Jun 15, 2017

The murky waters surrounding glyphosate - another view on Reuters 'Cancer agency left in the dark over glyphosate evidence'

The Reuters piece on glyphosate may shed light on one part of the current debate about glyphosate and the role of WHO's IARC. However, the lack of company transparency, problems with accessing raw data and the lobbying of industry groups to undermine independent agencies forms by far the biggest part of the problem facing public health researchers investigating pesticides and other chemicals. The chemical industry assault on IARCs wider monograph work has been well documented in the last couple of years and would appear to be pretty crude. This is very much 'Doubt is their Product' territory.
Below are 4 examples of how this may be happening and why researchers like Portier for example challenge the evidence base for glyphosate safety used by ECHA and EFSA. It is very much the other side of the 'transparency' coin.
(1)"EU declared Monsanto weedkiller safe after intervention from controversial US official. Exclusive: European Food Safety Authority dismissed a study linking glyphosate to cancer following counsel with an EPA official allegedly linked to the company and who figures in more than 20 lawsuits…"
(2)Inconvenient data buried as 'confidential business information.'
"The key ingredient in the most widely used herbicide in the world, Roundup, is stirring up controversy again.
A new analysis of previously confidential data has revealed serious errors in the supposedly scientific justification that glyphosate is safe.
The analysis comes from a real silverback in the environmental health field: Dr. Chris Portier, retired Director of the US National Center for Environmental Health and formerly the director of the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. He finds that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemical Agency (EChA) missed eight instances where statistically significant increases in tumors occurred in animals exposed to glyphosate.
Portier was only able to obtain access to these data, which had been submitted for review by Monsanto, because in 2016 members of the European Parliament requested that the data be made available for public scrutiny. This request—and the delayed release of the data in the first place—was necessary because the data had been considered confidential information by EFSA and EChA.

From Portier's letter:
In these additional analyses, I found eight significant increases in tumor incidence that do not appear in any of the publications or government evaluations presented by both EFSA and EChA.

He also observes:
Transparency is an important aspect of the scientific process and I applaud EFSA for allowing limited access to the raw data from the animal studies of glyphosate. However, scientific rigor is required and the tumors identified in Table 1 may be interpreted as a failure by the agencies involved in these assessments to carefully review and analyze all of the available data before rendering a decision that there is no evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans".
(3)WHO agency targeted by Monsanto lobby group over glyphosate cancer link.
(4)"The American Chemistry Council is a trade group representing a long list of corporations that produce and work with synthetic chemicals, from ExxonMobil to Eli Lilly to Monsanto. The trade group has a history of enthusiastically defending the safety of various chemicals and lobbying health agencies to do the same.
On Wednesday, the American Chemistry Council announced the launch of its new campaign, one that it claims will promote "Credibility in Public Health Research," or CAPHR for short. The target of the CAPHR campaign is the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, the same agency that had listed glyphosate as a carcinogen".

"In particular, CAPHR will seek reform of the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) Monographs Program, which evaluates the carcinogenic hazard of substances and behaviors," writes the American Chemistry Council in a press release. "IARC's Monographs Program suffers from persistent scientific and process deficiencies that result in public confusion and misinformed policy-making."