The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announced last week its decision to reapprove glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup pesticides), giving its blessing for the continued use of the poison for another 15 years. Despite being an “interim” review decision, it technically functions as a final one, the last major hurdle EPA had to clear before moving forward with reregistration.
White House Quoted Saying Trump “Has Monsanto’s Back”
The decision comes as no surprise; in a July 2018 memo, Monsanto employees quote a White House official saying the Trump administration has “Monsanto’s back on pesticides….Monsanto need not fear any additional regulation from this administration.”
In fact—at risk of sounding like a broken record—the entire review process has been fraught with conflicts of interest and secrecy:
- EPA’s glyphosate Cancer Assessment overwhelmingly relied on industry studies, which are not publicly available or subject to peer review, and are up to 33 times less likely to find evidence of toxicity than those from the open literature. (In comparison, the World Health Organization’s 2015 review only used open literature studies and concluded that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans.)
- In 2016, EPA postponed a meeting of the Scientific Advisory Panel—a group of independent scientists tasked with reviewing the agency’s glyphosate cancer assessment—after a pesticide lobbying arm raised hell over the inclusion of a scientist who previously testified against Monsanto in pesticide exposure cases.
- Court documents revealed Monsanto’s strategy for manipulating the science incorporated into the glyphosate assessment, including ghostwriting academic papers and paying “independent” scientists to sign on as authors.
- Court documents also revealed that the former EPA official in charge of the glyphosate assessment was secretly colluding with Monsanto to ensure a finding favorable to the pesticide industry, and also fought to “kill” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services toxicity review of glyphosate.
A fight continues over glyphosate’s cancer rating
Despite criticisms over the agency’s handling of the glyphosate assessment from the divided Scientific Advisory Panel, EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and thousands of public comments, EPA’s interim decision maintains the lowest possible cancer rating for glyphosate: “Not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Roundup will continue to be sprayed on our food crops, public parks, and gardens, entering our food system and polluting our water.
But not all hope is lost. Another announcement came last week, this one from EPA’s internal watchdog, who will be auditing the agency’s pesticide assessment protocols to see if they adhere to federal regulations. And victims who claim they or their loved ones developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from Roundup exposure continue to fight Bayer (who now owns Monsanto) in court. So far, all three cases that have concluded ruled in favor of the victims. Bayer is now considering no longer offering the sale of Roundup for home use.
Our EPA should be working for the people, not the pesticide corporations
Ultimately, the question of whether glyphosate or other pesticides cause cancer should not be left to the courts or to individuals. We should be able to count on our protection agencies to protect us. EPA must ensure its pesticide approval process is transparent, relies on publicly available studies, and is impervious to industry interference.