Does glyphosate cause cancer? That's the question Monsanto is desperately trying to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from answering. With governments around the globe recently divided on how to regulate glyphosate, Monsanto’s spin machine is in overdrive trying to discredit anyone who suggests their biggest moneymaker is toxic to human health.
Its latest target is EPA, which is currently convening a Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) to determine whether to list glyphosate as a carcinogen.
Monsanto isn’t leaving anything to chance — or to science. The big bad chemical corporation is bullying EPA to eject two extremely well-credentialed scientists from its SAP before the panel even meets. But the real problem? It looks like EPA officials are giving in to Monsanto’s foot stomping.
There’s a reason Monsanto is going to the mat to protect glyphosate, the main ingredient in its bestselling herbicide RoundUp. Glyphosate accounts for roughly one third of Monsanto’s annual sales; this one chemical alone brings in billions of dollars each year. Losing the ability to sell glyphosate as an unrestricted pesticide would be a huge loss to the company, and possibly even a deal breaker for the company's upcoming merger with fellow pesticide giant Bayer.
Not to mention the pricey lawsuits Monsanto is currently battling. Dozens of people who claim that glyphosate gave them non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) are suing Monsanto. EPA plans to examine the glyphosate-NHL connection specifically, saying:
There are conflicting views on how to interpret the overall results for NHL. Some believe that the data are indicative of a potential association between glyphosate exposure and risk of NHL.
Monsanto's enormous profits rely on government agencies, farmers and the public continuing to buy the "so safe you can drink it" line the chemical company has been shilling for years.
WHO scares Monsanto
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently sent Monsanto into a global propaganda frenzy when its cancer agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) determined that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. Since that determination, individual governments have been examining the newest studies on glyphosate, and Monsanto is challenging any person or agency that suggests there might be a connection worth studying.
"Defame, defund, delete" seems to be Monsanto's battle cry. In addition to lodging claims of bias against Dr. Kathryn Guyton, a lead IARC scientist, the company called on the U.S. Congress to revoke funding for IARC altogether. Oh yeah, and Monsanto would also like EPA to cancel the SAP. Nothing to see here.
So does a scientist's years of study in a specific area make them qualified or biased? According to Monsanto, it's the latter. The chemical giant is specifically objecting to two scientists that EPA announced as participants of the glyphosate SAP: Dr. Kenneth Portier and Dr. Peter Infante. Both have extensive resumes and are top-ranking scientists in their fields. CropLife, representing Monsanto, recommended that EPA add an additional epidemiologist to counter-balance Infante's influence (Infante himself is an epidemiologist, but not one that Monsanto trusts), if not replace him altogether. Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at the Consumer Union responded:
This is outrageous. The industry wants to say that our own government scientists, the top ones in their fields, aren’t good enough for these panels. If the EPA wants to add extra epidemiologists that is great but why didn’t they do it before? They are doing this because of pressure from industry.
Again, the biggest problem here is that the EPA obliged. One week after CropLife's letter, EPA announced it would look for more epidemiologists and postpone the first SAP meeting. We don't know when the panel will be reconvened, or how many scientist who have previously been on Monsanto's payroll will be on it. But it's time for EPA to get some pressure from those of us who want the science be thoroughly considered.
Please join PAN in asking EPA to push back on industry and make room for a deep and honest review of glyphosate's connection to cancer. We can't wait 30 more years to get this right. If glyphosate is causing NHL or other forms of cancer, we need that information today.