Defending IARC’s Scientific Integrity Against Congressional Attack

Feb. 6, 2018 – Washington D.C. – – Today’s Science, Space, Technology (SST) Committee Hearing, ironically titled, “In Defense of Scientific Integrity: Examining the IARC Monograph Programme and Glyphosate Review,” should probably have been named “Monsanto’s Daily Glyphosate Talking Points.”

The hearing, headed by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), started with reiterating the same false assertions Kate Kelland published on behalf of Monsanto, at their urging, all part of Monsanto’s Preparedness and Engagement Plan. It appears Rep. Smith and the majority experts have been drawn into serving Monsanto’s scheme to “Orchestrate Outcry with IARC Decision” and have been fed incomplete data and spin from Monsanto, just as Henry Miller was “engaged” per the above linked Engagement Plan to discredit IARC.

Rep. Smith kicked off the SST hearing asserting that IARC ignored the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), used no human data, deleted contrary data, manipulated data and did not follow the scientific method, was not transparent and refused to respond to Smith’s written concerns regarding each of these points.

All of those assertions are false.

Likewise, so was his assertion that Dr. Blair “the chair of the Monograph Programme at the time, admitted in a deposition that the [2013 AHS] study would have altered IARC’s analysis.” This is not a quote from Dr. Blair, who stated the opposite regarding the AHS results whose negative outcome IARC had already incorporated into their analysis. Rep. Smith’s quote was actually from Reuters’ Kate Kelland’s article “Cancer agency left in the dark over glyphosate evidence” in which she wrote, “In a sworn deposition given in March this year in connection with the case, Blair also said the data would have altered IARC’s analysis.”

While Blair agreed at pages 182-183 of his deposition that including the 2013 AHS data would have lowered risk ratios, he also stated that it would have been irresponsible to include the 2013 AHS data because it was incomplete and unpublished (at page 204, lines 7-20; page 177, lines 21-25; pages 128-129; page 218, lines 19-20). So, when asked about the effect of Monsanto’s querying him about the AHS results, he actually stated that the 3 ½ hours of cross examination about the AHS did not change his opinions about his IARC conclusions regarding glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. See page 293, lines 6-15.

Apparently, neither Kelland nor Rep. Smith closely read Blair’s depo and instead just cited Monsanto’s talking points.

Smith, his majority supporters and experts also apparently did not bother to read IARC’s multiple, detailed refutations of each of Rep. Smith’s assertions, which you can read below.

IARC response to criticisms of the Monographs and the glyphosate evaluation – January 2018

Briefing Note for IARC Scientific and Governing Council members – January 2018

Response from Dr. Wild to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology – January 2018

Response from Dr. Wild to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology – November 2017

Nor did they bother to read the IARC Glyphosate Monograph as they would have seen that IARC did review the AHS in detail and weighed its pros and cons, as well as including its negative finding as part of its carcinogenicity assessment.

Smith et al. would have seen that approximately 25 pages of the Monograph evaluated multiple published, peer-reviewed human cohort and case-control studies, along with a meta-analysis of them, including all the positive and negative results, showing an increased human risk, especially for farmers that used Roundup more than two days per year.

IARC determined that these human studies indicated an elevated association with human carcinogenicity, but could not rule out the effect of confounding factors. However, the animal studies showed a strong association, along with the “petri dish” mechanistic studies, leading to IARC’s conclusion that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, taking into account the human elevated rates of carcinogenicity, supported by the animal and petri dish studies.

The deletions Rep. Smith complained about from the draft Glyphosate Monograph were not “manipulations” or “improper”—they were per IARC protocol (see page 4) to not include outside conclusions but rather to include their own evaluations. The deletions that Monsanto, Kate Kelland and Rep. Smith refer to were those opinions sponsored by the agrochemical industry and ghostwritten review papers with Monsanto’s spin, which turned out to be incorrect when the underlying data for some of the reviewed studies was made available.

IARC’s Glyphosate review was attended and monitored by multiple industry scientists and regulators, like the EPA. Monsanto’s hired observer, Dr. Tom Sorohan, publicly and privately stated that the IARC Glyphosate Working Groups followed standard protocols and were well run.

The IARC Working Group process was completely transparent and watched closely by Monsanto, industry and regulator representatives, with no criticism of its process until the conclusions were about to be published, at which point Monsanto created and implemented its Preparedness and Engagement Plan to “Orchestrate Outcry with IARC Decision” (linked above).

Rep. Smith also expressed concern that Americans rely on Roundup products to increase “high quality affordable food.” Rep. Lucas echoed Rep. Smith by asserting a “feed the world” false meme, “The modern agricultural revolution of which glyphosate and other IARC labeled carcinogen herbicides has played an enormous role, has helped feed the world and enabled struggling nations to grow and gain a footing on the world’s stage.”

The New York Times contradicts these claims in two articles published on October 29, 2017, Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops and Broken Promises of Genetically Modified Crops, reporting that the National Academy of Sciences found “there was little evidence” that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.

The real defense of scientific integrity needs to be exposure of Monsanto’s and the chemical industry’s effort to silence one of the few really independent scientific bodies to evaluate carcinogenicity. EPA has a regulatory capture problem — Jess Rowland (former deputy division director at EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs) and Jack Housenger (former director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Program) have been shown by now declassified Monsanto communications to have been co-opted by Monsanto and participated in preventing the Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry (ATSDR) from publishing a study with a similar outcome to IARC’s.

All of the SST majority witnesses have ties to Monsanto and/or the chemical industry. Dr. Anna Lowit was the subject of a letter from former EPA scientist, Marion Copley, to Jess Rowland questioning her manipulation of data and being under the influence of Monsanto. Robert Tarone, has acknowledged that he is a paid Monsanto consultant. Timothy Pastoor used to work for Syngenta, another glyphosate-based herbicide manufacturer like Monsanto, and spent a considerable amount of his career defending the herbicide atrazine. EFSA was caught relying upon copied and pasted Monsanto summaries of its studies—with Monsanto’s spin.

Thus, Rep. Smith and the majority failed to read or process the Glyphosate Monograph and IARC responses that contradict their fundamental assertions, failed to read that much of what EPA and EFSA have relied upon were ghostwritten or industry spun studies, then they called as “experts” individuals with substantial industry connections—the very opposite of defending “Scientific Integrity.” 

Real defense of Scientific Integrity would involve looking behind the curtain and seeing Monsanto’s wizards ghostwriting, manipulating, influencing and buying the “scientific” data that supports their “FTO”—Monsanto’s code word for “Freedom to Operate,” without actual oversight, regulation, restrictions, warnings or critical review. Every false thing Monsanto says about IARC looks like projection of exactly what Monsanto itself is doing—manipulating science for its financial benefit.

Real science, like IARC’s, needs to be defended against this onslaught of false PR, blogging, planted articles, omitted cancer events, ghostwriting and vituperative attacks on IARC and its scientists. Rep. Smith and his cohorts have been bamboozled.

Related Links

Organic Consumers Association: ‘Spinning Science and Silencing Scientists’ on the Dangers of Glyphosate

Carey Gillam: Science Committee Hearing Targets Cancer Scientists, Betrays Public Interest

Testimony of Dr. Jennifer Sass before the House Science Committee regarding the International Agency for Research on Cancer

Minority Staff Report Prepared for Members of the Committee on Science, Space & Technology U.S. House of Representatives February 2018: Spinning Science & Silencing Scientists: A Case Study in How the Chemical Industry Attempts to Influence Science

Dr. Peter Infante: Commentary: IARC Monographs Program and public health under siege by corporate interests

Carey Gillam Commentary: Corporate power, not public interest, at root of upcoming science committee hearing

Moms Across America Zen Honeycutt: The Plot to Take Down IARC and Continue Poisoning Us Must Be Stopped