Meanwhile, explosive Monsanto emails, recently unsealed, seem to show that an EPA official cooperated with the corporation in an attempt to suppress an independent review on glyphosate’s carcinogenic potential – leading to allegations of inappropriate relationships and scientific fraud.
Historic 2015 WHO declaration triggered lawsuits
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The IARC based its action on studies of glyphosate exposure in America, Canada and Sweden, which revealed “limited evidence that glyphosate causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in humans.”
The agency also noted that “convincing evidence” showed that glyphosate carcinogenic to animals as well.
The IARC announcement triggered hundreds of NHL patients to sue Monsanto, a.k.a. the “most hated corporation in the world.” Attorney Timothy Litzenburg, whose law firm represents over 500 of the plaintiffs, predicted that many more plaintiffs were likely to emerge, and said he would not be surprised if the number swelled to 2,000 to 3,000 new cases.
Roundup is more toxic than glyphosate alone
Although herbicides made by other companies also contain glyphosate, plaintiffs and their attorneys are suing only Monsanto, the EPA registrant for Roundup. Not only does the corporation dominate the pesticide market, but it discovered and developed glyphosate and held the patent for many years.
In addition, Litzenburg maintains that his clients got cancer from Roundup weedkiller – not glyphosate alone. Although glyphosate is the active ingredient in the Roundup, the herbicide also contains additives and surfactants – such as animal fats – that increase and amplify glyphosate’s cancer-causing effects.
Shockingly, Roundup itself has never been tested – only glyphosate. However, one study showed that glyphosate-based herbicides containing other active ingredients and adjuvants were up to 1,000 times more toxic to human cells than their isolated adjuvants alone.
Hiding cancer risk: Monsanto struggled to discredit the WHO’s IARC report
According to CNN.com, an internal email from Monsanto executive William F. Heydens to a company toxicologist floated the idea of using ghostwriters to write a plausibility paper that would review the IARC’s findings on glyphosate. Heydens seems to suggest using ghostwriters for the sections on Exposure Toxicityand Genotoxicity – and having scientific experts simply “edit” and “add their names.”
Tellingly, he wanted to use scientific experts only for the “less contentious” parts of the report – a transparent attempt to try to soft-pedal glyphosate harms. Of course, a Monsanto spokesperson strongly denied that the paper was ghostwritten.
However, the paper ultimately concluded that the data do not support IARC’s conclusion that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.
Unsurprising, isn’t it?
“If I can kill this, I should get a medal” – alleged words of EPA official
Within a month of the release of the WHO IARC report, Heydens sent an email to Dan Jenkins – Monsanto’s liason to agencies such as the EPA – that alluded to dealing with the “fallout” from the IARC report.
Jenkins in turn suggested that Heydens talk to Jess Rowland, who at that time helmed the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Board.
At the US Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) was working on a glyphosate investigation of its own.
According to Jenkins, Rowland helpfully offered to “coordinate” with the ATSDR – and even referred to the possibility of suppressing – or “killing” – the report.
(“If I can kill this, I should get a medal)” are Rowland’s exact words, as quoted by Jenkins.
To Heydens, Jenkins expressed his belief that Rowland might not be successful, but Jenkins seemed to appreciate the effort. “However don’t get your hopes up, I doubt the EPA and Jess can kill this,” Jenkins wrote. ”But it’s good to know they are going to actually make the effort now to coordinate due to our pressing and their shared concern that ATSDR is consistent with EPA.”
The proof is there, in black and white, for all to see. It is hard to see how this exchange could be interpreted in any way but the following – as evidence of a Monsanto employee blatantly expressing satisfaction and gratitude that an EPA official is going to try to ensure that the federal agency and Monsanto are in lockstep when it comes to the goal of downplaying glyphosate harms.
In a different internal Monsanto email, Jenkins told his colleagues that Rowland “could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense.”
Is it any wonder that the plaintiffs and their attorneys are anxious to see Rowland deposed in the trial?
Rowland has since retired from the EPA, and is apparently not responded to requests for comment.
Monsanto continues denials about glyphosate
Monsanto insists there is no proof that glyphosate causes cancer, citing an EPA Cancer Assessment Review Committee finding that the herbicide is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Of course, this is the very same committee helmed by none other than Jess Rowland – does anyone see a pattern here?
For their part, Monsanto mouthpieces insist that the company has never paid money or given gifts to the EPA, or tried to “curry favor.” And, in the most ironic statement of all: Monsanto claims to “fully respect the EPA’s role in regulating pesticides.”
However, the emails tell a different tale.
As it turns out, the ATSDR’s glyphosate report – which will include a toxicological profile – wasn’t “killed,” as alluded to by Rowland. Work on it is ongoing, according to a spokesman, with a draft of the report expected by the end of the year.
Meanwhile, the legal battle continues, with the attorneys for the plaintiffs insisting that Rowland be deposed – and the EPA opposing the deposition.
No matter what the outcome, the unsealed emails have done their work: demonstrating once and for all the complicity and cooperation between Monsanto and an EPA official – and highlighting a truly disgraceful state of affairs.