EPA, Monsanto Worked Together To Delay Roundup Toxicology Report, Groups Claim

Documents recently uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) highlight how Monsanto got federal officials do it’s bidding, stalling a potentially damaging report about the side effects of Roundup, the company’s popular weed killer. 

Monsanto was able to co-opt highly-placed officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to the documents, as part of an effort to hold off a toxicology report about Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate.

The documents were obtained by the non-profit U.S. Right To Know, suggesting that Monsanto executives became worried about the close scrutiny on glyphosate and Roundup after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen, linking Roundup to an increased risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

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Officials from Monsanto discovered shortly afterwards that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was conducting a toxicology review on glyphosate as well.

The documents indicate that on May 19, Monsanto’s then Vice President of Government Affairs, Michael Dykes, called Jim Jones, the EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety & Pollution Prevention. The next morning Jones began putting in calls to the ATSDR, asking if the review was a possible waste of government resources.

Jones made numerous calls over the next two weeks, pushing Monsanto’s narrative that the effort was duplicative, since the EPA was doing its own review. By late June, the ATSDR had agreed to put the study on hold.

Internal Monsanto communications indicate that they feared the ATSDR would be far more stringent than the EPA, referring to the Registry as “IARC-like.”

While the EPA argued to the ATSDR that it was doing its own review, which was due out in 2015, that review to this day has never been completed. The delayed ATSDR review is also still not complete, and consumers continue to spray Roundup nationwide in large quantities.

These documents are just the latest in a series of internal memos and emails which appear to show the EPA working closely with Monsanto to protect its popular herbicide.

On August 1, a cache of internal memos and e-mails, being referred to as the “Monsanto Papers”, were released to the public as part of the ongoing discovery process in Roundup lawsuits. The litigation involves cases filed by hundreds of farmers, landscapers, agricultural workers and other regular users of the weedkiller, alleging that the manufacturer failed to adequately warn about the potential cancer risks and importance of taking safety precautions while spraying the weedkiller.

In addition to documents showing Monsanto working with the EPA, and its own scientists raising concerns about whether glyphosate can cause cancer, the documents also indicated that Monsanto has edited and ghostwritten both supposedly independent research papers which heralded glyphosate’s safety, and meddled with the content of federal safety reviews.

According to allegations raised in non-Hodgkins lymphoma lawsuits filed against Monsanto, plaintiffs claim that their cancer diagnosis may have been avoided if adequate warnings had been provided, and if Monsanto had not taken steps to falsify data and mislead about the safety of the weedkiller.

Given the similar questions of fact and law presented in lawsuits filed throughout the federal court system, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) established consolidated pretrial proceedings for all federal Roundup cases in October 2016, centralizing the claims before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California to reduce duplicative discovery, prevent conflicting rulings and serve the convenience of the parties, witnesses and the courts.

As part of the coordinated MDL proceedings, Judge Chhabria has previously determined that the Roundup litigation will be bifurcated, first addressing general causation about the link between the widely used weedkiller and non-Hodgkins lymphoma, before addressing case-specific issues about whether Roundup caused cancer for each individual plaintiff.

Following resolution of any motions to dismiss based on general causation, if a Roundup settlement or other resolution for the litigation is not reached during the first phase of discovery, it is expected that Judge Chhabria will establish a bellwether process, where a small group of cases will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the lawsuits.


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