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An international group of widely respected and independent cancer researchers is defending their decision to warn about the carcinogenic risks with Roundup and other glyphosate-based weedkillers, fighting back against recent attacks by Monsanto and regulators some say are in the manufacturer’s pocket, and House Republicans.
In a letter (PDF) by Christopher Wild, director of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the group directly answers and deconstructs recent claims made by Monsanto and its supporters, which attacked the independent cancer groups March 2015 warning about the link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, suggesting unknown nefarious purposes and bad science.
The letter was read into the record by U.S. House Representative Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, during a hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, where Republicans recently criticized IARC and threatened it’s funding due to the decision to warn people that Roundup and similar weed killers could cause cancer.
The February 6 hearing was the latest attack on IARC, which has come under barrage by allies of Monsanto after its conclusions regarding Roundup cancer risks. The comments also come after a controversial decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which refuted the IARC’s findings, maintaining that glyphosate does not cause cancer.
However, a growing body of independent research and evidence has highlighted close ties between Monsanto and regulators, suggesting that the multinational agrochemical company has exercised undue influence over both U.S. and European regulators and government officials. Monsanto’s own internal records have revealed that the company was the ghostwriter for a number of studies claiming glyphosate was safe, secretly co-writing some safety reviews by regulators, and allegedly suppressing or re-writing safety reviews.
In his testimony, House Chair Lamar Smith, of Texas, claimed that Wild was either afraid to show up at the hearing or had no defense for the IARC’s methodologies or actions. Smith failed to mention that Wild had apparently written a response to the Committee’s concerns weeks ago, and addressed claims against the IARC point-by-point.
The letter did not come to light until Congresswoman Bonamici had it read into the official record of the hearing.
“Since the evaluation of glyphosate by the IARC Monographs Program in March 2015, the Agency has been subject to unprecedented, coordinated efforts to undermine the evaluation, the program and the organization. These efforts have deliberately and repeatedly misrepresented the Agency’s work,” the letter states. “In response to the misrepresentations, the Agency has sought to provide a clear account of its actions, including keeping its governing bodies informed of developments.”
The letter notes that many of the Monsanto and GOP arguments questioning the IARC’s findings parroted talking points in articles written by Kate Kelland, a Reuters reporter who critics warn appears to have close ties to Monsanto, and a March 2015 article that was published in Forbes, which later removed that article from their website and ended their relationship with a reporter after discovering that the article had actually been ghostwritten by Monsanto.
Wild’s letter targets the arguments point by point, explaining how the IARC did not, and probably could not, have edited parts of the glyphosate Monograph to achieve a particular purpose. The letter notes that a draft copy of the monograph, which appeared to be more favorable to Monsanto, was actually written by Monsanto. Kelland then compared the two drafts and claimed the Monsanto draft was the original and that the IARC had then edited it to make it unfavorable to glyphosate.
Wild also noted that IARC staff do not draft or revise the Monograph text, but instead that is done by an the independent, international working group of researchers from various disciplines from across the globe, including even researchers from the EPA.
The letter further refutes claims that the IARC specifically left out the findings of a study that indicated that glyphosate did not increase the risk of cancer. Wild noted that the IARC only used published and peer-reviewed studies for their evaluations. The data Monsanto and the GOP claim was purposely kept out of the IARC’s findings, from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), were only in draft form at the time.
The IARC does not use non-peer-reviewed, unpublished, draft data in its reviews, similar to numerous scientific panels and agencies worldwide.
The 10-page letter appears to address every scientific question raised about the IARC’s Roundup cancer determination in a point-by-point format, backed up with ample links to publicly available articles and documents.
Monsanto’s Influence Revealed By Ongoing Roundup Cancer Litigation
The hearing and recent EPA actions have led to further questions raised following the revelation of the “Monsanto Papers” which is the name given to a number of damning internal documents from Monsanto, which were revealed as part of the ongoing U.S. litigation against Monsanto by farmers, landscapers and other individuals who indicate they developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following Roundup exposure.
The memos and emails suggest that the company has known that its herbicide might be dangerous for years, put out ghostwritten studies that were falsely portrayed as the work of independent scientists, and unduly influenced regulators in the U.S. and Europe to avoid any indication that Roundup is not safe. The company even went as far as writing some parts of the safety reviews for regulators, and asked them to squash government inquiries that they could not write themselves, some of the documents suggest.
Throughout the U.S., several thousand Roundup lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto by farmers, landscapers, agricultural workers and others regularly exposed to Roundup, alleging that they may have avoided a diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma or other cancer if warnings had been provided by Monsanto.
Since October 2016, all federal cases have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California.
As part of the coordinated litigation, it is expected that a small group of bellwether trials will be prepared for early trial dates to help gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that will be repeated throughout the cases. However, if Monsanto fails to reach Roundup settlements or another resolution for the failure to warn cases, hundreds of individual lawsuits may eventually be remanded back to the federal courts where they were originally filed for an separate trial dates.