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Unsealed Documents Revisit Roundup's Link to Certain Cancers

Mar 16, 2017

A federal court recently unsealed documents once again raising questions about the safety of the world's most widely used weed killer, Roundup. Roundup, which is chemical giant, Monsanto's leading product, is used worldwide on everything ranging from farm crops to home gardens.

Safety Questions Raised

Unsealed Documents Revisit Roundup's Link to Certain Cancers

An international panel has found that glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, may cause cancer. The newly unsealed court documents included Monsanto's internal emails and email traffic between federal regulators and the company, according to CNBC.

The records implied that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics and indicated that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had worked to negate a review of Roundup's chief ingredient, glyphosate. The review was to have been conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the documents, there was some dissention within the EPA over its own safety evaluation.

Judge Vince Chhabria unsealed the files and is presiding over litigation brought by people who maintain they have developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as a result of exposure to glyphosate. The litigation was triggered by a determination made almost two years ago, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, citing research connecting it to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, CNBC reports.

Personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have extensive experience representing clients in product liability cases, including Monsanto's Roundup. The firm actively monitors litigation on behalf of individuals who are seeking legal information about filing a lawsuit.

Monsanto's Response

Monsanto's Response

Monsanto was tipped off to the determination by an EPA deputy division director Jess Rowland, months beforehand, according to court records. That led Monsanto to prepare a public relations campaign on the finding well ahead of its publication. Monsanto executives, in their internal email correspondence, said Mr. Rowland had promised to stave off an effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct its own review.

A Monsanto executive, Dan Jenkins, said in a 2015 email that Mr. Rowland, in reference to the other agency's potential review, had said to him, "If I can kill this, I should get a medal." The review never happened. In another email, Mr. Jenkins allegedly noted to a colleague that Mr. Rowland was planning to retire and said he "could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense."

The safety of glyphosate remains controversial. Numerous agencies, including the European Food Safety agency and the EPA, have disagreed with the international cancer agency, minimizing concerns of a cancer risk, with Monsanto vigorously defending glyphosate.

The court records reveal a level of disagreement within the EPA. The agency's Office of Research and Development raised some concern about the strength of an assessment carried out by the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, where Mr. Rowland was a senior official at the time, and recommended in December 2015 that it takes steps to "strengthen" its "human health assessment," CNBC reports.

Monsanto said in a statement, "Glyphosate is not a carcinogen." It added "The allegation that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans is inconsistent with decades of comprehensive safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world. The plaintiffs have submitted isolated documents that are taken out of context."

Monsanto also denied suggestions that the disclosures shed light on concerns that the academic research it underwrites is compromised. Monsanto often cites such research to support its safety claims on Roundup and pesticides.

In one unsealed email, William F. Heydens, a Monsanto executive, told other company officials that they could ghostwrite on glyphosate research by hiring academics to put their names on papers that were in reality written by Monsanto. "We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak," Mr. Heydens wrote, citing a previous time in which he said the company had done this.

When asked about the exchange, Monsanto replied that its "scientists did not ghostwrite the paper" that was referred to or previous work, adding that a paper that eventually appeared "underwent the journal's rigorous peer review process before it was published."

One of the scientists mentioned in the email, David Kirkland, said in an interview, "I would not publish a document that had been written by someone else." He added that he had no interaction at all with Monsanto during the process of reviewing the data and writing the papers.

The discussion of glyphosate's safety is not a trivial one for Americans. Over the last twenty years, Monsanto has genetically re-engineered corn, soybeans, and cotton so it is much easier to spray them with their weed killer. Some 220 million pounds of glyphosate were used in 2015 in the United States.

Legal Help for Glyphosate Issues

If you or someone you know were injured by Roundup or any chemical product, you may have valuable legal rights. Parker Waichman LLP offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. We urge you to contact our personal injury lawyers at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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