Monsanto’s Roundup Cancer Propoganda Campaign Snares Reuters, HuffPost Claims

According to a recent Huffington Post report, Reuters wire service published a misleading story about the controversial weedkiller Roundup, which maligned one of the lead scientists who warned about the link between Roundup exposure and cancer, as part of a campaign by Monsanto to defend the safety of glyphosate contained in their product. 

On June 14, Reuters published a story claiming that the lead scientist for the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) withheld data that would have shown that the weed killer glyphosate does not actually cause cancer. However, two days later, the Huffington Post published an investigative story that delved deeper, finding not only misinformation and fallacies in the Reuters story, but also suggesting news wire service was the victim of a misinformation campaign by Monsanto, the makers of Roundup.

At issue is a decision issued by the IARC in mid-2015, which warned that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” and linked the use of Roundup to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The findings suggest that agricultural workers, farmers and others who are regularly exposed to Roundup face an increased risk of cancer.

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The lead researcher in that study was Aaron Blair, an epidemiologist from the U.S. National Cancer Institute. The Reuters article claims that Blair knew there was unpublished research which showed that glyphosate did not cause cancer and claims that in a sworn deposition, Blair said that he knew that data would change the analysis by the IARC.

However, the Huffington Post claims to have dug deeper, and discovered that the story contains factual errors, is “seriously flawed” and part of Monsanto’s efforts to discredit the IARC.

According to the Huffington Post story, written by a former Reuters reporter, the Reuters piece omits the fact that Blair also knew about many other studies that did show that glyphosate can cause cancer. By leaving that important fact out, the Reuters story suggests Blair was slanting the research, when in fact that was not the case.

The Huffington Post indicates that the Reuters piece selectively pulls from Blair’s deposition, given as part of ongoing Roundup cancer lawsuits; only choosing the parts that make it appear the IARC research was slanted, and specifically omitting parts of the deposition which make it clear that was not the case.

The Reuters article does not contain a link to Blair’s deposition, but the Huffington Post provided the full deposition, indicating that the writer of the Reuters story has been known to have connections with the industry and was “spoonfed” information from the deposition by Monsanto.

Not only was the data Blair left out from an unpublished study, which the Reuters story acknowledges, and the IARC only looks at published, peer-reviewed studies, but the data has not been published, in part because there are concerns that over relatively small subgroups of exposed cases used in the study. Other unpublished data known to Blair also indicates an increased risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among people who have used glyphosate for more than five years, which the Reuters story also fails to mention.

The story comes in the middle of a battle between those opposed to the widespread use of glyphosate, and those that continue to defend the safety of Roundup and similar weedkillers. Numerous studies have been published on both sides of the issue.

Although Monsanto has attempted to defend the safety of Roundup, one of the most important products for the company, criticizing the IARC’s decision and dismissing safety concerns as agenda driven and based on “junk science,” a number of leading health experts have called for limits on use of the herbicide and safety precautions for those who regularly spray Roundup.

Just days ago, a petition was submitted to the European Union by more than 1 million EU citizens calling for a ban on glyphosate in Europe.

Roundup Litigation

In the U.S., several hundred product liability lawsuits have been filed by those who say they were diagnosed with cancer following Roundup exposure.

Since October 2016, all federal Roundup lawsuits 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.

All of the lawsuits involve allegations that Monsanto failed to provide adequate warnings that long-term use of the glyphosate-based weed killer could increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other forms of cancer.

A recent U.S. Geological Survey on glyphosate usage nationwide found that an estimated 2.6 billion pounds of the herbicide has been sprayed on America’s agricultural land over the two decades since the mid-1990s, when Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” crops that are designed to survive being sprayed with glyphosate, killing the weeds but not the crops.

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.

Following coordinated proceedings before Judge Chhabria, if Roundup settlements or another resolution for the cases are not reached, each individual complaint may be remanded back to the federal courts where it was originally filed for an individual trial date.

Image Credit: Photo Courtesy of Mike Mozart via Flickr Creative Commons

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