Appeals Court Denies Monsanto's Request for Reconsideration Post Controversial Reuters Story
Monsanto, the maker of the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, filed a motion June 16 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California to reconsider the chemical's addition to California's Proposition 65 list of agents known to cause cancer.
The agrochemical giant made this move based on a June 14 Reuters investigation of Dr. Aaron Blair, a lead researcher on the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) committee, that classified glyphosate as a "2A probable human carcinogen" in March 2015.
On June 22, Monsanto's petition for review and application for stay were denied by the court.
Earlier this year, California became the first state to consider requiring Monsanto to label glyphosate as a chemical "known to the state to cause cancer" in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Prop 65. The designation was compelled by the IARC's glyphosate classification.
Glyphosate is at the center of hundreds of cancer lawsuits in which plaintiffs across the U.S. claim that they or their loved ones developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma due to exposure to Monsanto's Roundup, pointing in part to the IARC cancer classification.
But the St. Louis-based agrochemical maker has vehemently defended the safety of its star product and has previously attempted to block the herbicide from California's cancer list.
The Reuters piece accused Dr. Blair, a top epidemiologist from the U.S. National Cancer Institute, for failing to share "important" scientific data from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) he conducted with other scientists to assess the herbicide glyphosate for the IARC. IARC scientists, including Dr. Blair, reviewed a wide body of published, peer-reviewed scientific research on glyphosate and determined in March of 2015 that glyphosate should be classified as a probable human carcinogen. The Reuters' article assumed that IARC scientists were unaware of the additional AHS data and that if the IARC had known of this missing data, its conclusion could have been different. However, Dr. Blair, who worked on the AHS study and the IARC analysis testified [starting on page 70] that he supported IARC's carcinogenicity finding notwithstanding the AHS results, repeatedly asserting that the AHS study was unfinished and unpublished, and IARC required that findings only rely upon studies that were complete, therefore the incomplete AHS data could not have been relied upon by IARC scientists.
Monsanto and its industry allies accused Blair of deliberately concealing data. Blair called the accusations "absolutely incorrect." Reuters reported that IARC is "sticking with its findings." As stated above, the organization only considers published, peer-reviewed research.
Some scientists have since voiced concerns with the AHS cited in the story. Michael Hansen, senior scientist at Consumers Union, said the Reuters report "omits the fact that the data from the other epidemiology studies (all case control studies), and the meta-analyses, clearly show a statistically significant increase in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma with glyphosate exposure."
Other concerns of the study include the failure to use an appropriate latency period for cancers, the control group having an elevated risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and exposure misclassification.
Some consumer advocates have also suggested "flaws" within the Reuters story itself. Carey Gillam, a veteran journalist who spent 17 years at Reuters before joining the nonprofit consumer group U.S. Right to Know in 2016, claimed "Monsanto clearly planted that false and misleading story with Reuters and now is exploiting the carefully spun story to try to gain political advantage."
"A careful reading of the documents that the story is based on indicates that Reuters cherry-picked points that furthered Monsanto's agenda while ignoring points that ran counter to Monsanto's position," Gillam continued. "It certainly is also noteworthy that while Reuters described the documents as 'court documents,' implying their reporter got them through the court system rather than from Monsanto and friends, they were not in fact filed in court and so had to be hand-fed to Reuters. It's unfortunate that Reuters has allowed itself to be used to promote Monsanto's propaganda, but hopefully regulators can see through the ruse."
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. called Monsanto's motion "a classic smoke and mirrors flimflam." The environmental attorney is co-leading lawsuits on behalf of dozens of California residents and hundreds of people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma throughout the U.S. who allege Roundup causes cancer.
"Its basis is the company's deceptive spin on a study so badly flawed that it could not pass peer review and was never published," Kennedy added. "Like all of its other products and campaigns, Monsanto's motion is equal parts poison, deception and chutzpah."
By Jacob Wallace
This story is published as part of StudentNation's "Vision 2020: Election Stories From the Next Generation" reports from young journalists that center the concerns of diverse young voters. In this project, working with Dr. Sherri Williams, we recruited young journalists from different backgrounds to develop story ideas and reporting about their peers' concerns ahead of the most important election of our lives. We'll continue publishing two stories each week over the course of September.
In the speech she gave at the People's Climate March in Washington in 2017, Jansikwe Medina-Tayac, then 15, told a crowd of thousands, "This [climate change] is not just an environmental issue. This is a race issue, this is an immigration issue, this is a feminist issue."
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Four years ago, Jacob Abel cast his first presidential vote for Donald Trump. As a young conservative from Concord, North Carolina, the choice felt natural.
But this November, he plans to cast a "protest vote" for a write-in candidate or abstain from casting a ballot for president. A determining factor in his 180-degree turn? Climate change.
Fractures Among Young Climate Conservatives<p>While young conservatives have united around the urgency of climate change, they remain divided over how to bring their concerns to the ballot box. Some embrace right-wing <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-attacks-republican-convention/2020/08/24/434e5b46-e66d-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html" target="_blank">attacks</a> painting Biden as a "tool of the left" and find his climate agenda "radical." Others can't find a way to justify voting for Trump, even if it means breaking with their party.</p><p>Patrick Mann from Orange County, California, voted for Trump in 2016. But today, he's leading Aggies for Joe at Texas A&M University and is co-founder of Texas Students for Biden. </p><p>Mann grew up watching wildfires ravage his home state, nearly forcing his family to evacuate in 2017. The GOP is failing to "meet the moment" for climate action, Mann said. He's hoping Biden will deliver on a promise to "<a href="https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/columnists/caucus/2020/01/06/joe-biden-democrat-president-iowa-caucus-restore-soul-our-nation/2806422001/" target="_blank">restore the soul of our nation</a>." </p><p>Taylor Walker from Pensacola, Florida, is also determined to make her voice heard on climate, including by casting her first-ever vote for president—but not for Biden.</p>
A False Equivalency<p>Young climate conservatives may fear climate denial and delayed climate action, but more than that, they fear the growing political momentum around the Green New Deal, the massive spending it entails and <a href="https://joebiden.com/climate-plan/" target="_blank">Biden's citing of it</a> as a "crucial framing for meeting the climate challenges we face."</p><p>Many don't want to split with their party to support a Democrat whose <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/09/03/757220130/joe-biden-on-bipartisanship-gun-control-and-regrets-over-inaction-after-a-traged" target="_blank">allegedly bipartisan intentions</a> they doubt. If stymieing what they consider a radical green agenda means re-electing a climate change denying president, so be it. </p><p>"I'm scared of climate change, but I'm also scared of the Green New Deal and what it means for America," said Ben Mutolo, a republicEN spokesperson and junior at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. </p><p>Mutolo felt encouraged by former Ohio Governor John Kasich's <a href="https://www.rollcall.com/2020/08/17/kasich-speech-to-democratic-convention-follows-years-of-building-conservative-credentials/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appearance</a> at the Democratic National Convention, but he still struggles to see himself voting for Biden. Though the candidate paints himself as a <a href="https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2020-08-12/harris-biden-different-generation-similar-political-instinct" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">centrist,</a> Mutolo believes he's "cozying up to the ultra-progressive left." </p><p>Mutolo, who wants to see market-based climate solutions like a carbon tax, feels torn between a candidate whose climate plan relies on taking an "<a href="https://joebiden.com/environmental-justice-plan/#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">All-of-Government approach</a>," and one with no efforts to reign in global warming at all. <span></span></p><p>Leiserowitz said he appreciated how a conservative might feel Biden's climate plan "doesn't jive with their limited government, free-market approach."</p><p>But he sees a strong distinction between voting for a presidential candidate with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/us/politics/biden-climate-plan.html" target="_blank">$2 trillion climate plan</a> that includes large renewable energy investments, which have <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/publications/politics-global-warming-april-2020/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bipartisan support</a>, and a candidate trying "to take the country in the opposite direction, towards more fossil fuels."</p>
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