March 21, 2017 — Lawyers for dozens of people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma have evidence that Monsanto ghost-wrote studies on Roundup and the EPA helped kill investigations into cancer risks.
Yesterday marks 2 years since Roundup’s weed-killing chemical glyphosate was declared a “probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
The IARC finding was released on March 20, 2015. Just six weeks later, an EPA committee in charge of reviewing the safety of Roundup “leaked” a report (PDF) concluding that it was not likely to cause cancer in humans at real-world exposure levels.
The mysterious timing of an industry-friendly leak from the EPA prompted speculation that the author of the report — Mr. Jess Rowland — was working with Monsanto. We now have the evidence.
It started with a letter from an EPA toxicologist who said Mr. Rowland intimidated staff to change reports in favor of pesticide-makers like Monsanto. She also listed 14 ways Roundup could cause cancer.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in the Northern District of California unsealed thousands of pages of emails and documents as part of Roundup lawsuits involving people with lymphoma.
The documents include evidence that Monsanto secretly wrote two studies the EPA used to determine that Roundup does not cause cancer. Monsanto scientist Dr. William Heydens explained how they could ghost-write a report in 2013, as they did on another report from 2000:
“We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak.”
Judge Chhabria also gave lawyers permission to depose Mr. Jess Rowland, a senior EPA official who relied on those reports to conclude that glyphosate should not be classified as a carcinogen.
The documents show that Mr. Rowland tipped off Monsanto months before the IARC classified glyphosate as a carcinogen, which gave Monsanto time to prepare a defense. As soon as the IARC report (PDF) was published, a non-EPA government agency grew concerned and said they would investigate Roundup.
“If I can kill this I should get a medal,” Mr. Rowland boasted to his contact at Monsanto, Dan Jenkins, in a conversation in April 2015. The agency never opened an investigation. Mr. Jenkins wrote to a colleague that Mr. Rowland would retire soon and he “could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense.”
Mr. Rowland never retired. He quit a few days after his committee’s report on glyphosate was “leaked” to the EPA website. The report was odd for several reasons. It was marked ‘FINAL’ and dated October 1, 2015, which suggests the conclusions were made long before the committee was finished with the review process.
The report was posted on April 29, 2015 and pulled down 3 days later, but that was enough time for Monsanto to download it and use it in a public relations assault on the IARC findings. Monsanto also used the report at a court hearing in May 2015 trying to slow down lawsuits.
Lawsuits involving people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma continue to accumulate at a rapid pace. There are at least 56 lawsuits from people who accuse Monsanto of failing to warn about the risk of cancer. The lawsuits are centralized in Multi-District Litigation (MDL No. 2741) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California — In RE: Roundup Products Liability MDL.
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