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MEPs Urge President Not to Renew EU Glyphosate Authorization

Members of the European Parliament wrote a letter this week to the President of the European Commission, urging him not to renew marketing authorization for glyphosate in the EU. The letter to President Jean-Claude Juncker was initiated by Green MEPs (Member of European Parliament) and was signed by colleagues from center-right, center-left, and far-left groups, along with Italy’s Five Star Movement.

The EU glyphosate authorization for marketing is set to expire six months after the European Commission receives the opinion of the Committee for Risk Assessment of the European Chemicals Agency, which should happen within the next 10 or 15 weeks. A temporary license for glyphosate was granted last June after a number of countries remained in a deadlock over issuing a regular license.

In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report on glyphosate, finding the chemical to be a probable human carcinogen. Glyphosate is one of the key ingredients in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, which many lawsuits allege has caused cancer in consumers.

The IARC glyphosate report was based, in part, on studies of glyphosate exposure in several countries around the world. These studies traced the health implications from exposure to glyphosate going back to 2001.

The report concluded that glyphosate exposure caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells, as well as genotoxic, hormonal, and enzymatic effects in mammals. The cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure were found to be non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other hematopoietic cancers.

Despite the IARC’s conclusions, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) said last week that there isn’t presently enough evidence to conclusively prove that glyphosate causes cancer. ECHA came to the same conclusion that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) came to back in November of 2015, months after the IARC report was made public. It is worth noting that even though the EFSA report said glyphosate isn’t likely to be a carcinogen, the report nevertheless proposed a new safety measure to control glyphosate residues in food.

Accusations of Ghostwriting in ‘Monsanto Papers’

In their letter to European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, regarding the EU glyphosate authorization, 30 MEPs said one of the studies that EFSA relied on to conclude that glyphosate is “unlikely to be genotoxic” may not be trustworthy.

In the U.S. hundreds of farmers, agricultural workers, gardeners, landscapers, government workers, and others from across the country have filed lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging exposure to Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

This month, the U.S. District Judge overseeing a number of Monsanto Roundup cancer claims ruled to unseal hundreds of pages of Monsanto documents that include internal emails from Monsanto executives and a member company of the Glyphosate Task Force (GTF), which is a “consortium of companies joining resources and efforts in order to renew the European glyphosate registration with a joint submission.” These documents have been dubbed the “Monsanto Papers” by French newspaper, Le Monde.

The court documents suggest that Monsanto ghostwrote scientific research that was later attributed to academics. One study, ‘Review of genotoxicity studies of Glyphosate and Glyphosate-based formulations, Critical Reviews of Toxicology, 2013; 43(4): 283–315.ASB2014-9587’ was co-authored by Larry Kier, a former Monsanto expert, and David Kirkland.

Internal emails discussing the study show concern about the level of credibility Kier would bring:

“…given his geography and industry alignment, other highly credible genotoxicologists coauthors from Europe were sought. David Kirkland was the first choice.”

An email from July 12, 2012, refers to a contract between Monsanto and David Kirkland:

“…this will enable him to coauthor the genotoxicity review paper with Larry Kier, as well as engaging him on any other projects which may come up…it may be necessary to have an EU based expert in genotoxicity on hand if issues arise during the regulatory review.”

The Kier and Kirkland co-authored study found that “an overwhelming preponderance of negative results in well-conducted bacterial reversion and in vivo mammalian micronucleus and chromosomal aberration assays indicates that glyphosate and its formulations were not genotoxic in these core assays.”

In the letter to President Juncker pressing not to renew EU glyphosate authorization, the MEPs write that the EFSA ‘Peer Review Report on Glyphosate’ was notably based on the Kier and Kirkland study, which failed to meet the scientific rigors set forth by the IARC.

The Kier and Kirkland co-authored study wasn’t included in the IARC glyphosate report because it failed to meet the criteria for data inclusion as laid out in the Preamble to the IARC Monographs. IARC considers “reports that have been published or accepted for publication in the openly available scientific literature” and “data from governmental reports that are publicly available” for its reviews of chemicals and substances.

The letter to President Juncker closes with a call to “blacklist companies which use lies as a common policy,” and to “forbid undisclosed direct contacts of European Commission and Agencies officials with any lobbyist working with or for Monsanto.” Beyond asking for the commission to remove the EU glyphosate authorization for marketing, the MEPs are also seeking a full investigation into whether Monsanto deliberately falsified studies on glyphosate.

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