greatest thing ever doesn’t always last. And Mother Nature adapts. The more pesticides in your food and water, the more you want to be more concerned about it. And That’s something more scientists are writing about.”
Carey Gillam also stresses that when people educate themselves a little bit, every little information is power. If people care and they get the facts, and they present those facts to others, it can ultimately be meaningful.
Research isn’t done by one person or one group. Carey Gillam says it’s done by independent scientists and corporate scientists all around the world. And there are new studies that come out every year.
“The one-stop shop is this International Agency for Research on Cancer. But of course, the chemical industry works hard to try to discredit this agency. They pushed our lawmakers after they called glyphosate a carcinogen, to strip funding from this cancer science agency,” said Carey Gillam.
She adds, “And if you are concerned about your food and ingredients, reach out to your elected officials and tip companies. Get in touch with food manufacturers. Because it makes a difference.”
Carey Gillam is a veteran journalist, researcher, and writer with 25 years of news industry experience focused on digging into the big business of food and agriculture.
As a former senior correspondent for Reuters’ international news service, and current research director for U.S. Right to Know, Carey Gillam has uncovered biotech, agrochemical, and pesticide industry secrets that impact the health and safety of millions of people worldwide.
Carey Gillam’s latest book, which has not made Monsanto happy, is Whitewash – The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer and the Corruption of Science. You’ll be shocked and empowered when you find out what Carey Gillam has uncovered and details in her Whitewash book.
Carey Gillam is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and North American Agricultural Journalists. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas.