Monsanto spied on friend and foe alike in several countries to sway opinion

The recently exposed illegal dossier US herbicide maker Monsanto, now owned by German pharmaceutical firm Bayer, apparently compiled to influence public opinion, included people from seven European states and maybe beyond.

Monsanto files listing prominent pro- and anti-herbicide public figures, initially revealed by French media, included “stakeholders in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom, as well as regarding stakeholders related to EU institutions,” AFP reported citing Bayer’s statement on Tuesday. The company added that it is currently trying to determine whether similar lists exist in other states and hired a law firm for this purpose.

Earlier in May, French media reported that around 200 journalists, politicians, and scientists were named in the filing, created by PR firm FleishmanHillard on behalf of Monsanto. The list, which covered the personalities’ views on herbicides and GMO, whether they could be further influenced and reportedly included a lot of personal data, was initially thought to exist only in France, before Bayer admitted that people in other countries might also have been targeted.

[We have] decided with the agency to end the collaboration in the areas of communication and public affairs for the time being,” the German pharmaceutical giant said referring to Monsanto’s PR firm FleishmanHillard.

French news agencies and outlets, including AFP and Le Monde, filed complaints to French regulators as some of their journalists were named in the dossier. France has already opened an investigation into the case.

Apart from the PR scandal, Bayer has inherited thousands of lawsuits over the weed killer since acquiring Monsanto in a $63 billion deal last year. After the latest verdict that found Roundup weed killer liable for causing cancer, Bayer stock crashed to a seven-year low last week and has only slightly recovered since then.