Friday, March 24, 2017

SEALED DOCS PROVE EPA COLLUSION WITH MONSANTO

Congress Must Investigate Collusion Between Monsanto and the EPA, Now

Two businessmen in black suits shaking hands



March 23, 2017 Organic Consumers Association by Katherine Paul

“I have cancer, and I don’t want these serious issues in HED [EPA’s Health Effects Division] to go unaddressed before I go to my grave. I have done my duty.”

It’s been four years since Marion Copley, a 30-year EPA toxicologist, wrote those words to her then-colleague, Jess Rowland, accusing him of conniving with Monsanto to bury the agency’s own hard scientific evidence that it is “essentially certain” that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller, causes cancer.

Copley has since died. But her letter suggesting that EPA officials colluded with Monsanto to hide the truth about Monsanto’s flagship weedkiller has been given new life.

Thanks to the persistence of hundreds of plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging that they (or their deceased family members) were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to Roundup, newly discovered internal emails and other documents are being made public. And they paint an increasingly troubling and sinister picture of corruption.

The Organic Consumers Association is calling on Congress to immediately and fully investigate these and any other revelations that may come to light.

A long history of deceit

For decades, Monsanto has enjoyed a revolving-door relationship with government agencies like the EPA and USDA, giving the chemical company unprecedented power to influence and manipulate the regulatory process.

Meanwhile, the biotech behemoth has attacked scientists’ claims that its flagship product, Roundup, causes harm to both humans and the environment, by discrediting scientists who raise concerns, coercing others into producing industry-friendly research, and manipulating corporate media into spinning a favorable narrative.

And while on the one hand clinging steadfastly to its claim that Roundup is “safe,” Monsanto strong-armed the junk food industry into joining forces against consumers who said fine, if your Roundup-sprayed GMO foods are safe, you should have no problem labeling them.

But just as the truth about DDT and Agent Orange came too late for many of its victims, so it appears to be the case for hundreds, or more likely tens of thousands of people—all over the world—who have been affected by Monsanto’s Roundup.

Here in the U.S., victims are fighting back through a wave of new lawsuits—more than 700, filed in St. Louis, Mo. (Monsanto headquarters) and Alameda, Calif.

As reported in EcoWatch, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., co-counsel in some of the lawsuits, told St. Louis Public Radio:

"We're bringing the lawsuit to address the injuries that have been caused by Roundup and glyphosate to mainly farmers and farm workers, but we think that consumers and home gardeners have also been affected."

Monsanto is sticking to its story, that “when used according to directions,” Roundup is safe. Farmers who spray it, consumers who use it in their yards needn’t worry, the Biotech Giant says. But as lawyers and reporters sift through and pore over thousands of pages of court documents, Monsanto’s claims of safety ring more and more hollow.

As reported in Alternet:

One of the documents unsealed by Judge Vince Chhabria was an email written by William F. Heydens, a Monsanto executive, giving his colleagues the green light to ghostwrite glyphosate research and then hire academics to put their names on the papers. He even cited an instance where the company had used this method in the past. "We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak," wrote Heydens.

On March 21, officials at the New York Medical College (NYMC) in Valhalla, N.Y., told the American Association for the Advancement of Science they will investigate one of their faculty members, who according to the court documents, put his name on a paper partially ghostwritten by Monsanto employees.

Good to know that at least one institution is willing to uphold the integrity of science.

Tip of the sinking iceberg?

In the coming weeks and months, reporters and lawyers will continue to sift through and analyze the mountain of new documents that include emails between Monsanto and EPA officials.

What we’ve seen so far may be just the tip of the iceberg. But after all the evidence has been analyzed and exposed, will it be enough to bring down Monsanto?

Probably not—unless the public pushes back as never before. And unless Congress does its job.

Meanwhile, people like Yolanda Mendoza, who trusted Monsanto’s word that Roundup is safe, deal with the consequences of that trust. Mendoza, diagnosed with Stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma, told a Houston, Texas-based TV station:

“I have nerve damage, I don't feel the tips of my fingers,” said Yolanda Mendoza. “My jaw, its still, I still can't feel it.”

In 2015, 17 scientists with the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research (IARC) on Cancer unanimously concluded in 2015 (and since reaffirmed) that Roundup is a "probable carcinogen" to humans—and that people exposed to Roundup are most likely to get non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other hematopoietic cancers.

Last month, A report by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council, stated unequivocally that the storyline perpetuated by companies like Monsanto—the one that says we need pesticides like Roundup to feed the world—is a myth. And a catastrophic one at that.

Since the EPA was established on December 2, 1970, to work for “a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people,” it has failed repeatedly to put public health above corporate profits, as documented in “Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA,” written by a 25-year veteran of the agency.

Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world. If anyone inside the EPA has colluded with Monsanto to bury evidence that this product—labeled “safe” and widely available today in stores like Home Depot, Walmart, TrueValue Hardware—causes cancer, Congress should investigate that collusion now.

Please ask your Congress members to investigate the truth about Monsanto and the EPA.

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

ON THE TAKE MEDIA, SCIENCE, ACADEMICS OUTED AS MONSANTO SHILLS

Monsanto undercover funding has led the attack on organic foods


Monsanto-fake-science(NaturalHealth365)
In April of 2014, Academics Review released its organic marketing report – and proceeded to blast the organic foods industry. The report, which received extensive coverage by the mainstream media, accused the industry of creating false and misleading perceptions and indulging in intentionally deceptive marketing. (Wait, until you see what Monsanto is doing – keep reading)
The report was billed as “the findings of independent researchers,” while the Academics Review itself is described as “an association of academic professors, researchers, teachers and credentialed authors from around the world who are committed to the unsurpassed value of the peer review in establishing sound science.”
It all sounds pretty lofty, right? Until you consider that one of the groups helping Academics Review to obtain corporate funding was none other than the most hated corporation in the world, the multinational biotech company – Monsanto. (Of course, they really don’t want you to know that)

Monsanto-related emails reveal a shocking truth about “independent research”

In emails obtained by US Right to Know, a non-profit organization working for transparency in the nation’s food system, it is abundantly clear that executives for Monsanto engaged in fundraising for Academics Review.
The emails, which were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal communications between Academics Review co-founder Bruce Chassy ,Ph.D. – a professor emeritus at University of Illinois – and assorted PR operatives, Monsanto employees, and bigwigs in the biotech industry.
As Carey Gillam, researcher director of US Right to Know, asserts: “Industry players cloaked pro-GMO messaging within a veil of independent expertise.”

Self-described “independent expert” blatantly looking for cash

A March 11, 2010 email exchange between Chassy and Jay Byrne, a former head of communications at Monsanto who now helms his own PR firm, puts fundraising front and center.
“Well, I suggest we work on the money (for all of us) first and quickly!” Byrne writes.
Eric Sachs, a senior public relations officer for Monsanto, was also in communication with Chassy, and even offered his help in getting trade groups on board.
“I can help motivate CLI (Crop Life International) /BIO (Biotechnology Innovation Organization) /Council for Biotechnology Information to support….”
Later in the email, Sachs brainstorms, “The problem is one of expert engagement, and that could be solved by paying experts to provide responses.” And – probably the most revealing sentence – “The key will be keeping Monsanto in the background so as not to harm the credibility of the information.”

Truth exposed: Professor Chassy is on the Monsanto payroll

According to an investigation by Chicago TV station WBEZ News, Professor Chassy was paid more than $57,000 over 23 months to “take his show on the road” – traveling, writing and speaking about GMOs.
In fact, Professor Chassy has collaborated on several projects with Monsanto to allay public concerns about GMOs – while masquerading as an independent academic. According to WEBZ News, Monsanto eventually funneled at least $5.1 million in undisclosed money through the University of Illinois Foundation to university employees and programs between 2005 and 2015. As per requests by Chassy and the university, Monsanto deposited the payments through the University of Illinois Foundation, which is protected from public scrutiny.
Although Chassy was given the opportunity to disclose his financial ties to Monsanto on state and university forms aimed at detecting potential conflicts of interest, he did not.
Incidentally, Professor Chassy is featured as an “independent expert” on the GMO Answers website. The website, funded by a half-dozen agrichemical companies, generally trumpets the merits of GMO foods. Academics Review co-founder David Tribe, Ph.D. – a lecturer at University of Melbourne – also appears on GMO Answers.

Report cited in articles demonizing the organic food industry

Articles in trade publications, including Food Navigator and Food Safety News and Hoard’s Dairyman, utilized splashy headlines to accuse the organic food industry of disinformation, deception, and scare tactics.
In a quasi-humorous article for the New York Post, Naomi Schaffer Riley decried the “tyranny of the organic mommy mafia,” and demeaned the parents who choose organic food for their children as snobbish, arrogant, overly controlling and engaging in “an outgrowth of helicopter parenting.”
Henry I. Miller, a Hoover Institute fellow and vocal supporter of corporate interests, used the AR report as source material to attack organic farming in such high-profile publications as Newsweek, the National Review and the Wall Street Journal.
As for Professor Chassy, he describes the publishing of his emails under the FOIA as an assault on his 40 years of science, research and teaching. He defends the financial support as “appropriate, commonplace and needed to further the public interest,” and insists that Academics Review “only accepts unrestricted donations from non-corporate sources, and does not solicit or accept funds from any source for specific research.”
Unfortunately, the emails tell a different story.
References:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacy-malkan/monsanto-fingerprints-fou_b_10757524.html
http://nypost.com/2014/04/19/the-tyranny-of-the-organic-mommy-mafia

Sunday, March 19, 2017

CONTAMINATION BY GMO PATENT PLANTS MAY BECOME ILLEGAL

Bill would authorize GMO trespass lawsuits against patent holders

A bill under consideration in Oregon would allow landowners to sue biotech patent holders over trespass by genetically engineered crops.
Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
Published on March 17, 2017 8:06AM
Last changed on March 17, 2017 10:24AM
Sean Ellis/Capital Press
Malheur County farmer Jerry Erstrom points out a genetically engineered creeping bentgrass plant June 14, 2016, on an irrigation ditch bank near Ontario, Ore. Erstrom testified March 16 in favor of proposed legislation in Oregon that would allow farmers whose crops are damaged by GMOs to sue patent holders for damages.
Sean Ellis/Capital Press Malheur County farmer Jerry Erstrom points out a genetically engineered creeping bentgrass plant June 14, 2016, on an irrigation ditch bank near Ontario, Ore. Erstrom testified March 16 in favor of proposed legislation in Oregon that would allow farmers whose crops are damaged by GMOs to sue patent holders for damages.
Buy this photo

SALEM — New lawsuits over trespass by genetically engineered crops would be authorized in Oregon under proposed legislation that would hold biotech patent holders liable for damages.
Supporters of House Bill 2739 say it’s a common sense strategy to remedy problems caused by genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, similar to consumer lawsuits over defective products.
“This is not a wild legal grab. We will not be compensated for our angst. We will only be compensated for provable legal damages,” said Sandra Bishop of the Our Family Farms Coalition, which supports HB 2739.
Jerry Erstrom, a Malheur County farmer, said he supports the bill even though he’s planted genetically engineered corn on his property.
“If you do something that messes up my livelihood, you should be held accountable for it,” Erstrom said at a March 16 hearing of the House Judiciary Committee.
Creeping bentgrass that’s genetically engineered to tolerate glyphosate herbicides escaped control in Eastern Oregon, and the crop’s patent holder should be responsible for control costs as it spreads, he said.
“It’s coming to the Willamette Valley. Say what you want, it’s going to be here,” Erstrom said.
Proponents of HB 2739 say there’s nothing new about holding companies liable for their products hurting people or property, but organic and conventional farmers must currently bear the financial burden from GMO crop contamination alone.
“We’re not coming to you from a level playing field. Harm is only coming one way,” said Amy van Saun, legal fellow with the Center for Food Safety, which supports the bill.
Supporters say the legal mechanism of HB 2739 is simple and fair because the liability rests with companies that profit from GMO patents.
Complicated searches for a culprit won’t be necessary, since biotech traits can be determined with genetic tests, said Elise Higley, director of the Our Family Farms Coalition.
“It’s super easy to track it back to who is responsible,” Higley said.
Opponents of the bill argue that pollination among related crops isn’t limited to GMOs, but neighboring farmers have long found practical ways to avoid unwanted crosses.
“It’s one of the greatest risks I face, but it’s a manageable risk,” said Kevin Richards, who grows seeds and other crops near Madras, Ore.
Under a provision in HB 2739, plaintiffs are entitled to triple the amount of economic damages caused by the unwanted presence of GMOs, which is clearly meant to be punitive, according to the bill’s detractors.
“It would single out and stigmatize biotech patents,” said Barry Bushue, president of the Oregon Farm Bureau.
Critics also questioned the logic of making patent holders liable for unauthorized GMOs, since the problem may be caused by irresponsible practices of neighboring landowners or factors beyond human control, like birds.
“They sell the seed but they have no control once that happens,” said Roger Beyer, a lobbyist for the Oregon Seed Council and other crop groups.
Apart from the immediate impacts of the bill, imposing new liability on patent holders may discourage seed companies from offering innovative products in Oregon, said Scott Dahlman, policy director of the Oregonians for Food and Shelter agribusiness group.
If companies face the threat of additional lawsuits, “they will reconsider whether they sell things here,” Dahlman said.
Pete Postlewait, a farmer near Canby, Ore., said he’s disturbed by the precedent of punishing patent holders for the actions of end users, since that logic could be extended to non-GMO cross-pollination.
“By weakening plant patent laws in this way, it will surely stifle innovation in plant breeding,” he said.
The bill’s language also encompasses new methods, such as gene editing, that are used by university breeders who often hold their own patents, said Steve Strauss, a professor who studies biotechnology at Oregon State University.
“Wheat breeders and others would love to use this gene editing technology,” he said.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

20 YEARS OF LYING ABOUT POISONING THE PLANET - EPA COLLUDED WITH MONSANTO

Monsanto Finally Admits What We All Suspected About Roundup & Cancer

Monsanto Finally Admits What We All Suspected About Roundup & Cancer
Image source: Pixabay.com
An EPA official bragged about helping Monsanto cover up cancer risks associated with Roundup, a new lawsuit is alleging.
Roundup is one of the best-selling herbicides in the world.
“If I can kill this I should get a medal,” former EPA official Jess Rowland allegedly said in a phone call, discussing a federal investigation into glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.
At the time, Rowland was a deputy division director in the Environmental Protection Agency’s pesticide division.
The phone call was entered as evidence in a federal lawsuit alleging that glyphosate-based herbicides like Roundup cause Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer, Bloomberg reported.
Just as significant, Monsanto’s Donna Farmer wrote in a now-public email that “you cannot say that Roundup does not cause cancer … we have not done carcinogenicity studies with Roundup.” The email is now part of the lawsuit.
Monsanto Finally Admits What We All Suspected About Roundup & CancerThe plaintiffs’ attorneys are alleging that Monsanto knew Roundup caused cancer but sold the herbicide anyway.
Rowland’s relationship with Monsanto was suspicious, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said at a hearing in San Francisco. Plaintiffs’ attorneys want Rowland to testify and explain his actions.
The attorneys are charging that Rowland leaked a report to the media that claimed there was insufficient evidence to say glyphosate caused cancer. It was written by a committee he chaired. Rowland quit his job at the EPA days after the study was leaked.
“My reaction is when you consider the relevance of the EPA’s reports, and you consider their relevance to this litigation, it seems appropriate to take Jess Rowland’s deposition,” U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria said, according to Reuters.
Monsanto employees were the ghost writers for two reports on Roundup that the committee headed by Rowland relied on for its findings, plaintiffs’ attorneys charged. The reports concluded that glyphosate was not carcinogenic.
“I think it’s important that people hold Monsanto accountable when they say one thing and it’s completely contradicted by very frank internal documents,” plaintiffs’ attorney, Timothy Litzenburg, told The New York Times.
Around 220 million pounds of glyphosate were used in the United States in 2015, The Times reported. Monsanto makes much of its money from selling corn, cotton and soybean seeds that are genetically engineered to resist glyphosate.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

CA PROP 65 TO ADD CANCER WARNING LABEL ON ITEMS CONTAINING GLYPHOSATE

California Judge Confirms Cancer Warning on Monsanto’s Roundup



Roundup-008
California is the first U.S. state to require Monsanto to label its blockbuster weed killer, Roundup, as a possible carcinogen, according to a ruling issued Friday by a California judge.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Kapetan previously issued a tentative ruling on January 27 in Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al.
Judge Kapetan formalized her ruling against Monsanto on Friday, which will allow California to proceed with the process of listing glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, as a chemical “known to the state to cause cancer” in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Proposition 65.
In response to the ruling, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. stated, “Democracy is alive and well in California where judges are still willing to stand up for science, even against the most powerful corporate polluters. This decision gives Californians the right to protect themselves and their families from chemical trespass.” Mr. Kennedy and the law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman represent people from California and across the U.S. who have been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after Roundup (glyphosate) use.
In January of 2016, Monsanto filed a lawsuit against the State of California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) over the agency’s notice of intent to list glyphosate as a Prop 65 chemical.
OEHHA issued the notice after the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report on glyphosate, which classified the chemical as a “probable human carcinogen.” The IARC report compelled OEHHA to list glyphosate as a Prop 65 chemical and warn consumers about the possible danger associated with glyphosate exposure.
Why Did Monsanto Sue the State of California?
In 1986, California voters approved Proposition 65 to address concerns about exposure to toxic chemicals. Prop 65 requires California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.
OEHHA is the administrator for the Proposition 65 program and determines in many cases whether chemicals or other substances meet the scientific and legal requirements to be placed on the Proposition 65 list. The agency uses a “Labor Code” listing mechanism, which directs the OEHHA to add chemicals or substances to the Prop 65 list of chemicals known to the state to cause cancer if they meet certain classifications by the IARC.
Monsanto’s lawsuit against OEHHA argued that the statutory basis underlying the agency’s action to list glyphosate as a Prop 65 chemical violates both the California and U.S. Constitutions. According to the complaint, listing glyphosate as chemical known to the state to cause cancer cedes regulatory authority to an “unelected, undemocratic, unaccountable, and foreign body” that isn’t subject to oversight by California or the United States.
According to the ruling, “…the Labor Code listing mechanism does not constitute an unconstitutional delegation of authority to an outside agency, since the voters and the legislature have established the basic legislative scheme and made the fundamental policy decision with regard to listing possible carcinogens under Proposition 65, and then allowed the IARC to make the highly technical fact-finding decisions with regard to which specific chemicals would be added to the list.”
“As Monsanto admits, the IARC‘s list is not created in response to the Labor Code listing mechanism or Proposition 65, and in fact IARC has stated that it disavows any policy or rulemaking role, and that it does not intend its determinations to carry the force of law,” Judge Kapetan wrote in her ruling.
In the months that followed, a number of interested nonparties joined the lawsuit as “intervenors,” either on behalf of Monsanto or on behalf of the State of California. When a case has the potential to affect the rights of interested nonparties (individuals or organizations not named in the lawsuit), they can become intervenors, effectively joining the litigation either as a matter of right or at the court’s discretion without the permission of the original litigants. Intervention simply gives nonparties that could be affected by a case’s outcome a chance to be heard.
Below are the intervenors in Monsanto Company v. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, et al.
Monsanto Intervenors:
  • California Citrus Mutual
  • Western Agricultural Processors Association (WAPA)
  • California Cotton Ginners and Growers Associations
  • California Grain & Feed Association
  • Almond Alliance of California
  • Western Plant Health Association
OEHHA Intervenors:
  • Center for Food Safety
  • Sierra Club
  • United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (AFL-CIO, CLC)
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Environmental Law Foundation
  • Canadian Labor Congress
Ruling Against Monsanto
In her ruling, Judge Kapetan wrote that California’s voters and legislature “have established the basic legislative scheme and made the fundamental policy decision with regard to listing possible carcinogens under Proposition 65, and then allowed IARC to make the highly technical fact-finding decisions with regard to which specific chemicals would be added to the list.”
Teri McCall is one of many California residents to cheer the ruling against Monsanto. Her husband, Jack, sprayed Roundup on the family’s Cambia, California farm for nearly 30 years. In September 2015, Jack went to see a doctor to treat swollen lymph nodes in his neck. That day in the hospital, he learned that the swelling was caused by anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL), a rare and aggressive version of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Three months later, Jack suffered a severe stroke due to complications with his cancer treatment. He died on Dec. 26, 2015.
In the wake of her husband’s death, Teri McCall filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Monsanto, alleging the company knew about the link between Roundup and cancer, but failed to warn the public about the risk.
“My husband Jack was very conscious of the dangers of chemicals and his misfortune was taking Monsanto’s word that Roundup was safe,” said McCall at a press conference held on January 27 in Fresno following Judge Kapetan’s tentative ruling.
“I don’t want to see any more unsuspecting people die from cancer because they didn’t know of the danger to their health from exposure to Roundup. Glyphosate in Roundup needs to be on the list of Prop 65 chemicals that are dangerous to our health so that people can make informed decisions for themselves about the risks they are willing to take. I don’t believe my husband would have been willing to take that risk,” McCall said.
McCall is represented in her Roundup cancer lawsuit by Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

MONSANTO - EPA TRANSPARENCY DEMANDED BY JUDGE

Judge Threatens to Sanction Monsanto for Secrecy in Roundup Cancer Litigation


03/10/2017 01:59 pm ET  
Carey Gillam, Contributor




Nearly a year after a mysterious leak of industry-friendly information from the Environmental Protection Agency, many pressing questions remain about the agency’s interactions with agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. and its handling of cancer concerns with Monsanto’s top-selling herbicide. But thanks to a federal court judge in California, we may soon start getting some answers.
The transcript of a recent court hearing reveals that Judge Vince Chhabria, who is overseeing a combination of more than 55 lawsuits filed against Monsanto in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, warned Monsanto that many documents it is turning over in discovery will not be kept sealed despite the company’s pleas for privacy. He threatened to impose sanctions if Monsanto persists in “overbroad” efforts to keep relevant documents out of public view.
The litigation against Monsanto has been filed by people from around the United States who allege that exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide caused them or their loved ones to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system and has been on the rise in recent decades. While those lawsuits are being handled together as “multi-district litigation” (MDL) in San Francisco, hundreds of other plaintiffs are making similar allegations in multiple state courts as well. And the teams of lawyers involved say they are continuing to meet with prospective additional plaintiffs.
“I have a problem with Monsanto, because it’s —- it is insisting that stuff be filed under seal that should not be filed under seal,” Judge Chhabria stated in the hearing. When documents are “relevant to the litigation, they shouldn’t be under seal, even if they are not – are embarrassing to Monsanto, you know, even if Monsanto doesn’t like what they say.”
This week the judge also gave a green light – over Monsanto objection - to a plaintiffs’ request to obtain documents and depose a former Monsanto official from Europe. Other Monsanto officials are to be deposed within the next few weeks.
The central question to the mass of lawsuits is causation – can Roundup cause cancer, and has Monsanto wrongly covered up or ignored the risks. But the litigation is also threatening to pull back a curtain of secrecy that cloaks the government’s work with Monsanto and its assessment of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup. There were concerns expressed years ago inside the EPA that glyphosate could be carcinogenic, and many independent scientists have pointed to research that raises red flags about both glyphosate and the formulated version that is Roundup. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015 classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. But the EPA has been steadfast in its assessment that glyphosate is not likely carcinogenic.
Now plaintiffs’ attorneys allege they are finding evidence in the discovery documents of apparent collusion between Monsanto and at least one high-level EPA official, though Monsanto vehemently denies that.
Monsanto has made billions of dollars a year for decades from its glyphosate-based herbicides, and they are the linchpin to billions of dollars more it makes each year from the genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant crops it markets. As it moves toward a planned merger with Bayer AG, defending the safety of what has been the world’s most widely used weed killer is critical.
So far, Monsanto had turned over close to 10 million documents to lawyers for the plaintiffs. Among those documents are some that detail Monsanto’s interactions with EPA officials, including Jess Rowland, head of the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC). A report by that committee was leaked to the public on April 29 of last year, posted on an EPA website when it should not have been, the agency said. The report stayed on the website only until May 2 before being deleted, but it was long enough for Monsanto to copy the report, and tout it on its website and in social media postings. Monsanto also referenced the report in a key MDL court hearing in May.
The timing of the leak of the report was favorable to Monsanto, which at that time was not only trying to slow the advancement of the MDL litigation, but was also trying to convince European regulators to re-approve glyphosate in Europe and was suing California to try to keep the state from adding glyphosate to a list of chemical carcinogens.
According to court filings by plaintiffs’ attorneys, discovery documents “strongly suggests that Mr. Rowland’s primary goal was to serve the interests of Monsanto.” Rowland left the agency last year and has not publicly addressed the matter. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Monsanto very much wants to keep its internal documents, including those related to Rowland, out of the public eye, saying the information can be taken out of context and exploited unfairly to try to sway public opinion. According to the transcript, Monsanto attorney Eric Lasker complained to the judge that the plaintiffs’ attorneys are “trying to try the case in litigation and the press.” This is litigation, he said, “that people are following, that what happens in this courtroom ends up on blogs, posts, ends up in articles.”
Nevertheless, Chhabria said he sees the documents related to Rowland and to the EPA and IARC as relevant and not appropriate for sealing, meaning they could be made available in court filings soon.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys are also preparing to depose Rowland, having subpoenaed him despite objections from the EPA. In the hearing, the judge indicated that he favored allowing the deposition, though he gave the EPA until March 28 to file a motion to quash the subpoena.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys are also preparing for the March 15 deposition of Monsanto’s chief regulatory liaison, Dan Jenkins, who was in regular contact with the EPA regarding glyphosate for years. They plan to depose Susan Martino-Catt, the company’s global supply chain strategy and operations lead on March 30. And the judge ruled that they may also depose and obtain documents from Mark Martens, a former employee of Monsanto in Belgium.
The judge is pushing both sides to keep to a frenzied pace for gathering experts and evidence. A key hearing is set for October in which the opposing parties will present expert witness testimony to the judge, and trial dates could begin in 2018, the attorneys project.
The consumer advocacy group I work for, U.S. Right to Know, on Thursday sued the EPA seeking a release of documents dealing with the CARC leak and other matters as questions persist about the safety of the product and whether or not assessments have been properly conducted.
The unfolding court case could soon start providing some answers.