He just may be the most influential—and scientists say the most irresponsible—voice in the crusade to demonize GMOs and undermine the advances of modern medicine. You may not know him by name but he is a titan in the booming alternative lifestyle business, running dozens of websites promoting ‘natural’ products, many of them bogus or dangerous, which he relentlessly hawks online.
His name is Mike Adams, the self-proclaimed Health Ranger, and his central hub—what amounts to his personal blog and general store—is NaturalNews.com, which offers a potpourri of offbeat theories about politics, science and health.
[Visit Mike Adams: Facts and Profile for more background]
Adams site is the cyberspace version of the water cooler gathering spot for crackpot conspiracy theorists of the far left and right. His byline: “never trust official stories”.
Adam’s latest crusade: the world’s governments are covering up the fact that the doomed Malaysian Airlines jetliner was pirated safely to a desert hideaway by Iranian hijackers, and is now being refitted into a stealth nuclear bomb.
In recent months, Adams has claimed that high-dose Vitamin C injections, which he conveniently sells, have been shown to “annihilate cancer” (doctors warn high doses of vitamin C can be dangerous); that measles and mumps are making a comeback because vaccines are “designed to fail” (he’s an anti-vaccine campaigner); and that fluoridated water causes mental disorders. He is also an AIDS denialist, a 9/11 truther, a Barack Obama citizenship ‘birther’ and a believer in ‘dangerous’ chemtrails.
But his most heated attacks—and the ones that generate the most traffic and business on his websites and what has made him a oft-cited hero of anti-GMOers—are directed at conventional agriculture, crop biotechnology in particular.
In a recent screaming but typical headline, Adams claimed that research at his Natural News Forensic Food Labs—another of his bizarre websites—has turned up unequivocal evidence that corporations are intentionally engineering “life-destroying toxins” into our food supply, with genetically modified corn as one of the chief ‘weapons against humanity.’ His recommendation: buy the natural products that he sells and rid the world of GMOs.
Considering Adams’s conspiratorial bent, he takes every opportunity to bash genetic engineering, promote junk science studies, spread innuendo and play the corporate greed card. No one would characterize his views as nuanced. “Monsanto’s products cause death,” he writes in a typical post, calling the seed and chemical company a “pusher” for selling “poison” and blaming it for the impending “destruction of humanity.”
His evidence: like many dedicated anti-GMO ideologues, Adams hypes discredited fringe research, such as the maize cancer rat study by French scientist Gilles-Erich Séralini. Adams’s sensationalist account claimed that the GMO corn caused “horrifying cancer tumors.” The study, roundly criticized by mainstream scientists when it was first released, was since retracted by the publishing journal because of its inconclusive results and shoddy data. But Adams’s “reporting” had long since done its damage. His article on the Séralini research was shared more than 81,000 times on Facebook.
Adams frequently goes personal in his attacks. “From the top company executives to the bottom of the corporate ladder,” he writes, “people who work for Monsanto are engaged in promoting a sickening, unprecedented evil that’s spreading across our planet like a black slimy cancer tumor.”
He is also a major promoter of GMO labeling, which he believes would stigmatize GMOs, undoubtedly pumping sales of his alternative universe of food and health goods. After the defeat of the Washington state labeling Initiative 522, Adams, issued what bordered on a lawless ‘call to arms.’
“The failure of 522 … shows that democracy itself doesn’t work,” he wrote on another one of his blogs, Dark Politricks. His solution? Go rogue. Adams called on anti-GMO activists to adopt “asymmetrical warfare tactics such as guerilla warfare. … To beat them at that game, you have to take off the kid gloves and go for their throats.” Based on Adams history, the call may not have been metaphorical.
Adams is quite open about his business model: play on fear to make as much money as possible. To dispel any doubts about his real motivations, in 2008, he bragged publicly in his self-published book, The 7 Principles of Mindful Wealth, that his operating philosophy was “Getting past self-imposed limits on wealth… Karma doesn’t pay the rent. Good karma isn’t the recognized currency in modern society: Dollars are!”
To peddle the alternative nostrums that have helped build his fortune, Adams operates a string of fringe health scare sites, including prenatalnutrition.org, expectant-mothers.com, NewsTarget.com, HoodiaFactor.com, EmergingFuture.com, SpamAnatomy.com, VitaminFactor.org, CounterThink.com, HealthFactor.info, JunkScience.info, BrainHealthNews.com, LowCholesterolDiets.DietsLink.com, PublicHealthNews.org, PharmaWatch.info, HomeToxins.com, PoisonPantry.org, DepressionFactor.org, webseed.com and ConsumerWellness.org.
Promoting terrorist scares is Adams stock and trade. In 1998 he launched the Y2K Newswire promoting apocalyptic claims of impending software disaster whileoffering sales of emergency preparedness products and foods. Following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, he wrote, falsely, that the Japanese radiation, “spans oceans and continents” to panic his readers into buying useless “FDA approved” potassium iodide treatments and storable uncontaminated super foods that he shamelessly sold on his site. That got him a mention on the sin qua non of conspiracy programs, the wacky Alex Jones Show, which Adams had previously guest hosted—further stoking his notoriety among the fringe set.
Although he fashions himself as a lone ranger fighting against corporate giants, Adams is the C.E.O. of Arial Software, whose clients reportedly include include Microsoft, Ebay and DHL. He boasts that he has 10,000 customers and an estimated $50 million in annual sales. Arial has offices in the US and Taiwan, which is where Natural News has its corporate base, where it’s known as Truth Publishing International.
Views of Adams by the media and science community are unforgiving. After responding to one of Adams’s attacks on vaccines, David Gorski, the well respected “Orac” of ScienceBlogs, wrote: “If only there were a vaccine against the quackery, paranoia, conspiracy theories, and utter nonsense that is concentrated into the density of a black hole in the form of Mike Adams.” Brian Dunning, who runs the respected Skeptoid blog, named NaturalNews.com the world’s Number One Worst Anti-Science Website.
But that hasn’t stopped Adams and Natural News from becoming one of the most cited—indeed respected—sites by mainstream anti-GMO advocacy groups. There is symbiotic relationship between organic activists and Adams. The Health Ranger regularly pushes every organic slam of GMO foods, and publishes extended “aren’t we great” interviews with Organic Consumers Association founder Ronnie Cummins, only to be richly rewarded in return. He also works hand in glove with the Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit front group for Organic Valley Cooperative.
Adams also regularly cross promotes books and websites with another well known anti-GMO huckster, Jeffrey Smith, the former yogic instructor and founder of his one man NGO, the Institute of Responsible Technology.
It would be a combination of laughable and sad if Adams wasn’t so prolific in his scare mongering and influential with the credulous public that takes as health and medical gospel the top ranked entries on Google. Adams has become a master of Internet visibility. He claims more than 360,000 “confirmed, double-opt-in” subscribers to his daily newsletter. He has more than 139,000 indexed pages alone referencing unsubstantiated cancer causes and off label treatments on his website.
That helps him generate huge traffic volume. He garners more than 4 million unique monthly visitors to his combined empire of websites. Third party rating service Compete.com estimates that traffic to his most influential site, NaturalNews.com, at 1.1—1.7 million unique visitors per month and ranks the site around 1,800—in the same range ax the Mayo Clinic.
By comparison, the US government’s official cancer website Cancer.gov gets about one-half of Adam’s estimated monthly traffic (700,000 monthly visitors). His snake oil promotion website receives 20 times more visitors than the official government site on alternative medicines—the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website—which receives only 73,000 visitors, and is not even ranked. This makes Mike Adams a very powerful—and according to some scientists and science journalists a very dangerous—man.
See also: Mike Adams: Facts and Profile