Publisher: Roundup Studies Failed to Fully Disclose Monsanto's Role
A scientific journal issued a rare "Expression of Concern" and requested corrections from authors involved in a group of papers that determined Monsanto's controversial herbicide glyphosate is safe, Bloomberg reported.
The editor-in-chief and publisher of Critical Reviews in Toxicology said Wednesday that the five articles, which were published in the journal's 2016 supplemental issue, failed to adequately disclose ties to the agribusiness giant.
"We have requested corrigenda from the authors to provide additional disclosure as to contributions to the articles," they said. "To date, we have only received corrigenda for three of the five articles that have been agreed by all authors. We have not received an adequate explanation as to why the necessary level of transparency was not met on first submission."
Although the articles have been flagged, the scientific findings are unchanged and the title of the supplemental issue remains as, "An Independent Review of the Carcinogenic Potential of Glyphosate."
"When reading the articles, we recommend that readers take this context into account. We will continue to work to update these articles and ensure full disclosure of all contributions to them," the editor-in-chief and publisher said.
Their expression of concern has added fuel to claims that Monsanto employees "ghost-wrote" safety reviews of glyphosate and hired academics to put their names on the papers to cover up the cancer risk of its blockbuster product, Roundup.
Just Released Docs Show Monsanto 'Executives Colluding With Corrupted EPA Officials to Manipulate Scientific Data' https://t.co/aCYVEIWPSn— Mark Ruffalo (@Mark Ruffalo)1501631043.0
As noted by the Center for Biological Diversity in a press release, each of the articles were highly critical of the 2015 finding by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.
"It's deplorable that Monsanto was the puppet master behind the supposedly 'independent' reviews of glyphosate's safety," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the center, in the press release. "These papers were manufactured as a way to counteract the World Health Organization's findings on glyphosate's cancer risks. They could mislead the public in dangerous ways and should be completely retracted."
Monsanto's alleged role in the safety reviews of glyphosate was offered as evidence in a landmark trial that resulted in the company being ordered to pay $289 million to a California groundskeeper who said he developed cancer from exposure to Roundup.
Germany's Bayer, which acquired Monsanto for $63 billion, is appealing the verdict and is facing roughly 9,500 plaintiffs in the U.S. who say exposure to glyphosate causes cancer, Bloomberg reported.
In October 2017, the Center for Biological Diversity and three other national environmental health groups sent a letter to the publisher of Critical Reviews in Toxicology demanding a retraction of the articles at question.
It should not have taken a year and multiple protests and calls for honesty to get the editors at CRT to act - Here… https://t.co/ufmZ9G1syt— carey gillam (@carey gillam)1538063268.0
The journal requires disclosure of any potential author conflicts. But according to the Center for Biological Diversity's press release, the Declaration of Interest statement that was originally published with the papers:
- Failed to disclose that at least two panelists who authored the review worked as consultants for, and were directly paid by, Monsanto for their work on the paper.
- Failed to disclose that at least one Monsanto employee extensively edited the manuscript and was adamant about retaining inflammatory language critical of the IARC assessment—against some of the authors' wishes; the disclosure falsely stated that no Monsanto employee reviewed the manuscript.
Monsanto spokesman Sam Murphy told Bloomberg an email that the articles at issue are "a small part of an extensive body of research" showing the herbicide is safe.
Further, he said the company's influence on the papers was "non-substantive" such as providing formatting assistance and giving a history of regulatory overview, according to Bloomberg.
"The scientific conclusions are those of the authors and the authors alone," Murphy added.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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