On August 2, 2017, documents released as part of a lawsuit against Monsanto raised more questions over whether or not the mammoth biotech company suppressed information about the potentially carcinogenic nature of its Roundup weedkiller and its primary ingredient, glyphosate. [1]

Glyphosate is one of the most widely-used weedkillers in the world and is available for both agricultural and home use.

It came to light in early 2017 that the same EPA official responsible for evaluating the cancer risk associated with glyphosate may have colluded with Monsanto to tilt research on glyphosate in favor of Monsanto’s claim that the chemical is not carcinogenic to humans.

The allegations led the EPA’s inspector general to launch a probe into the matter in May, 2017.

As of August 2, 2017, more than 75 documents containing over 700 pages, including text messages and discussions about payments to scientists, were posted for all the world to see by attorneys who are suing Monsanto on behalf of people who allege Roundup caused them or their loved ones to develop a type of blood cancer known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma. [2]

Read: Widow Sues Monsanto for Husband’s Wrongful Death

More than 100 of the lawsuits have been consolidated in multidistrict litigation in federal court in San Francisco. Similar lawsuits are pending in state courts, including Missouri, Delaware, and Arizona.

The lawyers claim they will send copies of the documents to European authorities, the EPA’s OIG, and to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA).

The OEHHA is being sued by Monsanto for officially listing glyphosate as a carcinogen under the state’s Proposition 65 law.

According to the newest document leak, Henry I. Miller, an academic and outspoken supporter of genetically modified (GM) crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that all but mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes’ website in 2015. [1]

Miller is a notorious American lobbyist who tried to discredit scientists who linked tobacco use with cancer and heart disease to protect the industry.

In the Forbes article, Miller attacked the findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), which labeled glyphosate a probable carcinogen in 2015. Several other regulatory bodies have challenged that finding, and Monsanto tried to get the IARC to retract the link to cancer.

The documents show that when Monsanto asked Miller if he would be interested in writing an article on the topic, he responded:

“I would be if I could start from a high-quality draft.”

The article was published under Miller’s name, with the assertion that “opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own,” and with no mention of Monsanto’s involvement in the writing of the piece.

Scott Partridge, vice president of global strategy for Monsanto, defended Miller’s Forbes article by calling it a “collaborative effort, a function of the outrage we were hearing from many people on the attacks on glyphosate.”

Partridge went on:

“This is not a scientific, peer-reviewed journal. It’s an op-ed we collaborated with him on.”

Forbes removed the article from its website on August 2, 2017, and said that it ended its relationship with Miller over the matter.

Mia Carbonell, a Forbes spokesperson, said:

“All contributors to Forbes.com sign a contract requiring them to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and only publish content that is their own original writing. When it came to our attention that Mr. Miller violated these terms, we removed his blog from Forbes.com and ended our relationship with him.”

Even former Monsanto employee John Aquavella appeared to view the “collaborative effort” as dishonest and unethical, writing in a 2015 e-mail to a company executive:

“I can’t be part of deceptive authorship on a presentation or publication.”

He added:

“We call that ghost writing and it is unethical.”

A Monsanto official said Aquavella’s remarks were based on a complete misunderstanding and that the situation had been “worked out.” Aquavella has changed his story, as well, saying in an e-mail to The New York Times that “there was no ghost writing” and that his remarks had actually been about an early draft and a question over authorship that has since been resolved.

The documents also suggest that Monsanto scientists weren’t wholly confident in the safety of glyphosate or the other ingredients in Roundup – at least not confident enough to guarantee Roundup does not cause cancer.

Read: Dangerous Surfactants in Glyphosate Herbicide Slip Passed EU Regulators

In an e-mail dating back to 2001, a company scientist wrote:

“If somebody came to me and said they wanted to test Roundup I know how I would react – with serious concern.”

In 2002, a Monsanto executive wrote in an e-mail:

“What I’ve been hearing from you is that if this continues to be the case with these studies – Glyphosate is OK but the formulated product (and thus the surfactant) does the damage.”

A different Monsanto executive said in a 2003 e-mail:

“You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … and we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.”

However, she added that “we can make that statement about glyphosate and can infer that there is no reason to believe that Roundup would cause cancer.”

handshake

Additionally, the documents show that A. Wallace Hayes, the former editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, has had a contractual relationship with Monsanto – something which Hayes vehemently denies.

In 2013, while Hayes was still editor, he retracted a crucial study which found that Roundup, and GM corn, could be carcinogenic to rats, causing premature death. Biotech trolls and shills point to this deceptive retraction as proof that any research indicating that glyphosate causes cancer is bunk.

In an interview, Hayes said that he was under no contractual obligation with Monsanto at the time of the study’s retraction, and was paid only after he left the journal.

He explained:

“Monsanto played no role whatsoever in the decision that was made to retract. It was based on input that I got from some very well-respected people, and also my own evaluation.”

Hayes was fired from the journal in 2015, after hundreds of scientists queried the publication to find out why the Roundup study had been retracted, and arguing that it was giving into pressure from the biotech industry.

Sources:

[1] The New York Times

[2] The Huffington Post


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About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.