The European Union’s conclusion that a potentially dangerous weed-killer was in fact safe to sell was based on scientific evidence written by manufacturer Monsanto, an investigation has revealed – just the latest example of the chemical giant insidiously influencing Western policy for its own ends.
The revelation emanates from the release of hundreds of internal Monsanto emails by a US court. The correspondence shows the firm was involved in the writing of at least two ostensibly academic reports on glyphosate, which Monstanto sells under the trade name Roundup, with one employee admitting in an email the company wrote a study on the herbicide and later attributed the work to academics.
In a February 2015 email, the firm’s Head of Product Safety William Heydens proposes in-house scientists write a study, and independent academics “just edit and sign their names” to the document without disclosing Monsanto’s involvement, an approach he dubs “ghostwriting.” Subsequent emails suggest the firm had previously employed the tactic, saying it was “how we handled Williams Kroes & Munro.”
In another email, Monsanto toxicologist Donna Farmer says “you cannot say Roundup does not cause cancer.” A separate glyphosate study was also “redesigned” with the help of company scientists, in order to create a more favorable outcome.
Both studies were used in 2015 by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) when it evaluated the safety of glyphosate in as part of the chemical’s licence renewal process. EFSA’s assessment was based on a report written by the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment (BfR), which evaluated all available scientific literature on the herbicide.
In one chapter of the BfR’s report, the German agency uses the “ghostwritten” study to conclude the active ingredient glyphosate is “considered to be of low toxicological concern.”
EFSA concluded in November 2015, based on this evaluation, there was insufficient evidence glyphosate caused cancer in humans, and the chemical lacked the mechanism that would cause DNA damage in living cells and subsequent cancer in humans.
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