Quantcast
GMO

EPA Bows to Industry in Delay of Glyphosate Cancer Review

By Carey Gillam

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was slated to hold four days of public meetings, Oct. 18-21, focused on essentially one question: Is glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, safe?

However, the EPA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) meetings were "postponed," just four days before they were suppose to meet, after intense lobbying by the agrichemical industry, including Monsanto. The industry first fought to keep the meetings from being held at all, and argued that if they were held, several leading international experts should be excluded from participating, including "any person who has publicly expressed an opinion regarding the carcinogenicity of glyphosate."

As the meetings drew near, CropLife America, which represents the interests of Monsanto and other agribusinesses, specifically took issue with at least two scientists chosen for the panel, alleging the experts might be unfavorably biased against industry interests. On Oct. 12, the group sent a letter to the EPA calling for Dr. Kenneth Portier of the American Cancer Society to be more deeply scrutinized for any "pre-formed conclusions" about glyphosate. More notably, CropLife called for leading epidemiologist Dr. Peter Infante to be completely disqualified from panel participation.

"EPA should replace Dr. Infante with an epidemiologist without such patent bias," CropLife told the EPA. The chemical industry group said Infante was unlikely to give industry-sponsored research studies the credibility the industry believes they deserve. CropLife said Infante has testified in the past for plaintiffs in chemical exposure cases against Monsanto.

Croplife also argued that because Infante was the "only epidemiologist on the glyphosate SAP" he would have enhanced influence in the evaluation of epidemiological data about glyphosate and cancer. The CropLife letter was dated Oct. 12 and by Oct. 14, the EPA announced it was looking for additional epidemiology expertise to ensure "robust representation from that discipline." The EPA also said one panelist had voluntarily departed, though the agency refused to say who that panelist was.

Challenging Infante's role is a gutsy move. After all, Infante spent 24 years working for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration helping determine cancer risks to workers during the development of standards for toxic substances, including asbestos, arsenic and formaldehyde. His resume includes a stint at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health where he conducted epidemiological studies related to carcinogens, and he has served as an expert consultant in epidemiology for several world bodies, including the EPA and the World Trade Organization.

According to sources close to the situation, Infante remains a panelist as of this week, but there is no certainty when the meetings might be rescheduled, and what the panel membership might look like when they are rescheduled. The EPA has refused to discuss who remains on the panel, but some onlookers believe that the EPA was clearly bowing to agrichemical industry interests.

"This is outrageous. The industry wants to say that our own government scientists, the top ones in their fields, aren't good enough for these panels," said Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist at the Consumers Union. "If the EPA wants to add extra epidemiologists that is great but why didn't they do it before? They are doing this because of pressure from industry."

The industry clearly has much at stake, as does the public. Glyphosate is the key ingredient in Monsanto's branded Roundup herbicides as well as herbicides marketed by numerous agrichemical companies around the world. It is also the key to what has been 20 years of sales of genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops developed by Monsanto. The future sales of both the chemical and the crops are being jeopardized by the mounting concerns that glyphosate can cause cancer and other illnesses or disease.

Scientists around the world have been raising red flags for years over worrisome research findings, and last year the International Agency of Research on Cancer, said glyphosate was a probable human carcinogen. More than three dozen lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto by people claiming Roundup gave them non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and both European and U.S. regulators are evaluating the chemical for continued use.

Since the International Agency of Research on Cancer classification, Monsanto has asked the EPA to back industry assurances that glyphosate is safe, and so far, the EPA has done exactly that, issuing a series of reports and memos that dovetail with Monsanto's position. Monsanto also has sought to bolster arguments for glyphosate's safety by pointing to supportive research papers published in late September in Critical Reviews in Toxicology. Monsanto hired the group that arranged for the panel, and most of the 16 scientists involved are former Monsanto employees or Monsanto consultants. At least one, Gary Williams, has also consulted for Monsanto on litigation matters involving glyphosate.

It seems more than a little hypocritical that those scientists are presented as credible by the industry, but scientists like Infante and Portier are said to be unfit to advise the EPA because of suspected bias. Like Infante, Portier has a long track record as an independent scientist. He is vice president of the Statistics & Evaluation Center at the American Cancer Society. He has participated in more than 60 other SAP meetings and has served on expert and advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the National Toxicology Program, and the World Health Organization Food and Agriculture Organization.

Portier also would not comment about the industry concerns about him, the postponement or changes to the makeup of the SAP, other than to say that as of today, he remains on the panel. EPA said it is "working to reschedule as soon as possible." But the delay and the maneuvering by industry to influence panel participation does little to bolster consumer confidence for the likelihood of an objective outcome.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals
Baby mountain gorilla. Pixabay

Conservation and 'Renewed Hope': Mountain Gorilla Numbers Rebound

First, the good news. Collaborative conservation efforts have brought "renewed hope" for mountain gorillas and two large whale species, according to today's update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The mountain gorilla subspecies moved from "critically endangered" to "endangered" due to anti-poaching patrols and veterinary interventions. In 2008, their population dropped to as low as 680 individuals––but the new estimates reveal that the number of mountain gorillas has increased to more than 1,000 individuals—the highest figure ever recorded for the eastern gorilla subspecies, the IUCN said.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Westend61 / Getty Images

EcoWatch Gratitude Photo Contest: Submit Now!

EcoWatch is pleased to announce its first photo contest! Show us what in nature you are most thankful for this Thanksgiving. Whether you have a love for oceans, animals, or parks, we want to see your best photos that capture what you love about this planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
Agricultural workers in Salinas, California. Michael Davidson / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

200+ Groups Call on Senate to Reject 'Pesticide Industry Loyalist' as USDA's Top Scientist

By Andrea Germanos

Denouncing his "strong ties to corporate agribusiness and pesticide companies," more than 240 groups urged the Senate on Wednesday to reject the nomination of Scott Hutchins, President Donald Trump's pick for chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The world's forested area shrunk by 129 million hectares between 1990 and 2015. Pixabay

France Looks to Curb Palm Oil and Beef Imports to Halt Deforestation

In a significant move to combat worldwide deforestation, the French government unveiled a national strategy on Wednesday that looks to curb imports of soybean, palm oil, beef and beef products, cocoa, rubber, as well as wood and its derivatives.

The new plan, a joint effort from five French ministries, identifies these items as contributing the most to "imported deforestation"—meaning these products are directly or indirectly tied to forest degradation.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Oceans
The dramatic conclusions of a recent study on ocean warming have been cast in doubt by newly discovered errors. marion faria photography / Getty Images

New Findings Cast Doubt on Claim That Oceans Have Warmed 60% More Than Scientists Thought

Two weeks ago, EcoWatch reported on a terrifying study that claimed the world's oceans had warmed 60 percent more in the past 25 years than previously thought. This raised the possibility that the earth was more even more sensitive to climate change than scientists had believed, meaning we have even less time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep temperatures within a livable range.

In the two weeks since the study was first published in Nature, however, errors have been spotted in the paper that cast doubt on that alarming 60 percent figure.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Pixabay

Turkey Is Bad on Antibiotics—Pork and Beef, Even Worse

By David Wallinga, MD

Heading into the holidays, many of our families are planning meals centered around a delicious turkey, ham or brisket. But a new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and our partners at Food Animal Concerns Trust shows that our families' health is at significant risk from how these American meats are typically produced.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
The Great Australian Bight is home to one of only two southern right whale calving grounds in the world. Greenpeace / Jaimen Hudson

An Oil Spill in the Great Australian Bight Could Be Twice as Bad as Deepwater Horizon

Equinor, Norway's state oil company formerly known as Statoil, has faced criticism from environmentalists over its plans to drill the Great Australian Bight off the country's southern coast. A potential spill in the area would threaten the ecosystem and endanger the largest breeding populations of endangered southern right whales in the world.

Such fears are now confirmed if a blowout should actually occur, according to a leaked draft Oil Pollution Emergency Plan authored by Equinor and obtained by Greenpeace's Australia Pacific branch.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Thanasis Zovoilis / Moment / Getty Images

Hormone-Disrupting Weed Killer Taints Tap Water for Millions in Corn Belt

Seasonal spikes of atrazine–a weed killer that can disrupt hormones and harm developing fetuses–contaminate drinking water in corn-growing areas of the Midwest and beyond, according to an analysis of federal records by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!