Last month, amid a global campaign by certain activist groups to demonize Monsanto and other global seed and agrochemical companies, Navid Rakotofala, a student in Madagascar, decided to “test” how much research anti-GMO protesters did before making and sharing claims about Monsanto. For the purposes of his test, he published seriously outrageous accusations about Monsanto on a fake blog. The goal was to see how far he could push fake horror stories before activists would realize that it was a hoax.
“My teacher (who does not agree with this project because of the trickery) told me that your group [the activists] will accept almost anything regardless of the scientific process,” Rakotofala later on his blog. “This was my experiment to see if he is correct.”
Some examples of Rakotofala’s pranks include pictures accusing Monsanto employees of eating baby lemurs for profit, Monsanto having laboratories in Madagascar to test Agent Orange on the homeless and Monsanto killing frogs. All of which are untrue.
To reinforce the ruse, Rakotofala made fake protest signs, then took pictures of his friends holding the signs. When he sent the photos to March Against Monsanto activists, they complimented his pictures, shared them widely online and asked him to send more.
Rakotofala was surprised by the activists’ reaction. “I made my signs in a way that I thought was so extreme and offensive that they would be rejected by your community,” he later wrote online when he revealed his hoax. “Instead, all of the signs received compliments, and I could not think of anything more extreme until I searched your own website! My signs were untrue, offensive, and even incoherent or contradictory – but after my experiment, when I look at your websites I ask myself ‘What is the difference?” Rakotofala said.