Serving Justice

Monsanto Influences Review of Roundup’s Health Effects

October 23, 2019Products Liability

Monsanto Co., creators of the genetically-modified “Roundup Ready” seeds, found a solution for crops to withstand the adverse effects of Roundup. Consumers supposedly now have the capability to kill weeds without harming essential crops due to Roundup’s active ingredient chemical glyphosate, one of the world’s most widely-used crop chemicals. However, consistent use of the chemical has raised health concerns amongst its users. According to Monsanto, research from outside sources assures the safety of this herbicide, new evidence however suggests that Monsanto played a significant role in their own scientific reviews.

Earlier this month, lawyers who are suing Monsanto released dozens of internal company emails that expose how Monsanto allegedly collaborated with an outside consulting firm to influence the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology. The journal published a self-proclaimed “independent” review of Roundup’s health effects. The 2016 review was a rebuttal to the 2015 assessment from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stating that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. This research caused California to list glyphosate as a known human carcinogen and resulted in more than 1,000 lawsuits in state and federal courts by plaintiffs who allegedly contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma from Roundup exposure.

According to Monsanto, the company’s involvement was limited to paying Intertek Group’s consulting unit to develop a review titled, “An Independent Review of Carcinogenic Potential of Glyphosate.” The Declaration of Interest statement revealed that the Expert Panelists may have served as consultants to Intertek and were not directly contacted by the Monsanto Company. The Declaration of Interest statement further states that Monsanto employees did not review the Expert Panel’s manuscripts prior to submission.

However, recent reports allege that this information may contradict Monsanto’s own internal emails, which reveal that William Heydens, the company’s Regulatory Chief and other Monsanto scientists may have been involved in the reviewing and editing process of drafts submitted by outside experts.

In a February 2016 email, John Acquavella, an epidemiologist at Aarhus University in Denmark, suggested that “An extensive revision of the summary article is necessary.” This suspicious statement raised concerns for the coordinator of the Glyphosate study for Intertek, Ashley Roberts, who then forwarded the note to Heydens at Monsanto stating, “Please take a look at the latest from epidemiology group!!!!” Monsanto was then billed $20,700 for work performed on the review, according to an invoice.

Other emails reveal that Dona Farmer, Monsanto’s Lead Toxicologist, was not listed as a co-author of a 2011 research paper on glyphosate’s reproductive effects, despite allegations that she made substantial revisions to the paper. Monsanto claims that Farmer’s edits were insignificant, despite the fact that nearly all of her revisions appeared in the final, published version of the paper. Her name and affiliation with Monsanto does not appear in the publication’s acknowledgments.

Nevertheless, Monsanto stands by its claim that this process was “independent.” To that effect, Monsanto’s Vice President for Global Strategy, Scott Partridge, states that Monsanto performed only “cosmetic editing” of the Intertek papers and had no significant influence on altering the panelists’ conclusions.

In subsequent litigation, lawyers pursuing claims against Monsanto obtained more than seventy (70) internal Monsanto documents and posted the documents online. As a result of the disclosure, Monsanto requested that San Francisco’s U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabrai order the removal of the documents from the website and sanction the lawyers.

For years, many have questioned the health effects of the widespread use of Roundup on crops. Hopefully, this litigation will reveal the truth and if information has been kept from the public eye that supports the causal link between Roundup and non-Hodgkin Lymphoma or proves Monsanto was involved in the peer review process for scientific publications related to Roundup. If so, Monsanto will have a lot of questions to answer.

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