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Published on March 15th, 2017 | by James Ayre


Lawsuit: Monsanto Ghostwrote Papers On Roundup Cancer Risk, EPA Used Them, … & EPA Official In Charge Of Cancer Risk Evaluation Tried To “Kill” ATSDR Investigation

March 15th, 2017 by  

Newly unsealed documents relating to a lawsuit against Monsanto have revealed that the US EPA official who was in charge of evaluating the cancer risk of Monsanto’s Roundup product stated in a conversation with a company exec that he would try to get an investigation started by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) “killed.”

And … that he “should get a medal” for doing so.

Rowland’s exact words (as recounted by a Monsanto regulatory affairs manager in an email to colleagues): “If I can kill this I should get a medal.” This statement was made during an April 2015 phone conversation, reportedly.

The investigation did apparently end up getting “killed” — with a (newly unsealed) internal memo at Monsanto revealing that, following efforts by the EPA official in question, Jess Rowland, the ATSDR had “agreed, for now, to take direction from EPA.”

Previous to this decision, the ATSDR had announced in the Federal Register (in February 2015) that it was planning to publish a toxicological profile of glyphosate by October 2015. Of course, this never actually happened — as the newly unsealed documents show, that’s apparently because of Rowland’s efforts.

Monsanto’s official take on this, as revealed by a public statement, is of course that the EPA official simply didn’t want the ATSDR to waste it’s time on a duplicate toxicological profile.

The federal judge that’s presiding over the glyphosate litigation in San Francisco commented that Rowland may be ordered to submit to questioning by the plaintiffs’ lawyers, because of the allegations of a “highly suspicious” relationship with Monsanto. Rowland was the overseer of a committee that “found insufficient evidence to conclude glyphosate causes cancer,” it should be remembered. He quit his position at the EPA in 2016 following the leaking of the committee’s report.

On a separate but very related note, the newly unsealed documents also reveal (or “allege”) that “Monsanto’s toxicology manager and his boss, Bill Heydens, were ghost writers for two of the reports, including one from 2000, that Rowland’s committee relied on in part to reach its conclusion that glyphosate shouldn’t be classified as carcinogenic,” as reported by Bloomberg.

Bloomberg provides more:

“Among the documents unsealed was a February 2015 internal email exchange at the company about how to contain costs for a research paper. The plaintiff lawyers cited it to support their claim that the EPA report is unreliable, unlike a report by an international agency that classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.

“’A less expensive/more palatable approach’ is to rely on experts only for some areas of contention, while ‘we ghost-write the Exposure Tox & Genetox sections,’ Heydens wrote to a colleague.

“The names of outside scientists could be listed on the publication, ‘but we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak,’ according to the email, which goes on to say that’s how Monsanto handled the 2000 study.”

As a reminder here, even though Monsanto’s Roundup has been on the market for ~35 years now, the company has never performed any carcinogenicity studies with formulated Roundup. The company’s lead toxicologist Dr Donna Farmer stated in a deposition that the company “cannot say that Roundup does not cause cancer” as “we have not done the carcinogenicity studies with Roundup.”

To explain this further, EPA regulations have only required research on the subject of glyphosate itself (the “active ingredient”) despite the fact that the other components of Roundup are used to modify and enhance various effects of this “active ingredient.” In other words, the effectiveness of Roundup as an herbicide is closely tied to the inclusion of “non-active ingredients” in the formulation, but the EPA has never required that the formulation itself be tested for its effects on humans, only that the “active ingredient” be researched.

You might be asking yourself right now why I’m writing about this on a site named CleanTechnica. The answer is simple: industrial agriculture is one of the primary drivers of anthropogenic climate change. It’s quite a moneymaker for firms such as a Monsanto, though, and it’s also one of the primary reasons that the world’s human population has grown so rapidly over the last 100 years (take that however you want). But it’s also an “arrangement without a future,” as it’s based on the strip mining of the world’s soils and on the use of resource-limited synthetic fertilizers (such as mined phosphate) that will become increasingly scarce as the century grinds on.

In other words, this affects everyone. The collusion of firms such as Monsanto with corrupt government officials around the world is absolutely a primary driver in anthropogenic climate change.

As an example, why do you think the beef patties at your local fast food chain are so cheap? Why is imported livestock feed so cheap? And how is this connected to mass deforestation in South America (and elsewhere)?

Rather than drag this out further, I’ll simply state here that avoiding extreme anthropogenic climate change would/will require fundamental changes to the world’s agricultural systems — in addition to fundamental changes with regard to energy, transportation, and cultural systems. It’s not simply a matter of coal-fired power plants being phased out and people driving electric cars.

The current way of life is one based on the use of non-renewable resources — this includes soil fertility that’s been built up over very long spans of time, the mined and refined components of solar photovoltaic cells and modules, jet fuel refined from the rotted and condensed remains of hundreds of millions of years of sea life, the diesel fuel that powers the world’s shipping fleets, etc. This way of life is going to change one way or another.

Image via EPA

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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