On February 6, 2018, the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) sent a senior scientist, Dr. Jennifer Sass, to Capitol Hill to testify before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology during a hearing called “In Defense of Scientific Integrity: Examining the IARC Monograph Programme and Glyphosate Review.”
IARC’s “reputation and integrity” have been under attack by Monsanto as a result of the agency’s 2015 conclusion that glyphosate, the most-used pesticide in the world, “probably” causes cancer in humans. IARC applied this Group 2A designation for glyphosate-based herbicides following an independent review of the evidence by a working group made up of 17 cancer scientists from 11 countries.
Following this announcement, Monsanto launched an “unprecedented” effort to undermine the IARC and the glyphosate cancer classification. Dr. Sass reports in her recent blog that the goals of this attack campaign are three fold:
- Support glyphosate registrations and approvals worldwide, what Monsanto officials and scientists call protecting Roundup’s “Freedom to Operate” (FTO) in internal company communications;
- Defend itself against ongoing litigation brought by several hundred farmers and applicators suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma that they feel was caused by exposure to Roundup; and
- Prevent labeling of glyphosate-containing products as containing a carcinogen in the State of California.
Monsanto’s multi-faceted campaign to de-legitimize the IARC’s cancer ruling has been underway for nearly three years, and was recently the topic of a high-profile, European Parliament hearing, part of which is covered on Hygeia. Throughout the campaign, Monsanto has used classic techniques for “creating ‘doubt’ about scientific evidence that has policy implications. Such strategies can be traced to the ‘playbook’ of the tobacco industry for discrediting findings related to active and passive smoking” (Dr. Jonathan Samet, quoted in Sass, 2018).
In her blog, Sass takes a closer look at the “oft-spouted false or manipulative claims” Monsanto has used to cast doubt on the IARC ruling. Also check out this video excerpt from the hearing that NRDC released on Twitter.
Jennifer SASS, Testimony before US House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Full Committee Hearing – “In Defense of Scientific Integrity: Examining the IARC Monograph Programme and Glyphosate Review,” Washington, D.C., February 6, 2018.
Jennifer Sass, “Monsanto Mouthpieces: House Science Committee, EPA, EU-EFSA,” NRDC Expert Blog, February 20, 2018.