New court documents released this week in the Roundup cancer litigation detail a cozy relationship between Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The documents contain a telephone conversation between a Monsanto executive and a high level EPA official, who said he deserved a medal if he could put a stop to an agency investigation into glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer.
The documents detailing how the EPA official helped Monsanto were originally under seal in the Roundup cancer litigation in Northern California, but were made public after the federal judge overseeing the case ruled against Monsanto and hundreds of pages of internal company documents were unsealed.
Plaintiffs in the case claim that exposure to Roundup caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and that Monsanto failed to warn consumers and regulators about the cancer risk.
Internal Monsanto Documents Highlight Cozy Relationship with EPA
Former EPA official Jess Rowland stands out as a central figure in the newly unsealed documents. Rowland was a former Deputy Division Director of the Health Effects Division for the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP). He also chaired the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC), which authored a report on glyphosate.
In May of 2016, the EPA “accidentally” leaked the CARC report, which found that there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude glyphosate is carcinogenic. Just days after the CARC report was leaked, Rowland left his post at EPA under mysterious circumstances.
According to court documents, Rowland had a “highly suspicious” relationship with Monsanto. In one telling exchange found in the documents, Rowland allegedly bragged to a Monsanto executive during a telephone conversation, telling him he deserved a medal if he could kill another EPA study on glyphosate.
“If I can kill this I should get a medal,” Rowland said to Dan Jenkins, a Monsanto regulatory affairs manager. At the time, Monsanto was allegedly seeking Rowland’s assistance in trying to stop an investigation into the carcinogenicity of glyphosate by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a separate office that is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.
After the call, Jenkins tried to temper his colleagues’ expectations in an email, saying, “don’t get your hopes up, I doubt EPA and Jess can kill this; but it’s good to know they are going to actually make the effort now to coordinate due to our pressing and their shared concern that ATSDR is consistent in its conclusions w EPA.”
According to court documents, the ATSDR did shut down an investigation of glyphosate, agreeing to “take direction from EPA.”
In February 2015, ATSDR said that it would release a toxicological profile on glyphosate by October of the same year. The profile was never released. According to Bloomberg, the ATSDR would not comment on the court documents, nor would EPA representatives when asked for comments this week.
Plaintiffs’ Attorneys Seek Deposition of EPA Deputy, Jess Rowland
Roundup cancer attorneys say the documented communications between Rowland and Monsanto clearly show a government regulator, responsible for policing the company, actually working on Monsanto’s behalf. They have filed a motion to compel Jess Rowland to testify in the litigation regarding whether or not his role as an EPA official assisted Monsanto in circumventing regulatory safeguards. Judge Chhabria said in a recent court hearing on the Monsanto litigation that he is inclined to allow the deposition of the EPA Deputy Division Director.
According to the Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel the Deposition of Jess Rowland, “allowing the deposition of Mr. Rowland here is in the EPA’s interest. If, as the documents suggest, Monsanto exerted untoward influence over Mr. Rowland, that is information the EPA needs to know so it can, in the future, ferret out such unseemly relationships between its employees and the very industry its charged to regulate.”
EPA Toxicologist Letter on Glyphosate
Included in the Plaintiffs’ Reply in Support of Motion to Compel the Deposition of Jess Rowland is a powerful letter from Marion Copley, a 30-year EPA toxicologist, to Jess Rowland. Copley wrote the letter to Rowland in 2013, roughly a year after she retired from the agency due to health reasons. She died of breast cancer in 2014 at the age of 66.
Below is a copy of Copley’s letter to Rowland, which only adds more suspicion surrounding Jess Rowland’s relationship with Monsanto:
Since I left the Agency with cancer, I have studied the tumor process extensively and I have some mechanism comments which may be very valuable to CARC based on my decades of pathology experience. I’ll pick one chemical to demonstrate my points.
Glyphosate was originally designed as a chelating agent and 1 strongly believe that is the identical process involved in its tumor formation, which is highly supported by the literature.
-Chelators inhibit apoptosis, the process by which our bodies kill tumor cells -Chelators are endocrine disruptors, involved in tumorigenesis -Glyphosate induces lymphocyte proliferation -Glyphosate induces free radical formation
-Chelators inhibit free radical scavenging enzymes requiring Zn, Mn or Cu for activity (i.e. SODs)
-Chelators bind zinc, necessary for immune system function
-Glyphosate is genotoxic, a key cancer mechanism
-Chelators inhibit DNA repair enzymes requiring metal cofactors
-Chelators bind Ca, Zn, Mg, etc to make foods deficient for these essential nutrients
-Chelators bind calcium necessary for calcineurin-mediated immune response
-Chelators often damage the kidneys or pancreas, as glyphosate does, a mechanism to tumor formation -Kidney/pancreas damage can lead to clinical chemistry changes to favor tumor growth -Glyphosate kills bacteria in the gut and the gastrointestinal system is 80% of the immune system -Chelators suppress the immune system making the body susceptible to tumors
Previously, CARC concluded that glyphosate was a “possible human carcinogen”. The kidney pathology in the animal studies would lead to tumors with other mechanisms listed above. Any one of these mechanisms alone listed can cause tumors, but glyphosate causes all of them simultaneously. It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer. With all of the evidence listed above, the CARC category should be changed to “probable human carcinogen”. Blood cells arc most exposed to chelators, if any study shows proliferation of lymphocytes, then that is confirmatory that glyphosate is a carcinogen.
Jess, you and I have argued many times on CARC. You often argued about topics outside of your knowledge, which is unethical. Your trivial MS degree from 1971 Nebraska is far outdated, thus CARC science is 10 years behind the literature in mechanisms. For once in your life, listen to me and don’t play your political conniving games with the science to favor the registrants. For once do the right thing and don’t make decisions based on how it affects your bonus. You and Anna Lowit intimidated staff on CARC and changed MI ARC and IIASPOC final reports to favor industry. Chelators clearly disrupt calcium signaling, a key signaling pathway in all cellos and mediates tumor progression. Greg Ackerman is supposed to be our expert on mechanisms, but he never mentioned any of these concepts at CARC and when I tried to discuss it with him he put me off. Is Greg playing your political games as well, incompetent or does he have some conflict of interest of some kind? Your Nebraska colleague took industry funding, he clearly has a conflict of interest. Just promise me not to ever let Anna on the CARC committee, her decisions don’t make rational sense. If anyone in OPP is taking bribes, it is her.
I have cancer and I don’t want these serious issues in MED to go unaddressed before I go to my grave. I have done my duty.
Marion Copley March 4, 2013