Amazon, Whole Foods, and The New York Times. Will science survive?

New York Times journalist Stephanie Strom received a complimentary book, that is both political and controversial in nature, for review purposes from the publisher, should it be disclosed in the review?

While I am always extremely critical of corporate marketing of organic food, I try to at least hear what its promoters have to say. I have read books from such writers as Steven Druker, Vandana Shiva, and even Kate Tietje. The most recent, Whitewashed by Carey Gillam, I purchased for the same reason. I know a lot of people that I argue with online were going to read it, so I wanted to be able to discuss it with some background.

As I stated in the initial review on Amazon, Ms. Gillam is an amazing writer. Something lacking by the others I have read. Druker writes like he is preparing a legal brief, and Tietje borders on incoherence. Gillam kept my attention. One can admire writing ability in those they disagree with.

My review included this compliment and then a break down of what she got flat out wrong in the book. Mysteriously it vanished from Amazon, which I was not aware could happen with verified purchases. Especially one that was clearly not any type of personal attack on the author.

I am not typically a conspiracy minded person, but I can’t help but laugh at Amazon pulling my review. How does this look given they now own Whole Foods? I don’t really think this was the reason, but the coincidence is quite amusing.

I submitted another today to replace it, and it can be found here.

Since this happened I began taking a closer look at the positive reviews that were there. For a book that the author claims is all about transparent, many of these reviews are anything but.

Amazon states that any relationship to the author needs to be clearly disclosed, and many such relationships would disqualify any such reviews. Free copies of the book in exchange for a review is also forbidden by their rules. If reviews are dated prior to the publication, is it possible for them to have read it any other way?

One prominent reviewer stands out in violation of Amazon’s policy, Stacy Malkan. Ms. Malkan is co-founder and co-director of US Right To Know, the very organization that the author works for.

Another early reviewer, Stephanie Strom, is a New York Times journalist. Strom reviewed the book almost an entire month before it was published. Not only in violation of Amazon review policies, she may also be in violation of the New York Times social media policies.

This book is extremely biased in nature, written by an activist paid by those who profit from demonizing glyphosate. Strom is using her name as a New York Times journalist to guide customers to this book. Glyphosate’s status as a legal pesticide is being debated right now in the European Union. Such a social media post is extremely inappropriate given the Times’ own guidelines.

Other early reviews include anti-GMO NGO leaders Diane Reeves and Carol Grieves. Again, they must have received promotional copies of the book in advance. These facts were left out of their reviews.

But even Vani Hari, who has a very close relationship with Gillam’s other boss (Gary Ruskin) makes an appearance. Again, failing to disclose her relationship.

Again, I don’t really believe there is a conspiracy between Amazon and the New York Times to promote Whole Foods.

But given these relationships, at a minimum shouldn’t Amazon be wary of reviews of media that impacts their sales? Shouldn’t a New York Times journalist be especially careful about appearing biased on such matters?

All I know is that if such a relationship existed between Monsanto and any news outlet that spoke favorably of GMOs, it might just become a New York Times headline.

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