Monsanto has commissioned an industry consultancy firm to review the report of the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency IARC, which said glyphosate is a probable carcinogen.
The consultancy firm, Intertek, was formerly known as Cantox.
Intertek says on its website, “We protect our customers’ interests, helping them successfully meet regulatory obligations and bring products to market in a time-efficient and cost-effective manner.”
In 2000 Intertek/Cantox’s executive vice president Ian C. Munro co-authored a reassuring paper, in collaboration with Monsanto employees, that defended the safety of glyphosate herbicides (Williams, G. M., Kroes, R., Munro, I.C. 2000. Safety evaluation and risk assessment of the herbicide Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, for humans. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 31(2 Pt 1): 117-165.) The paper claims that “glyphosate is non-carcinogenic” and does not cause birth defects or other developmental toxicity. It concludes, unsurprisingly, that “under present and expected conditions of use, Roundup herbicide does not pose a health risk to humans”.
The paper was published in the controversial chemical industry-sponsored journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (RTP). RTP was one of several industry-linked organizations that were investigated by a US Congressional Committee in 2008 over their role in the FDA’s decision allowing the toxic chemical bisphenol A in infant formula and other foods.
All this would matter less if Munro and his co-authors had cited credible sources in their claims for glyphosate’s reproductive and developmental safety. But they cite unpublished studies from the industry dossier submitted for glyphosate’s approval. Strangely the authors fail to mention other studies from the same dossier which found that glyphosate caused malformations in lab animals.
Given all of this, some may suspect that Intertek/Cantox has been chosen because it’s perfectly placed to copy-and-paste a predetermined verdict of safety from its previous work with Monsanto.
Monsanto claims in the article below that the process and findings of the new review will be “independent” and “transparent”. But that seems unlikely, since Monsanto will be paying or at least commissioning the authors to carry out the review and they will be reviewing industry studies, which thus far have been kept hidden from the public.
Incidentally, in contrast with the Cantox authors’ reliance on secret industry studies, IARC has a strict rule that it reviews only published studies in forming its judgements on the carcinogenicity of a substance.
For more information on Cantox and its defence of glyphosate, see the Earth Open Source report “Roundup and birth defects”, p20-21.
Monsanto says panel to review WHO finding on cancer link to herbicide
By Carey Gillam
Reuters, 14 July 2015
Monsanto Co, whose Roundup product is one of the world’s most widely used herbicides, said on Tuesday it has arranged for an outside scientific review of a World Health Organization finding that the weed killer’s key ingredient probably causes cancer.
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said in March that it had concluded that the ingredient, called glyphosate, was probably carcinogenic after reviewing a range of scientific literature.
Monsanto reacted to the finding by demanding a retraction, labeling the findings by a team of international cancer scientists as “junk science.”
On Tuesday, Monsanto said it had hired Intertek Scientific & Regulatory Consultancy to convene a panel of internationally recognized scientific experts to review IARC’s work. The experts include medical doctors, cancer experts, and individuals with doctoral degrees who are specialists in public health, the Creve Coeur, Missouri-based company said.
Monsanto President Brett Begemann said his company is confident in the safety of its herbicide products, and the review is being done primarily to reassure consumers and others.
“It has created a lot of confusion,” Begemann said of the IARC cancer link finding. “This panel is going to review the data thoroughly, and they are going to make their findings available to everyone for review.”
Monsanto said the process and the findings will be independent and will be transparent. But the company said it would be involved in providing information and data for the review.
Farmers have been using glyphosate in increasing quantities since Monsanto in the mid-1990s introduced crops genetically engineered to withstand being sprayed with Roundup.
Genetically modified corn, soybeans and other crops branded as “Roundup Ready” are popular because of the ease with which farmers have been able to kill weeds. But weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, prompting farmers to use more herbicide.
Agricultural use of glyphosate in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, was more than 283 million pounds (128 million kg), up from 110 million pounds (50 million kg), in 2002, according to U.S. Geological Survey estimates.
The United States and other international regulatory bodies have said glyphosate is safe when used as directed. But the WHO cancer research unit’s report found that several studies have raised concerns about glyphosate and its health impacts.
(Reporting By Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)