‘Mistaken’ Release of Glyphosate Report Raises Questions Over EPA's Ties to Monsanto
The House Science, Space and Technology Committee is questioning why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posted and then suddenly pulled its highly anticipated risk assessment of glyphosate, the main ingredient in weedkillers such as Monsanto’s flagship herbicide Roundup.
On April 29, the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee published a report online about glyphosate concluding that the chemical is not likely carcinogenic to humans. However, even though it was marked "Final" and was signed by 13 members of CARC, the report disappeared from the website three days later.
The EPA said that the report was "inadvertently" released. A spokeswoman said:
“Glyphosate documents were inadvertently posted to the Agency’s docket. These documents have now been taken down because our assessment is not final. EPA has not completed our cancer review. We will look at the work of other governments as well as work by HHS’s Agricultural Health Study as we move to make a decision on glyphosate. Our assessment will be peer reviewed and completed by end of 2016.”
Following the move, committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) sent a letter on March 4 to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy announcing that his committee is launching an investigation into the matter and is asking that the EPA provide all documents and communications related to the glyphosate study from Jan. 1, 2015 to present. He is giving the EPA until May 18 to provide this information.
Chairman @LamarSmithTX21 sent a letter to #EPA Administrator McCarthy on CARC report https://t.co/EpFsZrqMvP— Sci, Space, & Tech GOP (@Sci, Space, & Tech GOP)1462387351.0
“The EPA’s backtracking on the finality of its own science review committee’s report raises concerns about the agency’s willingness to provide a fair assessment on this matter," Smith said. "That the EPA would remove a report, which was marked as a ‘Final Report’ and signed by 13 scientists, appears to be yet another example of this agency’s attempt to allow politics rather than science drive its decision making. Sound, transparent science should always be the basis for EPA’s decisions.”
“Furthermore, EPA’s apparent mishandling of this report may shed light on larger systemic problems occurring at the agency,” Smith's letter states.
The EPA told DTN they were unsure why the report was posted, calling it a "mistake."
Glyphosate was infamously declared a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) last year. The classification has sparked a growing number of lawsuits over Monsanto's widely used product, including a wrongful death lawsuit filed in March by the widow of a Cambria, California farmer alleging that the St. Louis-based company had known for years that exposure to glyphosate could cause cancer and other serious illnesses or injuries.
The sudden yanking of the report has raised eyebrows over the EPA's relationship ties to the agricultural industry. Sources told Sustainable Pulse that the EPA allegedly attempted “to take the legal pressure off the pesticide industry and specifically large producers of glyphosate-based herbicides such as Monsanto,” by releasing the Cancer Assessment Review Committee draft report.
According to Sustainable Pulse Director Henry Rowlands, "The EPA’s ‘mistaken’ release of the main part of their report that is designed to protect the pesticide industry seems rather a strange coincidence."
"Glyphosate is now on the agenda for consumers and farmers across the World. The discovery of the herbicide in our bodies and our food at hormone hacking levels is very alarming," he added. "The EPA should be protecting us all by providing a fully independent scientific analysis of the chemical. However, this is not what is happening and the EPA is again working against public health protection."
The chemical has been detected in several products, from alcoholic beverages and even women’s hygiene products. Last month, the Alliance for Natural Health-USA released the results of food safety testing conducted on an assortment of popular breakfast foods, revealing that glyphosate was found in 10 of the 24 food samples tested, including oatmeal, bagels, eggs (including the organic variety), potatoes and even non-GMO soy coffee creamer.
The Center for Biological Diversity also issued a statement last week accusing the EPA of relying heavily on “industry-funded studies that have not undergone public scrutiny” for its draft analysis.
“EPA’s determination that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic is disappointing, but not terribly surprising—industry has been manipulating this process for years,” Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “The analysis done by the World Health Organization is more open and transparent and remains the gold standard.”
Monsanto has vehemently denied cancer claims of its blockbuster product and has demanded a retraction of the IARC report.
Unsurprisingly, the company was pleased with the release of the EPA's report, telling Reuters after the documents had been removed that they were “clearly labeled and signed as the final report of EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee.”
Monsanto’s chief technology officer Robb Fraley tweeted, “EPA declares (again) that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is not a carcinogen.”
He added, “This is the EPA’s highest ranking for product safety—they also do nice job of explaining all of IARC’s mistakes.”
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Fish exposed to endocrine-disrupting compounds pass on health problems to future generations, including deformities, reduced survival, and reproductive problems, according to a new study.
Low Levels Lead to Generational Impacts<p>Researchers exposed inland silverside fish to bifenthrin, levonorgestrel, ethinylestradiol, and trenbolone to levels currently found in waterways.</p><p>"Our concentrations were actually on the low end" of what is found in the wild, DeCourten said, adding that it was low amounts of chemicals in parts per trillion.</p><p>Bifenthrin is a pesticide; levonorgestrel and ethinylestradiol are synthetic hormones used in birth controls; and trenbolone is a synthetic steroid often given to cattle to bulk them up.</p><p>Such endocrine-disruptors have already been linked to a variety of health problems in directly exposed fish including altered growth, reduced survival, lowered egg production, skewed sex ratios, and negative impacts to immune systems. But what remains less clear is how the exposure may impact future generations.</p><p>For their study, DeCourten and colleagues started the exposure when the fish were embryos and continued it for 21 days.</p><p>They then tracked effects on the exposed fish, and the next two generations.</p>
Inherited Problems<p>DeCourten said the altered DNA methylation is one of the plausible ways that future generations would experience health impacts from previous generations' exposure. Hormone-disrupting compounds have been shown to impact DNA methylation, which is an important marker of how an organism will develop.</p><p>"Methyl groups are added to specific sites on the genome, [the exposure] is not changing the genome itself, but rather how the genome is expressed," she said. "And that can be inherited throughout generations."</p><p>In addition, Brander said there are essentially different "tags" that exist on DNA molecules, which tell genes how to turn on and off. She said the exposure to different compounds may be "influencing which methyl tags get taken on or off as you proceed through generations."</p><p>The researchers said the study should prompt future toxics testing to consider impacts on future generations.</p><p>"The results … throw a wrench in the current approach to regulating chemicals, where it's often short-term testing looking at simple things like growth, survival, and maybe gene expression," Brander said.</p><p>"These findings are telling us we really at least need to consider" the next two generations, she added.</p>
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By Laura Beil
Consumers have long turned to vitamins and herbs to try to protect themselves from disease. This pandemic is no different — especially with headlines that scream "This supplement could save you from coronavirus."
Vitamin D<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Called "the sunshine vitamin" because the body makes it naturally in the presence of ultraviolet light, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/vitamin-d-supplements-lose-luster" target="_blank">Vitamin D is one of the most heavily studied</a> supplements (<em>SN: 1/27/19</em>). <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank">Certain foods</a>, including fish and fortified milk products, are also high in the vitamin.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>Vitamin D is a hormone building block that helps strengthen the immune system.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections:</strong> In 2017, the <em>British Medical Journal</em> published a meta-analysis that suggested a daily vitamin D supplement <a href="https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583" target="_blank">might help prevent respiratory infections</a>, particularly in people who are deficient in the vitamin.</p><p>But one key word here is <em>deficient. </em>That risk is highest during dark winters at high latitudes and among people with more color in their skin (melanin, a pigment that's higher in darker skin, inhibits the production of vitamin D).</p><p>"If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference," says Susan Lanham-New, head of the Nutritional Sciences Department at the University of Surrey in England.</p><p>And taking too much can create new health problems, stressing certain internal organs and leading to a dangerously high calcium buildup in the blood. The recommended daily allowance for adults is 600 to 800 International Units per day, and the upper limit is considered to be 4,000 IUs per day.</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin D and COVID-19:</strong> Few studies have looked directly at whether vitamin D makes a difference in COVID.</p>
Zinc<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Zinc, a mineral found in cells all over the body, is found naturally in certain meats, beans and oysters.</p><p><strong>Why it might help: </strong>It plays several supportive roles in the immune system, which is why zinc lozenges are always hot sellers in cold and flu season. Zinc also helps with cell division and growth.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies of using zinc for colds</a> — which are frequently caused by coronaviruses — suggest that using a supplement right after symptoms start might make them go away quicker. That said, a clinical trial from researchers in Finland and the United Kingdom, published in January in <em>BMJ Open</em> <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">did not find any value for zinc lozenges</a> for the treatment of colds. Some researchers have theorized that inconsistencies in data for colds may be explained by varying amounts of zinc released in different lozenges.</p><p><strong>What we know about zinc and COVID-19:</strong> The mineral is promising enough that it was added to some early studies of hydroxychloroquine, a drug tested early in the pandemic. (Studies have since shown that <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">hydroxychloroquine can't prevent or treat COVID-19</a> (<em>SN: 8/2/20</em>).)</p>
Vitamin C<p><strong>What it is: </strong>Also called L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C has a long list of roles in the body. It's found naturally in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus, peppers and tomatoes.</p><p><strong>Why it might help:</strong> It's a potent antioxidant that's important for a healthy immune system and preventing inflammation.</p><p><strong>How it works for other infections: </strong>Thomas cautions that the data on vitamin C are often contradictory. One review from Chinese researchers, published in February in the <em>Journal of Medical Virolog</em>y, looked at <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/jmv.25707" target="_blank">what is already known about vitamin C</a> and other supplements that might have a role in COVID-19 treatment. Among other encouraging signs, human studies find a lower incidence of pneumonia among people taking vitamin C, "suggesting that vitamin C might prevent the susceptibility to lower respiratory tract infections under certain conditions."</p><p>But for preventing colds, a 2013 Cochrane review of 29 studies <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">didn't support the idea</a> that vitamin C supplements could help in the general population. However, the authors wrote, given that vitamin C is cheap and safe, "it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial."</p><p><strong>What we know about Vitamin C and COVID-19: </strong>About a dozen studies are under way or planned to examine whether vitamin C added to coronavirus treatment helps with symptoms or survival, including Thomas' study at the Cleveland Clinic.</p><p>In a review published online in July in <em>Nutrition</em>, researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium concluded that the <a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD000980.pub4/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">vitamin may help prevent infection</a> and tamp down the dangerous inflammatory reaction that can cause severe symptoms, based on what is known about how the nutrient works in the body.</p><p>Melissa Badowski, a pharmacist who specializes in viral infections at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy and colleague Sarah Michienzi published an extensive look at all supplements that might be useful in the coronavirus epidemic. There's <a href="https://www.drugsincontext.com/can-vitamins-and-or-supplements-provide-hope-against-coronavirus/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">still not enough evidence to know whether they are helpful</a>, the pair concluded in July in <em>Drugs in Context</em>. "It's not really clear if it's going to benefit patients," Badowski says.</p><p>And while supplements are generally safe, she adds that nothing is risk free. The best way to avoid infection, she says, is still to follow the advice of epidemiologists and public health experts: "Wash your hands, wear a mask, stay six feet apart."</p>
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