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Monsanto Employees Secretly Helped Write Roundup Safety Reviews, Documents Show

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Analysts pouring over documents uncovered during the lawsuits over side effects of Roundup indicate that there appears to be mounting evidence that Monsanto manipulated the science and safety reviews of glyphosate, the active ingredient in the controversial weedkiller, which has been blamed for causing cases of non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other cancers. 

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.

While it was previously reported that the internal documents suggest that Monsanto officials expressed concerns about the safety of Roundup, and worked to influence some scientific studies that supported their public claims that the weedkiller was safe, a new investigative report by Bloomberg News suggests that the documents show that Monsanto went even further, actually ghostwriting some of its own safety reviews.

According to the report, documents reveal that Monsanto was actually behind a supposedly independent review of Roundup safety published in Critical Reviews of Toxicology in September 2016. The company admitted it paid Intertek Group Plc, a consulting firm, to have the safety review written on their behalf, but said Monsanto employees had no input into the final product. However, the company’s internal memos indicate that was not the whole truth.

It now appears that the Monsanto’s scientists were heavily involved in the creation of the “independent” review; reviewing, organizing and even editing the study, and having veto power over the tone and content of the research.

The review was written in response to a report by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen in mid-2015. The move has sparked world-wide concerns about why Monsanto failed to provide warnings and recommend safety precautions for users of Roundup, and sparked the avalanche of recent product liability lawsuits filed in courts nationwide.

Monsanto has pushed back against the release of the internal memos, calling on the court presiding over the litigation to sanction plaintiffs’ attorneys for making them public. However, plaintiffs attorneys maintain that they properly gave Monsanto notice of their objection to the classification of the documents as confidential, and the company failed to take appropriate steps to challenge the release, as required by prior court order.

Monsanto officials have also challenged Bloomberg’s interpretation of the documents, indicating that they did not have anything more than cosmetic input on the safety review study.

Monsanto now faces hundreds of non-Hodgkins lymphoma lawsuits, each raising similar allegations that the cancer diagnosis may have been avoided 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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