Amid Debate Over Roundup Risks, Monsanto Lobbyists Banned From EU Parliament

Lobbyists for Monsanto have been officially banned from meeting with members of the European parliament, after they reportedly snubbed a hearing over claims that the company wrongly influenced studies about the potential health risks of the weedkiller Roundup

While the decision has yet to be finalized, European officials indicated on twitter and other venues that the ban is effective immediately, barring Monsanto representatives from meeting with members of parliament, using its digital resources and from attending committee meetings.

According to a press release issued on September 28 by the Greens European Free Alliance (EFA), one of the EU’s political parties, the group indicates that it officially requested the ban.

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The decision came after Monsanto officials refused to attend an October 11 meeting that involved concerns of undue influence over safety reviews that looked into whether Roundup, a popular weed killer, could cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other forms of cancer.

The ban comes as the European Union weighs whether it will extend the license for the use of Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides. It also comes amid growing concerns over the close ties between Monsanto and regulators both in Europe and the United states.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen, and specifically linked Roundup exposure to an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Monsanto has attempted to dismiss the warning, defending the safety of Roundup and spending considerable effort to influence the debate among regulators and health experts.

In November 2015, the EFSA chimed in with its own findings, declaring that it was unlikely that glyphosate caused cancer. That report did suggest that an exposure limit may be necessary for human safety, and called for efforts to keep glyphosate out of human food. However, a recent report indicates that the EFSA’s findings were based on a renewal assessment report published that year, which contained dozens of pages that appear to have been directly copied from a paper submitted by the Glyphosate Task Force, an industry group formed and backed by Monsanto.

In addition, on August 1, a cache of internal memos and e-mails that are commonly 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.

The documents suggest that Monsanto has worked with the EPA to kill or delay reports critical of glyphosate, and its own scientists raised concerns about whether glyphosate may 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.

The ban comes from new rules, which call for companies to be banned from accessing parliament if they fail to respond to summons by the European Parliament. It is the first time that the rule has actually been applied.

“Those who ignore the rules of democracy also lose their rights as a lobbyist in the European Parliament. US corporations must also accept the democratic control function of the parliament. Monsanto cannot escape this,” Greens/EFA President Philippe Lamberts said in the press release. “There remain many uncertainties in the assessment of the pesticide glyphosate. Monsanto has to face the questions of parliamentarians and should not hinder the clarification process.”

Monsanto faces a vote later this year, over whether its license will be renewed in Europe. France has already said that it intends to vote that the herbicide be banned, and many say that vote puts Monsanto’s weed killer in jeopardy in the EU.

U.S. Roundup Litigation

Monsanto now faces hundreds of non-Hodgkins lymphoma lawsuits in the United States, each raising similar allegations that Roundup users may have avoided a cancer diagnosis if Monsanto had provided adequate warnings, and 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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