Too Much of a Bad Thing: Monsanto Did NOT Buy Blackwater

  • Published on October 16th, 2010

UPDATE: Blackwater/Xe has been sold – via a shell company and a pair of private equity firms.  So… does this mean Monsanto has actually bought in to Blackwater? Read our follow-up, “Did Monstanto Finally Buy Blackwater? There’s No Way to Know”.

How do Internet lies get spread? By well-meaning people who pass things on without checking.

Monsanto is one of the worst companies in the world, so it should come as no surprise that they hired an arm of Xe (the mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater) to dig up dirt on anti-GMO activists.

Fortunately, and contrary to a number of reports circulation on the internet, the world’s biggest purveyor of genetically modified seeds that has been doing its best to destroy traditional farming from Iowa to Iraq did NOT decide it needed to purchase its own mercenary army.

Here’s what happened:

Jeremy Scahill wrote a comprehensive take-down on Xe/Blackwater, based on internal emails, in The Nation.

The Nation article says:

“One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through [subisidiary] Total Intelligence, sought to become the “intel arm” of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.”

That means Xe was hired by Monsanto. Not that they were bought by them.

But somewhere along the line, Silvia Ribeiro, a Spanish-speaking researcher on environmental issues, read that article and misunderstood what the author meant by “become an ‘intel arm’ and took it literally. She published a Spanish-language article in La Jornada, it got translated into English by (of all things!) Pravda online, conspiracy websites picked up on it, and well-meaning people proceeded to post the news all over the Internet (usually without indicating the source).

UPDATE: Silvia Ribeiro points out that she got it right, and never claimed Monsanto purchased Blackwater/Xe outright. It was Pravda that garbled things. My apologies for that error.

Did Monsanto buy Xe or its subsidiary? No.

“…According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto… hired the firm in 2008–09.”
“Hired by” is not the same as “was bought by”.
“…Black added that Total Intelligence ‘would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto.”
‘Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater ‘could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally.’ Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto’s ‘generous protection budget’ but would eventually become a line item in the company’s annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.”

Xe is a mutli-million dollar organization. They were paid a couple of hundred thousands dollars to do some intel work (probably nasty and illegal stuff).

This is ALL OVER the Internet right now, all based on one piece of confused reporting.

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About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.


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