On 4 October, two of the plaintiffs in the Monsanto case in progress overseas and their lawyers went to Brussels to encourage the non-renewal of the marketing authorisation of glyphosate in Europe.
The herbicide is considered as “probably carcinogenic” by the IARC, the center of the un for research on cancer, has been evaluated and deemed safe by the european food safety Authority (EFSA) and the european chemicals Agency (ECHA).
| Read : the Impacts of glyphosate on health and the environment, as stated in the science
“I am here today to encourage the european Commission and you, the citizens of Europe, to examine new studies published, in addition to that of the IARC, and documents that have been declassified and indicate that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic,” said John Barton, who suffers from non-hodgkin lymphoma stage 3, which he believes is caused by his use of the RoundUp, a herbicide glyphosate for more than 30 years.
Science under the influence, and “ghost-writing”
The fact that this farmer has decided to sue Monsanto, which produces and sells the RoundUp, in justice, allowed the declassification and release of hundreds of internal documents of the company, known under the name ” Monsanto papers “.
These documents show that Monsanto would have appealed to the “authors’ ghosts “, of the scientists who have lent their name to the publication of articles actually written by members of the company. It would have also pushed for scientific journals withdraw items really independent and contrary to its interests.
The three surveys which have been subject to this practice of “ghost-writing” have been used in the assessment of glyphosate by the european agencies. The american lawyers therefore consider that the scientific validity of the assessments could be compromised.
EFSA and ECHA, however, have minimized the impact of these revelations, ensuring that the documents in question have had little influence on the outcome and that they were to ” come to their independent conclusion on the basis of the original data, and not the interpretation of someone else “.
In June, the agencies have therefore indicated that ” even if the allegations of ‘ghost-writing’ was proved, this would not impact on the overall assessment of the EU and its conclusions on glyphosate “.
Concealment of evidence
The declassified documents suggest that Monsanto is aware for decades of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate and its commercial formula, the RoundUp, and stifled the evidence.
Thus, in a study commissioned in 1999 by the company, Dr James Parry informed Monsanto of the character genotoxicity of glyphosate and recommended more research into the effects of the “formulas” of glyphosate, that is to say, the RoundUp. A substance is said to be genotoxic when she is able to disrupt the DNA of cells and cause mutations, which are notably at the origin of cancers.
The study of James Parry has never been made public and its recommendations have been ignored : “We will simply not have the studies proposed by Parry” wrote William Heydens, toxicologist at Monsanto, after receipt of the study.
In the RoundUp, the chemical substances (surfactants) are added to increase the capacity of penetration in the plant, glyphosate. These products have a profile to be genotoxic even higher.
Monsanto ‘ can not say that the RoundUp does not cause cancer. We have made no studies of carcinogenicity on the RoundUp “, is offloaded Donna Farmer, also a toxicologist for the u.s. firm, in 2002.
The european regulation on pesticides provides that the EFSA and ECHA did not analyse the active substance in the pesticide, not the complete formula, whose evaluation is left to the Member states. France and the netherlands have banned partially the RoundUp in 2015, but the glyphosate is present in many other products still on the market.
This division of labour partially explains the difference between the conclusions of the IARC and EFSA, according to the european agency. “There are good scientific reasons to assess a chemical substance separately from the other products present in a formula pesticide,” says a spokesperson for EFSA told Euractiv. “For example, if we consider all the ingredients together, it is very difficult to determine what substances are causing what effect. Some formulations of pesticides contain dozens of different substances. “
“This distinction between the active substance and formulations pesticides also explains the differences in ‘weight’ as EFSA and IARC attach to certain studies. For the european evaluation studies carried out on glyphosate are obviously more relevant than those conducted on formulas that contain other chemicals, especially when the other substances are not able to be identified “, continues the spokesperson.
In 2015, the Commission has asked EFSA to conduct an assessment of the surfactant POE-tallowamine, the european agency has concluded that the surfactant was more toxic than glyphosate and has recommended that the toxicity of these formulas and their genotoxic potential are further taken into account.
On the basis of this recommendation, the EU prohibited the use of both substances.
Selection of evidence
Michael Baum, the lawyer for John Barton, believes, however, that some relevant studies have been dismissed by EFSA and ECHA. “It’s like having a swiss-watch precision, all the features work perfectly and give you the time of day, but, they have knowingly broken some of the branches of the mechanism “, compare-t-il.
“EFSA and ECHA have deliberately rejected some of the studies. Eliminating some of the studies and levels of exposure, they arrived at the desired result, namely that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, ” he continued. So that ” if one analyzes the data correctly, there is an increased risk. This is why it is necessary to launch a new investigation. “
“The revision of our work is always possible, following new scientific evidence or information related to the evaluation process,” said a spokesman for the EFSA. However, the two agencies have confirmed will not consider re-evaluation at this stage.
Complicity, lies, conflict of interest…
The “Monsanto papers”, which include texts illustrating the close ties between the firm and the Agency u.s. environmental protection agency (EPA). Employees of the EPA are saying they should “get a medal” if they manage to “bury” an evaluation incriminating of glyphosate.
“It is deeply disturbing to the United States, because these people are the ones who are supposed to protect us. In Europe, this should shock too, because we do not know the relationship between Monsanto and the legislators, ” said Brent Wisner, also a lawyer in the Monsanto case in the United States.
The law firm for which he works has made certain documents public, and tries to publish more. “This is the visible part of a very large iceberg,” says Brent Wisner.
The media survey, now on the links between the regulatory authorities in the european union and the firm. An article in the Guardian shows that the AUTHORITY’s assessment and dating of 2015 is in large part copied-pasted a study from Monsanto.
Lately, The World has discovered that a scientist of Monsanto having buried a study that would not have been in compliance with the toxicity tests of europeans are now working for the ECHA.
The agency believes that these facts date back to over 15 years, and that the scientist in question has not, to his knowledge, participated in the analysis of risks of glyphosate.
Vote to come
The license of glyphosate expires this year, and the member States of the EU will vote probably at a meeting in November following the debate on 5 and 6 October, which has led to no conclusion.
The commissioner of the food security and health, Vytenis Andriukaitis announced that there would be no reauthorization without a qualified majority of member States.
Paris has already said that it would vote against the renewal of the licence, and on October 3, the Italian minister of Agriculture Maurizio Martina, has announced in a tweet that Italy would object to it also.
By Sarantis Michalopoulos, Euractiv.com (translated by Manon Flausch)
(Article published on 6.10.2017, updated 9.10.2017)
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