Evidence reveals Monsanto's hand may indeed have been in the EPA's regulatory cookie jar. The revelations are contained in a court filing brought by more than 50 people suing Monsanto claiming the company's glyphosate based herbicide branded Roundup gave them or their loved ones non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) after exposure to the herbicide. The filing includes information about alleged efforts within the Environmental Protection Agency to protect Monsanto’s interests and unfairly aid the agrochemical industry and that Monsanto has spent decades covering up cancer risks linked to the chemical. The EPA’s stamp of approval for the safety of glyphosate over the last few decades has been key to the success of Monsanto’s genetically engineered, glyphosate-tolerant crops.
The filing included alleged correspondence from a 30-year career EPA scientist accusing top-ranking EPA official Jess Rowland of playing “your political conniving games with the science” to favor pesticide manufacturers such as Monsanto. In the correspondence, longtime EPA toxicologist Marion Copley cites evidence from animal studies and writes: “It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer.” She also accuses Rowland of having “intimidated staff” to change reports to favor industry,
Lawyers for the plaintiffs want the court to lift a seal on documents that detail Monsanto’s interactions with former top EPA brass Jess Rowland regarding the EPA’s safety assessment of glyphosate. Monsanto turned the documents over in discovery but marked them “confidential,” a designation plaintiffs’ attorneys say is improper. They also want to depose Rowland. But Monsanto and the EPA object to the requests, court documents show.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared in March 2015 that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, with a positive association found between glyphosate and NHL. Monsanto has been fighting to refute that classification.
Rowland has been key in Monsanto’s efforts to rebut the IARC finding because until last year he was a deputy division director within the health effects division of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, managing the work of scientists who assessed human health effects of exposures to pesticides like glyphosate. And, importantly, he chaired the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC) that issued an internal report in October 2015 contracting IARC’s findings. That 87-page report, signed by Rowland, determined that glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”
The handling of the CARC report raised questions when it was posted to a public EPA website on April 29, 2016 and kept on the site for only three days before being pulled down. The agency said the report was not final and that it should not have been posted, but Monsanto touted the report as a public affirmation of its safety claims for glyphosate. The company also brought a copy of the report to a May court hearing in the Roundup litigation as a counter point to the IARC cancer classification. Shortly after the CARC report was removed from the EPA website, Rowland left his 26-year career at the EPA.
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