In May 2019, Le Monde and France 2 had lifted the veil on a case concerning Monsanto. The company had in its possession a file containing the personal data of 200 personalities: politicians, journalists, environmental activists, scientists, farmers … All were in their own way likely to influence the public debate around glyphosate in Europe.
These revelations were quickly followed by seven complaints to the French National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties (CNIL). They came from people mentioned in this file. Two years later, the administrative authority decided to fine Monsanto 400,000 euros for “not having informed the people whose data was recorded in a file for lobbying purposes.”
A credibility rating given to the personalities on file
In a press release, the personal data watchdog states that its checks ” revealed that this census had been carried out on behalf of Monsanto by several companies specialising in public relations and lobbying, as part of a major interest representation campaign. “
In detail, these files contained information such as ” the organization to which the person belongs, the position held, the business address, the business telephone number, the mobile telephone number, the business e-mail address and, in some cases, the Twitter account. ” A score from 1 to 5 was also given to assess the individual’s level of influence, credibility and possible support for the US company.
For its part, Bayer, Monsanto’s parent company, was keen to respond that ” during the course of the procedure, the CNIL considerably reduced the initial scope of the allegations made against Monsanto “. Quoted by Le MondeYann Padova, a partner at Baker McKenzie and lawyer for Bayer-Monsanto, also stated that ” those who had the expertise were the lobbying firms. They were the ones who had the obligation to inform people, even though the file was for the ultimate benefit of Monsanto “.
Sandrine Cormary, managing director in France of the Omnicom Public Relations Group agency, explained ” our way of working is in line with professional standards and established practices in our industry “.