Health Canada stated last week due to troubling allegations, government scientists in Canada are reviewing hundreds of studies used to approve glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in the most popular herbicide in the country – Roundup.
This decision comes after several environmental groups claimed that Health Canada was too reliant on studies that were unduly influenced by the giant agrochemical company Monsanto, which is the maker of Roundup. Its use was re-approved in 2015 and the decision was confirmed in 2017.
The environmental group coalition included Equiterre, Ecojustice, Canadian Physicians for the Environment and several others.
They claim that academic papers that were studying whether the herbicide causes cancer were presented to Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency as totally independent. In fact, Monsanto had a role in writing them.
At that time, Health Canada concluded that the risks of glyphosate to humans were acceptable and within reason, if the chemical was used as directed on the updated product labels.
The health agency told CBC recently that Health Canada scientists are now reviewing hundreds of studies to determine whether the information justifies changing the original decision. Or to use a panel of experts not affiliated with Health Canada to review the situation.
However, the leader of environmental group Equiterre, Sidney Ribaux, is not satisfied at this time.
He noted that Health Canada should start an independent review right away and suspend using glyphosate in Canada, which is often applied to corn, soy, oats and wheat, as well as chickpeas.
The environmental coalition contends that Monsanto had an unknown role in producing some of the studies that came from the court documents that were made public in the lawsuit case involving Dewayne Johnson. In August 2018, a jury in California ordered Monsanto to pay Johnson $289 million in damages after the former school groundskeeper alleged Roundup gave him non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of blood cancer. He received his diagnosis in 2014 when he was 42. A judge upheld the verdict in September, but the payout was reduced to $78 million.
The documents that were filed in the case, such as emails between scientific experts and Monsanto, are now known as the Monsanto Papers. The revelations in those papers have gotten press around the world.
The group of Canadian environmental organizations contend those documents prove that vital scientific studies were co-written or reviewed and edited by the company without a proper disclosure of the company’s role.
Equiterre stated that Monsanto has been playing with various scientific studies. It is making such studies look like they are completely independent when they were actually written by or greatly influenced by Monsanto. The organization stated that what they found was that some of the studies were key in the decision by the Government of Canada to provide a permit to Monsanto to keep selling the chemical in Canada.
In its statement to CBC, Bayer AG which owns Monsanto said that it has a strong commitment to strong and sound science transparency and did not attempt to improperly influence scientific outcomes. The company contends that in every case where it sponsored an article, the information was fully disclosed.
Lee Johnson, the plaintiff in the California lawsuit, has said that he wants to see the research on glyphosate both re-evaluated and expanded. He said that he hopes the conversation is large enough to where they need to do more tests and more research. He added that he was thrilled with the results of his lawsuit but he knows the fight has only begun. Years of appeals are expected.
Bayer announced weeks ago that it would appeal the ruling. Bayer is facing at least 8000 lawsuits around the US over its products that contain glyphosate. In a post on the corporate website last month, Bayer stated that it believes the liability verdict and damage awards are not properly supported by evidence at trial or by law.
The company stated to CBC radio in Canada that Roundup is safe and has been used with great success for 40 years. It also says there is a large body of research on glyphosate and herbicides based upon glyphosate, such as more than 800 studies that were required by regulators in the US and Europe that confirm the products are safe when directions are followed.
Many government agencies, such as the EPA in 2017, have concluded there is no strong link between cancer and glyphosate. However, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated in 2015 that it is probable that glyphosate is a carcinogen and toxic to humans.
Johnson sprayed hundreds of gallons of Roundup and Ranger Pro as part of his occupation as a groundskeeper at a school in San Francisco. He noted in a recent interview that he has found some consolation against the chemical giant. He said that he went ahead with the trial to defend the truth. Johnson points out that he is not afraid to die, but if he must, at least he died for something important.
- Monsanto Roundup Health Canada. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/monsanto-roundup-health-canada-1.4896311
- Troubling Allegations Prompt Health Canada Review of Studies Used to Approve Popular Weed-killer (2018). Retrieved from http://lejournalcanadien.com/2018/11/11/troubling-allegations-prompt-health-canada-review-of-studies-used-to-approve-popular-weed-killer/