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Amid continuing concerns about the link between Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup and cancer, a European Union court has ordered the release of confidential studies conducted for the commercialization of glyphosate, which is the active chemical contained in the controversial herbicide.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a ruling in favor of Greenpeace and the European Pesticides Action Network (PAN) on November 23, after the environmental groups sued for the release of studies and data collected by the European Commission when it authorized the use of glyphosate for commercial use.
The Commission released some of the data, but withheld information on the chemical composition and manufacturing process of glyphosate. The case went to the CJEU, after a lower court ruled in favor of the environmental groups, and the European Commission appealed. Sweden has joined Greenpeace and PAN, calling for the appeal to be rejected.
The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, had refused to release some of the data, maintaining that it involved trade secrets for Monsanto, based on a 1998 agreement known as the Aarhus Convention, which governs what information can be made publicly available in the EU. However, the CJEU said that protecting the confidentiality of companies did not exceed public interest.
The case also centered on the definition of “emissions into the environment,” which the Commission interpreted too narrowly as only referring to emissions from industrial installations like factories and power plants, according to the Court’s ruling. The CJEU determined that Roundup’s use on crops and fields qualified as emissions.
The ruling sends the case back to the lower court.
Access to the documents has become a priority, as concerns that exposure to Roundup may cause non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers.
In March 2015, the IARC, an arm of the World Health Organization, issued a report determining that glyphosate is probably a cancer-causing agent, and linking glyphosate to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The conclusions have sparked worldwide controversy over the use of Roundup and the IARC’s findings and methodologies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and regulators in Europe and Japan, among others have refuted the IARC’s findings, while researchers in several other countries have not only agreed with the findings, but banned or restricted Roundup use.
Monsanto now faces a growing number of Roundup lawsuits filed throughout the United States, typically involving farm workers, landscapers and other agricultural workers diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following heavy exposure to the herbicide.
The complaints allege that the manufacturer recklessly promoted Roundup and pushed greater and greater use of the chemical, without disclosing the potential health risks.
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.