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EU Agencies Accused of Cherry-Picking Evidence in Glyphosate Assessment

Lawyers on the “Monsanto papers” case accused the EU agencies responsible for food safety and chemicals of “wilfully sawing off certain studies” in their risk assessment of glyphosate.

On 4 October, two plaintiffs and their lawyers in an ongoing US lawsuit against Monsanto came to Brussels to lobby against the renewal of glyphosate’s licence in Europe – a weed killer that has been described as potentially carcinogenic by IARC, the UN’s cancer research agency, but deemed safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

“The reason I am here today is to warn the EU Commission and you people of Europe to look at new studies that have been disclosed, not only by IARC, and at documents that have been declassified, showing that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen,” said John Barton, who was diagnosed with stage 3 non-Hodgkin lymphoma and claims it is due to using glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup for more than 30 years.

Influencing science

Their lawsuit against Monsanto was instrumental in making public hundreds of internal company documents that became known as the “Monsanto papers”.

The documents suggest that Monsanto “ghost-wrote” academic articles and even pressured editors of scientific journals to retract articles that countered their interests.

Three review studies that appear to be ghost-written were considered in the EU agencies’ risk assessment of glyphosate. Lawyers argued this could have implications for the scientific validity of their assessments.

But EFSA and ECHA downplayed the revelations, arguing the review papers had little weight in their assessment and they “came to their independent conclusion based on the original data and not on someone else’s interpretation”.

Therefore, they declared in June, “even if the allegations were confirmed that these review papers were ghost-written, there would be no impact on the overall EU assessment and conclusions on glyphosate”.

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