The mission of the U.S.’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to “protect human health and the environment.” If this is the case, then why is Monsanto’s weed killer Roundup still on the market? At the very least, why doesn’t this potentially hazardous protect have a warning label to inform consumers of the risk of cancer? Shouldn’t the EPA step in to protect the public?
What the EPA Knows About Glyphosate
Since the 1980s, Monsanto has been trying to clear its name through the EPA to strengthen public confidence that it does not cause cancer. However, the EPA has been flip-flopping on this issue and finally declared at the end of 2017 that Roundup (and its key ingredient glyphosate) does not cause cancer. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that the EPA may be favoring Monsanto over scientific proof.
For example, one study indicated that glyphosate caused rare kidney tumors in mice which led the EPA to determine there was a definitive link to cancer. However, Monsanto hired another scientist who reported that he found a kidney tumor in one mouse not exposed to glyphosate which he believed nullified the EPA’s conclusion.
In a second instance, after reviewing additional scientific findings, EPA scientists once again confirmed that glyphosate was a catalyst for tumor development. Unfortunately, the EPA ignored its own scientists and announced that glyphosate was safe after Monsanto experts said that these claims were unprecedented.
Another incident occured in 2015 when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared glyphosate a possible carcinogen after many independent scientists analyzed available studies pertaining to glyphosate and the link to cancer. In response to the WHO’s announcement, Monsanto decided to write their own “independent” report to counteract the findings. Monsanto executive William F. Heydens contacted company toxicologist Donna Farmer suggesting that they ghost write some of their “independent” report to save money. Heydens said that a, “less expensive [and] more palatable approach” might be to involve experts for the less controversial sections and Monsanto employees could “ghost-write the Exposure Tox & Genetox sections… [We] would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing,” then scientists outside Monsanto could, “just edit & sign their names.”
Furthermore, a month after the WHO report was published, Dan Jenkins, Monsanto’s U.S. agency lead at the time, suggested discussing the matter with Jess Rowland, then chairman of the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee, to stop the bad press that the WHO report would cause for Monsanto. Jenkins requested that Rowland “kill” the study and therefore the controversy that this would cause for Monsanto.
While Monsanto denies using ghostwriters or trying to inappropriately influence the EPA, the evidence seems to suggest that Monsanto does have some sway over the EPA. The EPA and their scientists have repeatedly declared that Roundup can cause cancer, but Monsanto has been able to overturn the assessment time and again.