This week a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), released a draft document titled Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate. The document supports and adds heft to the 2015 cancer assessment of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
For years, glyphosate, which is most widely known as Roundup, has been the most widely used weedkiller in the world. Monsanto has designed GMO products, such as Roundup Ready corn, soybeans, cotton and wheat that were specifically designed to be grown with Roundup. This has vastly increased its use and sales of the product to more than 300 million pounds annually in the United States. Approximately 90% of that is used on farm fields, and 10% on lawns, gardens, golf courses, parks and playgrounds.
The Pesticide Office at EPA had been successful in holding the report back for years as it promoted its belief that glyphosate has no cancer risk.
In April 2015, EPA Pesticide Office Official, Jess Rowland, attempted to deep six the ATSDR study, reportedly to help Monsanto. Rowland told Dan Jenkins from Monsanto, “If I can kill this report, I should get a medal.” Jenkins then emailed his colleagues at Monsanto: “I doubt that EPA and Jess can bury this report, but it is good to know they can try now because of our pressing and their concern that the ATSDR report is consistent in its conclusions with EPA.
ATSDR did temporarily put on the back burner its work on the chemical and decided to pay close attention to the 2015 cancer assessment by EPA.
Now, two years later, the Draft Toxicological Profile for Glyphosate from ATSDR has come back from the dead and is available for public comment. It is 257 pages long, and the fully referenced document covers the cancer and non cancer health problems that are related to glyphosate exposure. The latter even includes effects on child development and reproduction.
EPA and ATSDR Differences Seem Subtle, But Are Not
The different views on glyphosate between the EPA and ATSDR might seem subtle to the outside but they are anything but. The review by scientists at ATSDR clearly has raised concerns and alarms over the possible risks the weedkiller poses to the health of humans, particularly regarding cancer. (ewg.org)
The report also finds positive associations between cancer and glyphosate have been determined by three meta-analyses, a type of study that does an analysis of several studies at once. A fourth meta analysis, which was published earlier in 2019, found a 41% higher risk of cancer for farmers and agricultural workers in groups with the greatest exposure.
This latest ATSDR assessment is in support of the earlier findings of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is a division of the World Health Organization, which stated in 2015 that glyphosate is probably a human carcinogen.
Monsanto Tried to Discredit Scientists and Independent Research
In 2017, The New York Times reported that Monsanto and Bayer AG tried to discredit independent scientific research and scientists, as they swayed scientists at EPA overseeing the glyphosate review. They even ghostwrote stories that seemed to have been written by scientists that were not affiliated with Monsanto.
Another problem that has emerged with glyphosate is that consumers who do not work on a farm or in agriculture are still being exposed to the toxic chemical in their food. The ATSDR report recommends regular monitoring of the health effects on humans that are related to glyphosate exposure through our foods, especially in children.
EWG Lab Tests Found Glyphosate in Popular Breakfast Foods
The Environmental Working Group in 2018 commissioned two laboratory test that found traces of glyphosate in almost every sample of popular cereals based on oats, including several cereals by General Mills and Quaker. These foods are very popular with children, and make breakfast cereals one of the big sources of food exposure to glyphosate.
Further EWG analysis has shown that the toxic chemical contaminates many wheat-based products, beans and lentils and other grains, including buckwheat and barley. Another recent study from scientists at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy has determined that being exposed early to glyphosate in rats can have negative effects on the endocrine system and the development of the reproductive system.
In concert with 18 other companies, EWG has issued a petition to EPA to limit glyphosate residues that are permitted on oats and to outlaw the use of the herbicide as a drying agent before harvests. The study by ATSDR emphasizes the need for EPA to enact restrictions on glyphosate in the US.
EWG maintains that glyphosate should not be found in American foods, especially in foods that children eat. Some of the companies that recently jointed EWG in a petition to EPA were Nature’s Path, Ben & Jerry’s, MegaFood, MOM’s Organic Market, Happy Family Organics, Stonyfield Organic, Lundberg Family Farms and Clif Bar & Company.
Recent Blockbuster Court Decision Damages Monsanto Credibility
The ATSDR report is not the only serious blow to Monsanto this year. This month, a federal jury in California ordered Monsanto to pay a whopping $80 million to a 70 year old man with non-Hodgkins lymphoma who used Roundup on his land in California for three decades. The jury found that Roundup was a major factor in his cancer. While Monsanto plans an appeal, this decision does not bode well for the agri giant company, as there are thousands of other state and federal roundup cancer lawsuits pending regarding glyphosate causing cancer in consumers and agricultural workers. (pbs.org)
Read the ATSDR Report Now
A pattern has begun to emerge: Non-industry experts and health agencies such as IARS and ATSDR are finding links between cancer and glyphosate, while regulatory agencies are siding with Monsanto and Bayer that glyphosate does not cause cancer. It will be interesting to see in the near future as more pending lawsuits against Monsanto are resolved, and if more studies and white papers will be released about the potential cancer dangers of glyphosate.
- ATSDR Report Confirms Glyphosate Cancer Risks. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.nrdc.org/experts/jennifer-sass/atsdr-report-confirms-glyphosate-cancer-risks
- Cancer Risks from Monsanto Weedkiller Deserve Further Scrutiny from Government. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2019/04/cancer-risks-monsanto-s-weed-killer-deserve-further-scrutiny-government
- What You Need to Know About A Popular Weedkiller’s Alleged Link to Cancer. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/what-you-need-to-know-about-a-popular-weed-killers-alleged-link-to-cancer