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Monsanto-Funded Studies used by EPA to Decide Monsanto’s Weed Killer Is Safe

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency released the results of its assessment of 52 chemicals and the likelihood that any of them could be classified as endocrine disruptors—those substances known to interfere with the hormonal system and linked to such health ills as certain cancers, birth defects, and developmental disorders. On the list of chemicals the agency examined was glyphosate, which most Americans know better as Roundup, which is Monsanto’s trade name for what has become the most widely used herbicide in the world. In the United States, hundreds of millions of pounds are dumped on farmland annually. 

Glyphosate has had a tough year. In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization, stunned Big Agribusiness by declaring that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. So the agrichemical giants were no doubt thrilled when the EPA announced a few months later that it had found “no convincing evidence” that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor.

“As a longtime Monsanto scientist who has spent my career studying the health and safety of pesticides, including glyphosate, I was happy to see that the safety profile of one of our products was upheld by an independent regulatory agency,” Steve Levine, a senior science fellow at Monsanto, crowed on the company blog.

The italics are mine. But heck, I thought I might as well just give them to Levine, because it becomes almost embarrassingly obvious that’s what he wants. He practically goes overboard in trying to sell you on the EPA’s objectivity—not only emphasizing the agency’s “independence” but calling its review “comprehensive” (twice) as well as “rigorous” and “science-based.”

And yet…

It doesn’t take more than five minutes poking around on Google or WorldCat to begin turning up fairly recent studies in peer-reviewed scientific journals that include sentences like “a growing body of knowledge suggests the predominance of endocrine disrupting mechanisms caused by environmentally relevant levels of exposure” to glyphosate-based herbicides. So how can the EPA be so certain glyphosate isn’t an endocrine disruptor?

Because, it seems, Monsanto and other chemical companies said so.

As Sharon Lerner revealed over at The Intercept this week, of the 32 studies the EPA used to make its determination that there is “no convincing evidence” that glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor, 27 were either conducted or funded by the agrichemical industry. “Most of the studies were sponsored by Monsanto or an industry group called the Joint Glyphosate Task Force,” Lerner wrote. “One study was by Syngenta, which sells its own glyphosate-containing herbicide, Touchdown.”

More telling, when Lerner reviewed the paltry five independently funded studies the EPA relied on for its determination, three of them concluded glyphosate could very well pose a danger to the endocrine system.

“Yet, of the 27 industry studies, none concluded that glyphosate caused harm,” Lerner added, even though “many of the industry-funded studies contained data that suggested that exposure to glyphosate had serious effects.” No less worrisome is that a majority of the studies were more than two decades old—thereby predating the existence of the term “endocrine disruption.”

Just last week, a senior researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture filed allegations that he was harassed after publicly voicing concerns about another popular class of pesticides. You don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to wonder just how “independent” and “rigorous” our federal regulatory agencies are when it comes to evaluating the risks posed by all those agrichemicals out there coating all those amber waves of grain., 11/05/15

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