WaPo Columnist’s Skepticism about Organics etc is…Suspect

My letter to Washington Post columnist Tamar Haspel

Dear Ms Haspel.
I enjoyed your piece [https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/the-uncured-bacon-illusion-its-actually-cured-and-its-not-better-for-you/2019/04/19/0c89630c-608c-11e9-9ff2-abc984dc9eec_story.html?utm_term=.8833762c310e] on nitrites in hot dogs et al (I’ve et em all); you’re a good, entertaining writer and you approach your subjects intelligently—yes, there’s a ‘but’. Looking at your articles I see a general theme of “go with the point of view of big agriculture, the meat industry” and so forth; be skeptical of alternatives. You seem consistently to be touting the industry line…in a smart, indirect way.

I’m not saying you’re a shill for industry. But perhaps I’m scarred by some disturbing experiences with people who were being paid to spread disinformation online about (for just one example) Round-up and other glyphosates; about industrial pollutants; about the supposed safety of pesticides. One guy said he was with a “science journal” that looked at these issues. His journal turned out to be an online publication paid for by the oil companies—and this isn’t some paranoid interpretation of facts, it has come out and it’s well known. See this article for the general pattern: https://www.desmogblog.com/2018/07/14/fake-grassroots-campaigns-astroturf-deserve-uprooting …It emerged that the people I encountered would go on social media, take screen shots of their defenses of industry, and then they’d bill the industry for this viral spinning. This kind of thing is widespread. “Astroturfing” takes many forms.

I am not an “everything touted as natural is good” person. I do agree that celery derived nitrites are probably no better than the other sort. I think supplements need to be regulated much more than they are, and there is a lot of the sheer bogus to be found in the rather greedy natural products industry. I’m not anti-GMO either. But I do think there are lots of reasons—which you don’t mention—to be skeptical about big meat’s food additives, and about pesticide use. Regarding pesticides, you don’t mention the toll they’ve taken on farm workers, or the damage they do to soils (and associated beneficial organisms), to bees and bats and birds and the damage they’re doing as they accumulate in soils, groundwater, creeks and people.

It seems to me that you do something the shills do—you cherrypick studies and, as a rough pattern, you appear to have a kind of agenda evidenced by your interpretation of those studies. That’s what concerns me. It seems unlikely that so intelligent a person at so reputable a publication (I have a subscription to WaPo) could be actually employed by these industries. But you do have a slant that seems to ignore a great deal of evidence, at times. Why is that?

John Shirley

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