Today is the two-year anniversary of Monsanto’s weed-killer Roundup being declared a “probable human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which set off lawsuits from people with lymphoma. Monsanto denies any risk.
Monsanto is not the only one defending Roundup. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also says Roundup is not carcinogenic to humans, and has stuck to that position since 1991.
Six weeks after the IARC report was published in March 2015, EPA “leaked” its own report concluding that Roundup was not likely to cause cancer. The mysterious timing of an industry-friendly leak from the EPA was highly suspicious. Almost two years later, we now have an explanation.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria unsealed documents as part of lawsuits in California from people with cancer. The documents include evidence of a Monsanto-EPA conspiracy to downplay the risk of cancer.
Lawyers say the EPA relied on two studies in 2000 and 2013 that were secretly ghost-written by Monsanto and published under the names of academic scientists. An executive at Monsanto explained:
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 seek testimony from Jess Rowland, Monsanto’s insider at the EPA.
It all started with a letter from an EPA toxicologist who was dying of cancer. She accused Mr. Rowland, the EPA official in charge of reviewing Roundup, of playing “political conniving games with the science” and intimidating staff to change reports to favor pesticide-makers like Monsanto.
Court records show that Mr. Rowland tipped off Monsanto months before the IARC report was published, giving Monsanto time to prepare a public relations assault on its conclusions.
After the IARC report was published, other government agencies grew concerned and tried to investigate Roundup. Monsanto enlisted Mr. Rowland’s help.
“If I can kill this I should get a medal,” Mr. Rowland told Monsanto executive Dan Jenkins in April 2015. The investigation never happened.
Soon afterward, Mr. Jenkins wrote to a colleague that Mr. Rowland was planning to retire and he “could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense.”
Mr. Rowland quit his job at the EPA a few days after his committee’s report on Roundup was leaked to the EPA’s website. The report concluded that Roundup was not a carcinogen. Oddly, the leaked report was marked ‘FINAL’ and dated October 1, 2015.
The timing was suspicious for other reasons. Monsanto was suing California for trying to require cancer warning labels on Roundup. Several countries in Europe were refusing to extend Roundup’s 15-year approval.
The EPA pulled the report within days, but Monsanto still used it to defend Roundup on its website and in May 2015, at a court hearing trying slow down lawsuits over lymphoma.
The number of lawsuits continues to grow. Around 55 Roundup lawsuits involving non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are currently 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.