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Members of the European Parliament have called for a full investigation into whether Monsanto unduly influenced safety reviews conducted by regulators into the potential side effects of Roundup exposure.
On October 11, a joint hearing of the European Parliament’s committees on agriculture and the environment looked into allegations that Monsanto had unfairly impacted the European Chemical Agency’s assessment that glyphosate contained in their widely used weed killer does not cause cancer, as well as other safety conclusions.
The meeting came after the release of documents, known as the “Monsanto Papers,” which suggest that Monsanto had a very substantial influence over regulators, and in some cases wrote portions of Roundup safety reviews.
Even before the meeting, the EU banned all Monsanto lobbyists from having contact with members of parliament and EU officials, due to their refusal to attend the hearing. It was the first time the EU has punished a company in that way.
At issue is whether exposure to Roundup may increase the risk of cancer and other health problems. Questions about the safety of the herbicide arose following a decision by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in March 2015, which declared Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate was a probably carcinogen.
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.
While the meeting last week came to no final conclusion, members of parliament from France and Brussels issued a joint statement calling for a full probe of Monsanto’s involvement in the regulatory process in Europe. There are also documents suggesting that Monsanto also influenced decisions by the EPA.
The documents came to light as part of ongoing litigation in the U.S., where Monsanto faces a growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits filed by individuals who say they contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other forms of cancer following years of Roundup exposure.
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 the American federal court system, 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 during a hearing in December 2017, 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.