EPA’s Roundup Safety Decision Based on Industry Data, Despite Independent Researchers’ Warnings

A new report warns that a recent determination by U.S. environmental regulators that Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup is not an endocrine disruptor appears to be based almost entirely on data provided by industry, and apparently ignores a number of independent studies pointing to evidence that the active ingredient, glyphosate, disrupts the human endocrine system. 

The medical journal The Intercept published a report on November 3, which examines how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made it’s decision (PDF) earlier this year that there was no convincing evidence that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor. The report found that 27 of the 32 studies the EPA used to reach its decision came from industry.

Most of the studies were not even publicly available, and had to be obtained by the publication through a Freedom of Information Act request. Monsanto sponsored most of the studies the EPA used to reach its conclusions, according to the report.

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The decision matters, because it means that the EPA will not require additional testing to review the potential adverse health side effects of Roundup on human hormones. It also comes amid increasing concerns about the potential link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Roundup is one of the most widely used herbicides, which was introduced by Monsanto in the 1970s. However, questions about the safety of the chemical have emerged, after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a warning in March about the potential risk that Roundup and other gylsphosate herbicides may cause cancer.

Monsanto has attempted to dismiss the concerns that Roundup is a human carcinogen, maintaining that the IARC’s conclusions were agenda-driven and based on “junk science.” The manufacturer has said it is convening its own independent panel to review the cancer risks of Roundup.

Consumer use of Roundup began to skyrocket in the mid 1990s, after Monsanto introduced genetically engineered crops to withstand treatment with Roundup, killing the weeds and not the crops. Genetically modified crops, like corn and soybean, are branded as being “Roundup Ready.” Some weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, thus forcing farmers to use higher quantities of Roundup.

According to this latest report, three of the five independently funded studies found evidence that indicated glyphosate could be an endocrine disruptor. All but one of the industry studies determined the chemical was harmless. The one study that did find a problem indicated that it might cause health problems in rats, but deemed the findings statistically insignificant.

However, according to The Intercept, there was a wealth of data inside those industry reports, the same ones that said glyphosate was problem-free, that indicated there were in fact potential hormonal side effects. Some found that exposure decreased the number of viable fetuses and fetal body weight in rats, found evidence of pancreatic inflammation, and pancreatic cancer.

All of the industry reports found reasons to dismiss their own findings of potential glyphosate harm.

The FDA’s reliance on industry data raises concerns about its planned review of Roundup and glyphosate in the near future to re-examine its potential cancer links. Monsanto has already stated that it discounts the IARC’s findings, and if the pattern holds, Monsanto will be where the EPA gets most of its data on determining for itself whether glyphosate is a carcinogen.

In the meantime, Monsanto faces a growing number of Roundup exposure lawsuits filed on behalf of farm workers, landscapers and other agricultural workers who have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma following heavy exposure to the chemical.


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