Three key scientific studies that would reveal possible risks to human and environmental health from the use of the herbicide chemical glyphosate have been held back in the name of ‘trade secret protection.”
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been asked to reveal all the possible original elements of these studies that allowed the agency to call glyphosate an ‘unlikely’ human carcinogen. Members of the European Parliament are also being asked to reject the Trade Secrets Directive in the April 2016 plenary vote on the final text.
The data withheld in these scientific documents is what the European Commission used to grant market authorization for the sale of glyphosate. Greenpeace Netherlands, and Pesticide Action Network have been fighting for full disclosure since 2011 at the European Court of Justice.
The Court’s General Court at one time compelled the European Commission to disclose large sections of the documents, but the European Commission has lodged an appeal which is ongoing. From March 2015 onwards, the European Commission has received support from numerous industry groups in this appeal. Despite this, the biotech industry puppets, acting mainly through the European Crop Protection Association (‘ECPA’), argues that:
“an adequate protection of confidential business information (‘CBI’) is essential in order to preserve and stimulate innovation and thus competitiveness and growth in the EU crop protection sector.”
Notice that the ECPA is concerned only with market share and corporate-speak, not human health, adequate risk assessment or disclosing what most of the world has already figured out – that glyphosate is likely killing us all slowly by altering our endocrine systems, damaging our reproductive health, and forever altering our beneficial gut flora, thus hurting our immune systems. And of course – ‘probably’ causing cancers, such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, among other types.
Want to see for yourself? Check out over 130 abstracts on the health damage that glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, causes, here.
IARC and EFSA at Opposite Ends of Spectrum
In March 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research against Cancer (IARC) found that glyphosate, the world’s most commonly used herbicide, is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” But soon after that, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Germany’s Federal Risk Assessment Institute (BfR) came up with an exactly opposite finding – that glyphosate posed no risks that anyone should worry about.
Were these differing opinions adequate for allowing Roundup to be sold at market when key scientific documentation about its risks was hidden under lock and key?
Even more ludicrous is that EFSA’s director took to the press, calling anyone who disagreed with his agency “Facebook scientists.” He even included some of IARC’s scientists in that category.
A meeting between the agencies was cancelled after the EFSA refused a request to change some statements they had made about the IARC on the EFSA website.
Now the directors of the two organizations are trying to defend their stances by fighting it out in public with an exchange of letters, copied to all and sundry.
Both sides of the debate have been calling for ‘scientific evidence’ to prove that glyphosate (and indeed, GMOs) are either safe or harmful. But the EFSA has made an assessment based on three industry-sponsored carcinogenicity studies that are not ‘accessible’ to the IARC.
How can scientific consensus be reached without all the information? Why can’t the EFSA ‘share’ these studies with the IARC?
Corporate Europe Observatory and others have been asking the EFSA and the European Commission to act with more transparency and to make documents like the three in question available for scientific review.
The real question is whether corporations have a right to withhold ‘trade secrets’ when their products are likely harmful to the public.
The next market authorization of all glyphosate-containing products, including Monsanto’s Roundup, is due for the EU this coming March 7-8.
France’s food safety agency (ANSES) recently declared that glyphosate is a “suspected carcinogen.” This finding would not imply an EU ban, but it will make it harder for the EFSA to get away with making blanket statements that glyphosate is safe. ANSES has called for the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) in Helsinki to investigate glyphosate further.
The Three Withheld Studies
The main differences between the IARC’s and the EFSA and BfR’s conclusions concern five industry-sponsored studies. (That’s right — the same industries that make these chemicals are the ones supposedly regulating themselves.)
The three studies withheld from the IARC and causing the main controversy are:
- “Carcinogenicity Study with Glyphosate Technical in Swiss Albino Mice” (2001), following OECD Guideline 451 & GLP. This study is owned by the Israeli pesticides company ADAMA Agan Ltd and was never published.
- “Glyphosate technical: Dietary Carcinogenicity Study in the Mouse” (2009), following OECD Guideline 451 & GLP. This study is owned by the Australian pesticides company Nufarm and was also never published.
- “HR-001: 18-Month Oral Oncogenicity Study in Mice” (1997), following OECD Guideline 451 & GLP. This study is owned by the Japanese pesticides company Arysta LifeSciences Corporation and – you guessed it – was never published.
Names of the Authors Hidden by EFSA
The EFSA redacted the names of the authors of all five studies – the above three and two earlier ones (1983, 1993), which also were not published. This is not normal scientific practice.
But go figure – although the 1983 and 1993 studies weren’t published and had the authors’ names redacted, the IARC could still access them. The agency interpreted the 1983 study as showing:
“a significant increase in the incidence of rare tumors, with a dose-related trend, which could be attributed to glyphosate.”
What does Monsanto Europe say about hiding the names of the scientists working for them? They said this about the matter in a twitter message:
“Shouldn’t it be about content? If you get scientists’ names, what’s stopping people going after them/families?”
Monsanto later added:
“It’s a sad fact that some activists target Monsanto employees for harassment.”
It’s also a sad fact that Monsanto has sued states in the U.S. for wanting more transparency. It’s now suing California’s EPA for trying to label Roundup bottles as containing carcinogenic chemicals. Moreover, Monsanto is said to have an entire department set up to discredit scientists who disagree with its published research. Monsanto’s studies, of course, support its own herbicides and rampant seed patents.
Maybe that’s why people want to know who conducted these studies while Monsanto acts innocent.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.