Pages tagged "Collusion"
Government emails show persistent effort by multiple officials within EPA to slow safety review of glyphosate
Newly released government email communications show a persistent effort by multiple officials within the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to slow a separate federal agency’s safety review of Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide. Notably, the records demonstrate that the EPA efforts came at the behest of Monsanto, and that EPA officials were helpful enough to keep the chemical giant updated on their progress.
The communications, most of which were obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, show that it was early 2015 when the EPA and Monsanto began working in concert to stall a toxicology review that a unit tied to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was conducting on glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s branded Roundup herbicide products. The details revealed in the documents come as Monsanto is defending itself against lawsuits alleging that it has tried to cover up evidence of harm with its herbicides.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal public health agency that along with the CDC is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is charged with evaluating the potential adverse human health effects from exposures to hazardous substances in the environment. So it made sense for the ATSDR to take a look at glyphosate, which is widely used on U.S. farms, residential lawns and gardens, school playgrounds and golf courses. Glyphosate is widely used in food production and glyphosate residues have been found in testing of human urine.
The ATSDR announced in February 2015 that it planned to publish a toxicological profile of glyphosate by October of that year. But by October, that review was on hold, and to this date no such review has yet been published. The documents reveal this was no accident, no bureaucratic delay, but rather was the result of a collaborative effort between Monsanto and a group of high-ranking EPA officials.
For Monsanto, the timing of the ATSDR review was worrisome. In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had declared glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen, and Monsanto feared ATSDR might have similar concerns about the chemical. Previous reports have described how one EPA official, Jess Rowland, communicated to Monsanto in April 2015 his willingness to try to kill the ATSDR review. Rowland, who retired in 2016, was the deputy division director within the health effects division of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). Allegations of collusion between Rowland and Monsanto have prompted a probe by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General.
But the trove of documents newly obtained from within EPA and HHS demonstrate that the assistance to Monsanto came not only from Rowland but also from even higher-level EPA officials. Rather than encourage and assist the toxicology review of glyphosate, Monsanto and EPA officials repeatedly complained to ATSDR and HHS that such a review was unnecessarily “duplicative” and should take a back seat to an EPA review also underway.
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Documents released Tuesday in a lawsuit against Monsanto raised new questions about the company’s efforts to influence the news media and scientific research and revealed internal debate over the safety of its highest-profile product, the weed killer Roundup.
The active ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, is the most common weed killer in the world and is used by farmers on row crops and by home gardeners. While Roundup’s relative safety has been upheld by most regulators, a case in federal court in San Francisco continues to raise questions about the company’s practices and the product itself.
The documents underscore the lengths to which the agrochemical company goes to protect its image. Documents show that Henry I. Miller, an academic and a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes’s website in 2015. Mr. Miller could not be reached for comment.
A similar issue appeared in academic research. An academic involved in writing research funded by Monsanto, John Acquavella, a former Monsanto employee, appeared to express discomfort with the process, writing in a 2015 email to a Monsanto executive, “I can’t be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication.” He also said of the way the company was trying to present the authorship: “We call that ghost writing and it is unethical.”
A Monsanto official said the comments were the result of “a complete misunderstanding” that had been “worked out,” while Mr. Acquavella said in an email on Tuesday that “there was no ghostwriting” and that his comments had been related to an early draft and a question over authorship that was resolved.
The documents also show internal talk about Roundup’s safety.
“If somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react — with serious concern,” one Monsanto scientist wrote in an internal email in 2001.
Monsanto said it was outraged by the documents’ release by a law firm involved in the litigation.
“There is a standing confidentiality order that they violated,” said Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy for Monsanto. He said that while “you can’t unring a bell,” Monsanto would seek penalties on the firm.
“What you’re seeing are some cherry-picked things that can be made to look bad,” Mr. Partridge said. “But the substance and the science are not affected by this.”
R. Brent Wisner, a partner at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, the firm that released the documents, said Monsanto had erred by not filing a required motion seeking continued protection of the documents. Monsanto said no such filing was necessary.
“Clearly Monsanto’s lawyers made a mistake,” Mr. Wisner said. “They didn’t properly take action to preserve the confidentiality of these documents.”
He added, “Now the world gets to see these documents that would otherwise remain secret.”
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The same Monsanto manager, Dr. George Levinskas, who helped hide the carcinogenic potential of PCBs in the 1970s, has now been shown, in California court documents released Tuesday, to have also influenced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the carcinogenic potential of the World’s most used herbicide – glyphosate – in the 1980s.
In March 2015 Sustainable Pulse uncovered a 30 year cover up by Monsanto and the EPA, related to the probable carcinogenicty of the World’s most used herbicide – glyphosate. This cover up has now been confirmed by court documents released by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
U.S. Right to Know (USRTK) reported Wednesday that more than 50 lawsuits against Monsanto Co. are pending in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, filed by people alleging that exposure to Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide, caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto covered up the risks.
On March 13th, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria ruled — over Monsanto’s objections — that documents obtained by plaintiffs through discovery could be unsealed.
The documents released are a treasure trove of information on how Monsanto influenced the EPA to change the March 4, 1985 classification of glyphosate as a Class C Carcinogen – showing suggestive potential of carcinogenic potential – to a Class E category which suggests “evidence of non-carcinogenicity for humans” in 1991.
For 12 years, Sheppard had no idea what might have caused her non-Hodgkin's lymphoma -- until a group of cancer researchers reported (PDF) that glyphosate, the key ingredient in the popular weed killer Roundup, is "probably carcinogenic to humans" (PDF).
That's the same herbicide Sheppard said she sprayed on her coffee farm in Hawaii for five years.
"I was incensed," said Sheppard, 67. "We had no idea."
Sheppard is one of more than 800 cancer patients suing Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, claiming the company failed to warn consumers about the risk of cancer associated with Roundup products.
Monsanto says there's no proof that glyphosate is carcinogenic. In fact, it citesa report by the Environmental Protection Agency'sCancer Assessment Review Committee that saidglyphosate is "not likely to be carcinogenic to humans" (PDF).
But the former chairman of that committee offered to stop an independent review on whether glyphosate could cause cancer, according to a plaintffs' motion to compel his deposition. And that has left Sheppard even more incensed.
The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancercaused a stir in March 2015 when it said glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans" (PDF), meaning it can lead to cancer.
"For the herbicide glyphosate, there was limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans for non-Hodgkin lymphoma," the report states.
"The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001. In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals."
That report spurred hundreds of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients to sue Monsanto.
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