U.S.: Unsealed documents raise fresh questions over safety of Monsanto’s Roundup

March 16 , 2017

Plaintiffs suing Monsanto claimed in court filings that the company’s employees ghostwrote scientific reports relied on by U.S. regulators to determine that a chemical in its Roundup weed killer does not cause cancer, according to Reuters

The court filings, which were made public on Tuesday, are part of a mass litigation in federal court in San Francisco claiming Monsanto failed to warn that exposure to Roundup could be carcinogenic.

Monsanto has denied that the product causes cancer.

Plaintiffs reportedly claim that Monsanto’s toxicology manager ghostwrote parts of a scientific report in 2013 that was published under the names of several academic scientists, and his boss ghostwrote parts of another in 2000.

They alleged both reports were used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine that glyphosate was safe.

They cited an email from a Monsanto executive proposing to ghostwrite parts of the 2013 report, saying, “we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing” while researchers “would just edit & sign their names so to speak.”

Reuters said that in an email a Monsanto spokeswoman had denied the company scientists ghostwrote the 2000 report but did not directly address the 2013 report. 

Another court filing focused on Jess Rowland, a former deputy director at the EPA who chaired a committee on cancer risk and who plaintiffs say worked with Monsanto to suppress studies of glyphosate.

The filing includes an email from a Monsanto employee recounting how Rowland told him he “should get a medal” if he could “kill” a study of glyphosate at the Department of Health and Human Services, a separate federal agency.

European Chemical Agency clears glyphosate

Meanwhile, the European Chemical Agency concluded on Wednesday that glyphosate should not be classified as carcinogenic, potentially paving the way for its license renewal in the European Union (EU).

The entity’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) said the chemical could cause “serious eye damage” and was “toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects,” but added that “the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria in the CLP Regulation to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or for reproductive toxicity.”

“The adopted opinion on the harmonised classification for glyphosate will be taken into account when the Commission and Member States consider whether to renew the approval to use glyphosate as an active substance in pesticides, later this year,” the RAC said.

Related stories: Monsanto sues Californian agency over glyphosate cancer list proposal

Monsanto criticizes glyphosate debate as EU extends license

Photo: Mike Mozart, via Flickr

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