EPA Using Industry-Funded Research to Determine if Glyphosate Causes Cancer
A since-deleted analysis posted the agency's website shows it is relying on unpublished reports from groups linked to biochem industry
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used industry-funded research to conclude that the herbicide chemical glyphosate is not likely to cause cancer in humans—contradicting findings by the World Health Organization (WHO)—according to an analysis the EPA posted to, then swiftly removed from, its website on Friday.
"EPA's determination that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic is disappointing, but not terribly surprising—industry has been manipulating this process for years," said Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). "The analysis done by the World Health Organization is more open and transparent and remains the gold standard."
The agency's since-deleted analysis (pdf), which includes an October 2015 memorandum from its Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC), states:
The epidemiological evidence at this time does not support a causal relationship between glyphosate exposure and solid tumors. There is also no evidence to support a causal relationship between glyphosate exposure and the following non-solid tumors: leukemia, multiple myeloma, or Hodgkin lymphoma.
Groups cited in the analysis include private biochemical firms like Inveresk Research International, Nufarm, and Arysta Life Sciences.
WHO reported the exact opposite in a groundbreaking March 2015 study, which prompted a wave of measures against the use of the chemical. California placed it on the state's public 'cancer list' in September, while workers around the country lined up to sue Monsanto for conducting what they called a "prolonged campaign of misinformation" to convince farmers, consumers, and the government that its Roundup line of products was safe to use.
As CBD points out, because the studies cited in the EPA's analysis are unpublished, they have not been subject to public scrutiny. In addition, they focus on testing glyphosate as a singular ingredient, rather than looking at the effects of herbicides available in stores.
"Most products containing glyphosate have other ingredients that can make the pesticide more dangerous," CBD said.
Nor is this the first time that the EPA has been caught using biased research to approve of dangerous chemicals. Last November, the Intercept's Sharon Lerner reported that the agency used Monsanto's own research to determine that there was "no convincing evidence" glyphosate was an endocrine disruptor.
An EPA spokesperson said Friday that the document was posted to the website prematurely and was removed "because our assessment is not final," and that the agency would release a completed, peer-reviewed analysis by the end of 2016.
Meanwhile, as the agency played damage control on Friday, a lawsuit was filed in San Francisco alleging that glyphosate residues in Quaker Oats discredits the food company's claims that its product is entirely natural.
"Glyphosate is a synthetic biocide and probable human carcinogen, with additional health dangers rapidly becoming known," the lawsuit states. "When a product purports to be '100% Natural,' consumers not only are willing to pay more for the product, they expect it to be pesticide-free."
The news comes just as advocacy groups including Friends of the Earth and Beyond Pesticides plan a rally outside the White House on Wednesday to deliver 400,000 petitions to the EPA calling for a ban on the chemical.
EPA is currently undertaking a "registration review" of glyphosate, a process which determines whether chemicals can be used safely for the next 15 years based on scientific evidence.
"We shouldn't gamble with the risk of cancer and must take appropriate precautions until we get a conclusive answer about the true dangers of glyphosate," Donley continued. "The indiscriminate drenching of farms, ball fields, and backyards with glyphosate needs to end."