The controversy surrounding the chemical glyphosate continues as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the weed killer is not a carcinogen—a claim which contradicts recent rulings by U.S. juries and research by the World Health Organization.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated that glyphosate, the chemical contained in Monsanto's Roundup weed killer, does not pose a risk to public health and is not a carcinogen when used in accordance with the label. Roundup is currently the most widely used herbicide in the world, being sprayed by farmers, on home lawns, school grounds, and golf courses across the world.
This is the second time since 2017 that the EPA has concluded that glyphosate does not cause cancer. However, the EPA's statements conflicts with two recent rulings by juries as well as the World Health Organization’s cancer arm which in 2015 classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, a former lobbyist who represented the coal industry, stated that the EPA would create "new management measures that will help farmers use glyphosate in the most effective and efficient way possible, including pollinator protections."
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the former Governor of Georgia with a history of ethics complaints, is also supporting the EPA's decision, saying glyphosate is needed to feed 10 billion people by 2050. "USDA applauds EPA’s proposed registration decision as it is science-based and consistent with the findings of other regulatory authorities that glyphosate does not pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans,” Perdue stated.
Bayer AG, who owns Monsanto Co, said they "firmly believe the science" supports the claim that glyphosate does not lead to cancer. Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity, told Reuters that American consumers "cannot trust the EPA assessment of glyphosate’s safety.”
Despite the EPA's statements, two U.S. juries have recently ruled in favor of individuals who developed cancer after using glyphosate. A California man was awarded $289 million in August 2018 after a state court jury found the weed killer caused his cancer. That award was later reduced to $78 million and is being appealed by Bayer. In March, a U.S. jury awarded $80 million to another California man who claimed his use of Roundup caused his cancer. Recently, The Mind Unleashed reported that the third roundup-cancer lawsuit exposed even more details of the cozy relationship between the EPA and Monsanto.
The EPA’s new report conflicts with a March 2015 report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that found that glyphosate “probably” contributes to non-Hodgkin lymphoma in humans and classified it as a ‘Group 2A’ carcinogen. “There was sufficient evidence in animals, limited evidence in humans and strong supporting evidence showing DNA mutations and damaged chromosomes,” Aaron Blair, a scientist emeritus at the National Cancer Institute and lead author of the study, told Reuters at the time.
The IARC report was published in The Lancet Oncology and detailed evaluations of organophosphate pesticides and herbicides. The report concluded that there was “limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma.” The evidence for this conclusion was pulled from studies of exposure to the chemical in the US, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. The researchers found “convincing evidence that glyphosate can also cause cancer in laboratory animals.”
The 2015 IARC report points out that the EPA had originally classified glyphosate as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 1985. The IARC Working Group evaluated the original EPA findings and more recent reports before concluding “there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals.”
In addition, In These Times magazine released an in-depth report titled How Monsanto Captured the EPA (And Twisted Science) To Keep Glyphosate on the Market. The investigation thoroughly outlines the history of regulation of glyphosate— the key ingredient in Roundup—and how Monsanto has been able to influence and subvert regulatory agencies in order to make it the most widely used pesticide in the world. “Our two-year investigation found incontrovertible evidence that Monsanto has exerted deep influence over EPA decisions since glyphosate first came on the market—via Roundup—more than 40 years ago,” the report states.
The detailed investigation reveals that nearly every time a Monsanto chemical received negative attention from scientists and researchers, the biotech company would hire its own researchers and firms or pressure government employees until they came to Monsanto’s preferred conclusion. Both the testing and the approval of glyphosate seem to fit the pattern.
“Throughout the 1970s, EPA staff repeatedly raised red flags about the inadequacy of testing data that Monsanto was submitting in support of glyphosate’s original registration,” the report states. In These Times also examined EPA memos that say “detail incomplete or otherwise unacceptable toxicology screening tests.” The pressure to approve glyphosate can be traced back to 1983 when the EPA was examining toxicity data supplied by Monsanto. As part of the registration and approval process, Monsanto submitted a two-year mouse feeding study. In These Times writes:
“The mouse study was conducted for Monsanto by a commercial lab called Bio/Dynamics, but the results of the research were neither peer-reviewed nor made publicly available."
By March 1986, the EPA had reversed their designation of glyphosate as carcinogenic and they have reiterated their support for the use of glyphosate several times over the last 30 years. At the same time, Americans have grown skeptical of Monsanto's business practices and the safety of their products. For those willing to take the time to dig deep into the history of Monsanto, EPA corruption, and the science behind the use of glyphosate, the safety of this chemical may still be up for debate.