Monsanto Responds to Glyphosate Cancer Allegations

March 28, 2017
The multinational crop protection corporation responds to organic consumer groups and farm workers who allege the company’s flagship Roundup herbicide causes cancer.

Recently-released internal emails sent between Monsanto employees were “taken out of context,” according to a response from the company’s corporate engagement representative.

Communications between Monsanto employees were released as evidence in a lawsuit filed by California farm workers who allege that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, causes health problems including cancer.

Some emails alluded to a relationship between Jess Rowland, a now-retired Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official, and Monsanto regulatory experts. A September 2015 message, quoted in an NPR article, said, “Jess will be retiring from EPA in ~5—6 months and could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense."

The Organic Consumers Association called on members of Congress to conduct a full investigation into whether or not EPA officials colluded with Monsanto to withhold scientific evidence stating the company’s flagship product potentially could cause cancer.

 “Consumers are told to rely on the EPA to determine the safety of chemicals like glyphosate, and products like Roundup,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association in a statement. “When credible sources indicate that EPA officials have deliberately compromised the safety of the public, consumers have a right to know. Monsanto should not be allowed to continue to profit from sales of a product that some EPA scientists, and scientists at World Health Organization, have determined is likely to cause cancer.”

A March 2015 review of approximately 1,000 published studies issued by the International Agency for Research on Cancer caused that organization to summerize that glyphosate is a “probable” human carcinogen.

Monsanto’s glyphosate sales averaged about $7.8 billion in 2014, the most recent numbers available.

Charla Lord, Monsanto corporate engagement representative, responded to EHS Today with the following statement:

We empathize with anyone facing cancer.  We can also confidently say that glyphosate is not the cause. No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate a carcinogen.

Still, plaintiffs’ attorneys in the United States have been soliciting plaintiffs for potential lawsuits since an ad hoc working group called IARC incorrectly classified glyphosate. These attorneys are attempting to tie the IARC classification to individual cases of cancer, and they have been running advertisements to recruit plaintiffs. These lawsuits have no merit.

IARC’s classification is inconsistent with the overwhelming consensus of regulatory authorities and other experts around the world, who have assessed all the studies examined by IARC – and many more. While IARC’s erroneous classification has attracted media attention and been used repeatedly by certain anti-agriculture organizations to generate unwarranted fear and confusion, regulators around the world continue to support the safe use of glyphosate.

In fact, since IARC classified glyphosate, regulatory authorities in the United States, Europe, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Australia have publicly reaffirmed that glyphosate does not cause cancer. Additionally, in May 2016, the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) concluded that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.” On March 15, the European Chemicals Agency concluded another extensive classification review of glyphosate and affirmed that it is not carcinogenic.

Glyphosate is not a carcinogen. The allegation that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans is inconsistent with decades of comprehensive safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world. 

The plaintiffs have submitted isolated documents that are taken out of context.  Plucking a single email out of context doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. EPA and regulators around the world, as well as a branch of the World Health Organization that analyzed pesticide residues, have concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.

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