Fact Check

Russia Warns Obama: Monsanto

Russian president Vladimir Putin threatened the U.S. over the Obama administration's support of Monsanto?

Published May 29, 2013


Claim:   Russian president Vladimir Putin threatened the U.S. over the Obama administration's support of Monsanto.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, May 2013]

Are Russia and the US going to start World War III because Monsanto products are killing bees? Everyone on Facebook is outraged! Here is a link to the article with the (presumably) bogus Putin-Obama-Monsanto scandal:



Origins:   In early May 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Moscow to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss international efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis, as well as political issues involving Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan. Later that month, an item was circulated on the Internet claiming that Putin had expressed "extreme outrage" over the Obama administration's support of the Monsanto corporation:

The shocking minutes relating to President Putin’s meeting this past week with US Secretary of State John Kerry reveal the Russian leaders "extreme outrage" over the Obama regimes continued protection of global seed and plant bio-genetic giants Syngenta and Monsanto in the face of a growing "bee apocalypse" that the Kremlin warns "will most certainly" lead to world war.

According to these minutes, released in the Kremlin today by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation (MNRE), Putin was so incensed over the Obama regime's refusal to discuss this grave matter that he refused for three hours to even meet with Kerry, who had traveled to Moscow on a scheduled diplomatic mission, but then relented so as to not cause an even greater rift between these two nations.

Many readers encountered this item on news-like web sites such as The Top Information Post or The European Union Times, but those sources were simply unvetted word-for-word reprintings of
an article that originated with a single disreputable source, the whatdoesitmean.com political conspiracy site, of which the RationalWiki says:

Sorcha Faal is the alleged author of an ongoing series of "reports" published at WhatDoesItMean.com, whose work is of such quality that even other conspiracy nutters don't think much of it.

Each report resembles a news story in its style, but usually includes a sensational headline barely related to reality and quotes authoritative high-level Russian sources (such as the Russian Federal Security Service) to support its most outrageous claims. Except for the stuff attributed to unverifiable sources, the reports don't contain much original material. They are usually based on various news items from the mainstream media and/or whatever the clogosphere is currently hyperventilating about, with each item shoehorned into the conspiracy narrative the report is trying to establish.

It stretches credulity to the extreme to imagine that, out of the myriad of political issues involving the U.S. and Russia, Vladimir Putin's foremost concern is the death of some bee colonies — and so much so that Putin was reportedly willing to risk the rupturing of diplomatic relations with the U.S. by forcing the American secretary of state to cool his heels for three hours and then threatening to go

to war over the issue. In fact, there is no evidence that Secretary Kerry and President Putin discussed Monsanto at all during their

meeting, and, of course, no one has yet produced the "shocking minutes [of the meeting] released in the Kremlin" that supposedly document these incredible claims.

Although environmental and economic issues associated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) developed by multinational agricultural biotechnology corporations such as Monsanto are legitimate issues of political debate, this particular item is just more anti-GMO scaremongering, not a legitimate news report.

The whatdoesitmean.com site includes other items of similar ilk (i.e., unsubstantiated anti-GMO rumors), such as a 23 May 2013 article claiming that Russian ships were being warned away from the port of Mobile, Alabama, due to multiple deaths "caused by the flowering of genetically modified cotton crops":

The Russian Maritime Register of Shipping (RS) today has issued an "Extreme Danger" warning for all vessels entering or nearing the United States Port of Mobile, located in the State of Alabama, as the death toll rises from what this report claims is an environmental disaster related to the flowering of genetically modified cotton crops located in this region.

According to this report, RS officials became "highly concerned" this past week after the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reported that at least 2 people have died, and another 5 put in hospital, due to a "mysterious illness" attacking the respiratory systems of those affected and causing flu-like symptoms.

What the Alabama Department of Public Health actually reported was that ten people in the southeast Alabama area fell ill (and two died) from respiratory illnesses caused by known viruses and bacteria, not from an "environmental disaster" or "mystery illness" produced by the flowers of GMO-based cotton crops:

A cluster of respiratory illnesses that initially baffled physicians in southeast Alabama appears to have been caused by a combination of known viruses and bacterium, and not any new diseases.

Ten patients, ranging in age from 24 to 87, were admitted to hospitals in southeast Alabama earlier this month with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath, the cause of which was unknown.

"I’m pleased to report that after our investigation, after getting results from samples we sent to (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), that there is no evidence of any new or unexpected virus or bacteria circulating," Dr. Don Williamson, state public health officer, said at a news conference.

Williamson said three of the patients had bacterial pneumonia and six tested positive for influenza A, rhinovirus — the virus that causes the common cold — or a combination of both. The patients did not have any prior connection with one another, Williamson said.

"There weren’t any new agents," he said. "There weren’t any connections between the patients. There was just a cluster of respiratory illness."

As for what might be causing a "bee apocalypse" (i.e., the large die-offs seen in bee colonies in recent years), scientists don't yet agree on a cause, but one common source of suspicion is neonicotinoid insecticides (which are produced by Bayer, not Monsanto):

The problem isn't an isolated one. Across the U.S., large numbers of bees — about one-third of colonies each year — have been dying for the past six years. Scientists believe the cause is a combination of pesticides, disease and poor nutrition, and some are concerned the annual bee losses are unsustainable. As soon as this year, some warn, there might not be enough bees to pollinate some crops.

A report earlier this year identified a combination of challenges: a growing prevalence of disease in honeybee hives; declining bee nutrition that stems from a diminishing plant variety as agriculture focuses on fewer crops; and the growing use of neonicotinoid insecticide across the rural and urban landscape.

Neonicotinoid insecticides are ubiquitous in urban backyards. They protect flowers, shrubs and trees from pests.

Scientists and apiarists disagree over exactly what's happening, but there is consensus that disease, nutrition and pesticides have created a worst-case scenario for bees.

Last updated:   29 May 2013

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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