Cancer Warnings Over Roundup, Other Products Lead to U.S. Chemical Industry Calls To Rein in IARC

Chemistry industry lobbyists are calling for reforms to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), indicating that recent warnings about the risk of cancer with Roundup and other commonly used products are unnecessarily frightening the public and based on questionable science. 

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) argues launched a Campaign for Accuracy in Public Health Research (CAPHR) this week, targeting the independent cancer group.

The move by the chemical industry comes after the IARC decided to categorize glyohosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s widely used weedkiller Roundup, as probably a cancer-causing agent. The IARC has also made other controversial determinations regarding cancer risks associated with other products, such as hot beverages and red meats.

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While many health experts have support the cancer warnings, the chemical industry lobbying group issued a press release arguing that leading scientists have criticized the IARC monographs for scientific problem, as well as misleading and confusing the public.

“The IARC Monographs Program has been responsible for countless misleading headlines about the safety of the food we eat, the jobs we do and the products we use in our daily lives,” Cal Dooley, ACC President and CEO, said in the press release. “By offering specific proposals for reform, the CAPHR hopes to play a constructive role in improving the IARC Monographs Program to ensure consumers, public health officials and regulators benefit from more credible and relevant information.”

The campaign is the latest salvo fired at the IARC following its March 2015 determination that linked the use of Roundup weed killer to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer. The decision has sparked off scientific debate worldwide about the side effects of Roundup exposure as well as other IARC cancer determinations on things such as red meat, bacon and coffee.

At issue in many cases is that the IARC does not generally weigh dose and exposure when making some cancer determinations, meaning that in some cases the risks are extremely small. However, the IARC holds that the risks are there and demonstrable.

Chemical industry scientists and scientists representing other industries whose products could be affected by the rulings have called the IARC unfair and biased, but numerous independent scientists have risen to the group’s defense, saying industry groups are downplaying the risks of their products to make a profit.

The ACC’s reform goals for the IARC include stronger requirements to consider dose and exposure, to put its findings in context of real-world use risks, changing how the IARC weighs evidence and which studies and data have the most weight in its determinations, establishing a standard criteria for selecting studies for analysis in its decisions, allowing more industry input, giving more data on potential conflicts of interest, and delaying the release of its monographs until it can release all available data and findings at once.

Roundup Cancer Concerns

Last month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a four-day hearing on glyphosate safety, with a panel of scientific advisers questioning the agency’s methodologies on determining that the weed killer was safe.

The panel has 90 days to pour over the testimony, literature and evidence presented during the hearing, after which it will submit recommendations to the EPA. Those recommendations are non-binding, but usually have significant influence on the agency’s final decisions.

Monsanto now faces a growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits filed throughout the United States, typically involving individuals diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following heavy exposure to the herbicide as a farm or agricultural worker. The complaints allege that the manufacturer recklessly promoted Roundup and pushed greater and greater use of the chemical, without disclosing the potential health risks.

A recent U.S. Geological Survey on glyphosate usage nationwide found that an estimated 2.6 billion pounds of the herbicide has been sprayed on America’s agricultural land over the two decades since the mid-1990s, when Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” crops that are designed to survive being sprayed with glyphosate, killing the weeds but not the crops.

The lawsuits over Roundup allege that plaintiffs may have avoided a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other cancers if they had been warned about the Roundup risks for farmers, landscapers and others in the agricultural industry, as safety precautions could have been taken or other products could have been used to control the growth of weeds.


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