And the stakes are high – attorneys representing a group of cancer patients are accusing Jess Rowland, a former deputy at the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs, of breaking ethics rules and collaborating with ‘the most hated corporation in the world‘ to institute a massive cover-up. (keep reading for the ugly details)
EPA official may be in hot water
Over 50 lawsuits have been filed accusing Monsanto of failing to warn of the risk that glyphosate in their weed killer Roundup could cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
While working at the EPA, Rowland chaired a Cancer Assessment Review Committee – which found “insufficient evidence” to conclude that glyphosate causes cancer, and determined that glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
The report was leaked to the press last May – to the obvious delight of Monsanto, which pushed to publicize it in order to prevent additional actions against glyphosate. Within days of the CARC report being leaked, Rowland left the EPA. (Gee, I wonder why?)
Attorneys for the plaintiffs now maintain that Rowland worked hand-in-hand with the biotech giant to disguise the chemical’s cancer-causing potential.
The EPA has already shot down requests to depose Rowland
It appears that a federal judge may allow Rowland to be deposed on his cozy relationship with Monsanto – and on his alleged attempts to suppress information. Lawyers for the plaintiffs maintain that Rowland had an improper and “highly suspicious” relationship with Monsanto, one which “strained and even broke” ethics rules and regulations.
Saying it “would not be in the interests of the agency” to allow attorneys to question Rowland, the EPA denied a request to have him deposed. However, a US District Judge seems to leaning towards allowing it, characterizing the deposition as “appropriate.”
Monsanto is trying to prevent public disclosure of secret documents
While anxious to publicize the leaked CARC report, Monsanto is clearly not so thrilled with having to reveal internal documents – and is scrambling to keep documents that show collusion between Rowland and Monsanto out of the public eye.
The corporation was compelled to turn over internal documents in the course of discovery, but has argued that roughly 85 percent of them should be kept confidential – as they would “unfairly prejudice” the public and cause “reputational harm.”
Pointing out that the EPA is a taxpayer-funded public agency, attorneys for the plaintiffs insist that its interactions with Monsanto should be subject to public scrutiny. They maintain that the documents show that Rowland’s primary goal was to “serve the interests of Monsanto,” and argue that “decisions affecting the public health should not be based on secret conversations between Monsanto and EPA officials.”
Emotional letter from colleague makes shocking plea
And the attorneys for the plaintiffs have one more piece of ammunition – in fact, it may very well be a “smoking gun.”
In a March 2, 2013 letter to Rowland, a former EPA scientist begged him to reclassify glyphosate from a “possible” carcinogen to a “probable” carcinogen – which, incidentally, is the way the World Health Organization categorizes it. In the letter, toxicologist Marion Copley implored Rowland: “… for once in your life, listen to me and don’t play your conniving games with the science” (to favor the industry).
Copley went on to accuse Rowland of pressuring staff members to change reports involving glyphosate, and of helping Monsanto to suppress them.
Monsanto remains unapologetic
Of course, Monsanto, which insists glyphosate has a “long and well-established history of safe use,” predictably continues to deliver its boilerplate response: “There is no evidence that glyphosate is the cause (of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma).” Yet, many health experts warn that glyphosate has been linked with a host of ills, including kidney damage, liver damage, birth defects and cancer.
Meanwhile, the EPA has until March 28 to file its written arguments opposing the Rowland deposition.
The clock is ticking.