Los Angeles, California — U.S. law firms representing victims harmed by Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer published new court documents in late October showing the European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) may have decided to oppose the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) conclusion on glyphosate before the IARC report was published.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. In March of 2015, IARC concluded that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. In the months that followed, EFSA and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) issued reports that reached different conclusions on glyphosate—both agencies found no evidence for carcinogenicity.
However, the latest documents show that EFSA may have decided to oppose IARC’s conclusion before IARC had published the data it relied upon to reach its conclusion. This raises an important question: how could the EFSA oppose IARC regarding a report that it had not yet seen?
Latest Additions to the Monsanto Papers Raise More Questions on Glyphosate Safety
The recently-released court documents represent the latest additions to ‘The Monsanto Papers,’ which include internal Monsanto emails, text messages and other memoranda. These documents detail the company’s ghostwriting of studies and reviews on glyphosate and Roundup, scientific manipulation, collusion with regulatory agencies, and information about how glyphosate is absorbed by the human body. The documents, which Monsanto does not want the public to see, detail the serious public health consequences surrounding Monsanto’s marketing of glyphosate and Roundup.
“They (Monsanto) have been telling everybody that these products are safe because regulators have said they are safe, but it turns out that Monsanto has been in bed with U.S. regulators while misleading European regulators,” says Brent Wisner, an attorney representing victims harmed by Roundup. According to Wisner, The Monsanto Papers show that Monsanto has “deliberately been stopping studies that look bad for them, ghostwriting literature and engaging in a whole host of corporate malfeasance.”
Timeline Questions: Did EFSA Oppose IARC Monograph Before Evaluating Data?
Corporate Europe Observatory posed this question in an article after the latest Monsanto Papers were made public, and it is one that needs to be answered.
According to an email exchange between U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials Jess Rowland and Michael Goodis, EFSA was in contact with EPA as early as May 2015. In the email, Goodis wrote that EFSA had approached him saying the agency “will disagree” with IARC’s conclusion on glyphosate
At this time, IARC had not yet published the data used to reach its conclusion. IARC confirmed that it had sent EFSA the references used for its Monograph, though not the Monograph itself prior to publication.
The data became available to EFSA and other regulatory agencies on July 29, 2015. The German authorities at the Bundesamt für Risikobewertung (BfR), which was the official European Union ‘rapporteur’ for glyphosate, did not conduct their own assessment of the IARC Monograph until August 31, 2015. EFSA published its glyphosate report on November 12, 2015.
This information, coupled with EFSA’s timeline for evaluating glyphosate, indicates that EFSA may have decided to oppose IARC’s conclusion before it evaluated any of the data.
Did EPA Influence EFSA’s Opposition to IARC Report?
One of the EPA officials in the email correspondence was Jess Rowland, who is a fixture throughout The Monsanto Papers. Previously-released documents show that Rowland bragged to Monsanto executive Dan Jenkins about his role in killing another U.S. government agency’s inquiry into glyphosate in April of 2015. Prior to Rowland’s alleged boast, Monsanto was concerned that the other U.S. agency, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), could become “a domestic IARC.”
Rowland retired from EPA in 2016. Before he left, Dan Jenkins wrote in an email to his Monsanto colleagues that Rowland “could be useful as we move forward with [the] ongoing glyphosate defense.” Court documents show that Rowland now works as a consultant for the chemical industry.
The email correspondences between Rowland and Goodis make it clear that EFSA was coordinating with EPA with regard to the IARC Monograph (the subject of the email is ‘Re: Bilateral EPA EFSA cooperation on pesticides’). Aside from coordinating, did EPA influence EFSA to oppose IARC’s conclusion on glyphosate?
Jess Rowland himself has been accused of influencing EFSA to disregard a key glyphosate study. Court documents indicate that Rowland took part in a teleconference with EFSA as an observer in 2015. Among the topics discussed on the call was an important 2001 study on glyphosate, known as the Kumar study, which found a causal link between glyphosate and malignant lymphoma in rodents.
EFSA ended up disregarding this study in its report on glyphosate, leading to speculation that Rowland may have influenced the agency’s decision. Jose Tarazona, the head of EFSA’s pesticide unit, confirmed Rowland’s involvement on the call. According to Tarazona, “the observer from the US-EPA [Rowland] informed participants during the teleconference about potential flaws in the Kumar (2001) study related to viral infections.”
EFSA’s Response to Accusations of Scientific Pre-Judgment
EFSA sent an email to Corporate Europe Observatory in response to its article. In the email, EFSA said:
“…at that point in time (May 2015) it was obvious that the views of EFSA and Member States on glyphosate carcinogenicity, expressed in February 2015, would be divergent from the IARC monograph due to published in July…EFSA can confirm that there was no pre-judgement of the IARC monograph.”
EFSA added that IARC’s conclusion on glyphosate was only assessed in the addendum to the German Renewal Assessment Report (RAR) prepared by the BfR in August 2015. EFSA added that the article “unfairly casts doubt on the integrity of the scientific process we followed.”
While EFSA maintains that there was no “pre-judgement” in this circumstance, the agency did not really explain how it did not pre-judge, and we are thus left with more questions. As Corporate Europe Observatory put it, “how can one be sure to disagree/diverge from an opinion before reading it?”
EFSA also needs to answer what role, if any, EPA had in its decision to oppose IARC’s conclusion. This question is particularly troubling considering the well-documented ties between certain EPA officials and Monsanto.