EU Approval of Glyphosate Based on Review That Plagiarized Monsanto Studies
The European Union's license extension of the world's most popular weedkiller, glyphosate, was based on a review that heavily plagiarized industry studies, according to a report (pdf) commissioned by European parliamentarians (MEPs).
The new analysis released Tuesday compares whether a risk assessment of the controversial herbicide was actually authored by scientists representing Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) or by the European Glyphosate Task Force (GTF), an industry group that includes Monsanto, the manufacturer of glyphosate-based Roundup, in its ranks.
"Plagiarism was discovered exclusively in the chapters dealing with the assessment of published studies on health risks related to glyphosate," according to the report by plagiarism researcher Stefan Weber and biochemist Helmut Burtscher-Schaden. "In these chapters, 50.1 percent of the content was identified as plagiarism."
In one of their most "remarkable findings," the report's authors determined that even BfR's assessment methods were directly lifted from GTF text.
"The BfR had thus copied Monsanto's explanation of Monsanto's approach in evaluating the published literature, yet had presented it as the approach of the authority. This is a striking example of deception regarding true authorship," the report states.
The BfR and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) rejected the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer's March 2015 classification of glyphosate as a possible carcinogen. The EFSA based its conclusion on the BfR's stance. Critics have previously accused both agencies of its close ties to the industry.
Weber pointed out to POLITICO that BfR's plagiarizing also means that dozens of studies dismissed by the Glyphosate Task Force were similarly disregarded by European food safety authorities.
"It is very concerning under the hypothesis that all these studies ignored are simply considered as not reliable," he said.
MEPs from the Greens, Socialists & Democrats and European United Left–Nordic Green Left parties commissioned the new report not long after the Guardian revealed that the BfR's glyphosate safety assessment copy-and-pasted large sections of text from a study conducted by Monsanto.
European Glyphosate Safety Report Copy-Pasted Monsanto Study https://t.co/uB03piX1Gx @NonGMOProject @Cornucopia_Inst— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1505519706.0
"It is extremely worrying to see that up to 50 percent of some chapters of the German regulator's assessment were actually written by Monsanto," Greens/EFA MEP Bart Staes said in press release.
"Just as tobacco companies can no longer talk about the health benefits of smoking, the chemical industry shouldn't be able to write its own authorization for its own potentially harmful products," he added.
The report was released just before a parliamentary vote on greater transparency and independent scrutiny surrounding the authorization procedure for pesticides, The Guardian noted.
The authors concluded that "BfR's practice of copy paste and plagiarism is at odds with an independent, objective, and transparent assessment of the risks, and that this practice influenced the authority's conclusions on glyphosate's safety."
"In addition," they said, "the study authors found clear evidence of BfR's deliberate pretense of an independent assessment, whereas in reality the authority was only echoing the industry applicants' assessment."
The BfR rejected the report's findings. "In Europe, it was customary and recognized in evaluation procedures for plant protection products that, following critical evaluation, assessment authorities would also integrate relevant passages of documents submitted by applicants into their assessment reports as long as these were up to standard," the agency stated in a press release.
"For the overall assessment of the scientific work of the authorities, quantitative percentages of the share of the official work are not relevant," it added.
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.