By Dr. Mercola
More than 800 people with cancer are suing Monsanto, the maker of Roundup, over claims the glyphosate-based herbicide made them ill — and Monsanto did little to warn the public, despite knowing cancer risks existed.1 In 2015, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, was determined to be a "probable carcinogen" by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is the research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rather than taking immediate steps to protect Americans from this probable cancer-causing agent, decided to reassess its position on the chemical and, after doing so, released a paper in October 2015 stating that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.2
In April 2016, the EPA posted the report online, briefly, before pulling it and claiming it was not yet final and posted by mistake. The paper was signed by Jess Rowland (among other EPA officials), who at the time was the EPA's deputy division director of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and chair of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC).
EPA Official Helped Stop a U.S. Investigation Into Glyphosate
Email correspondence showed Rowland helped stop a glyphosate investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on Monsanto's behalf.
In an email, Monsanto regulatory affairs manager Dan Jenkins recounts a conversation he'd had with Rowland, in which Rowland said, "If I can kill this I should get a medal,”3 referring to the ATSDR investigation, which did not end up occurring. Jenkins also noted that Rowland was planning to retire in a few months and "could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense."4 And it gets even worse. According to The New York Times:5
“Court records show that Monsanto was tipped off to the determination by a deputy division director at the E.P.A., Jess Rowland, months beforehand. That led the company to prepare a public relations assault on the finding well in advance of its publication.”
The court records also show that in making the decision that glyphosate does not cause cancer, the EPA used two studies that had been ghostwritten by Monsanto’s toxicology manager but were published using names of academic researchers.6 Timothy Litzenburg's law firm represents more than 500 people with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who are suing Monsanto. He told CNN he expects the number of lawsuits to keep rising:7
"It would not surprise me in the least if there are 2,000 to 3,000 cases by the end of the year … This is the most-used herbicide in the world ... from the largest farm operations to backyard gardens. It's ubiquitous."
Thirty-Year Glyphosate Cancer Cover-Up Revealed
Monsanto has used the EPA’s supposedly-not-final report in court hearings to suggest glyphosate is safe, but the plaintiffs’ attorneys asked for documents detailing Monsanto’s interactions with Rowland to be released. In March 2017, a judge unsealed the documents, which revealed disturbing information.
According to Sustainable Pulse, Monsanto was able to persuade the EPA to change the classification of glyphosate from a Class C Carcinogen (suggestive carcinogenic potential) to Class E, which means there is evidence of non-carcinogenicity in humans.8 The change occurred while Monsanto was creating Roundup Ready genetically engineered (GE) crops.
The news outlet also uncovered 1991 EPA documents detailing a Monsanto-funded study that found it may cause cancer. They reported, “[The study] was ‘reviewed’ again until it mysteriously showed no carcinogenic potential.” What’s more, the late Dr. George Levinskas, Monsanto’s former director of environmental assessment and toxicology, was reported involved in covering up the cancer risks of both PCBs in the ‘70s and, later, glyphosate in the ‘80s:9
“He wrote an internal company letter in 1985 stating the following: ‘Senior management at the EPA is reviewing a proposal to classify glyphosate as a class C ‘possible human carcinogen’ because of kidney adenomas in male mice. Dr. Marvin Kuschner will review kidney sections and present his evaluation of them to the EPA in an effort to persuade the agency that the observed tumors are not related to glyphosate.’”
California Labels Glyphosate as a Chemical Known to Cause Cancer
Meanwhile, while the federal EPA is allowing glyphosate usage to continue unchecked, California's Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) announced in 2015 that they intended to list glyphosate as a chemical known to cause cancer under Proposition 65, which requires consumer products with potential cancer-causing ingredients to bear warning labels.
Monsanto then filed formal comments with OEHHA saying the plan to list glyphosate as a carcinogen should be withdrawn. When they didn’t give in, Monsanto took it a step further and filed a lawsuit against OEHHA in January 2016 to stop the glyphosate/cancer classification. OEHHA filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and a Fresno, California superior court judge ruled on their behalf in February 2017.
This means new labels will be appearing in California that include a cancer warning on Roundup and other glyphosate-containing weed killers, including Ortho Groundclear, KleenUp, Aquamaster, Sharpshooter, StartUp,Touchdown, Total Traxion, Vector and Vantage Plus Max II and others. Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity and a former cancer researcher, told the Press Banner:
“When it comes to Roundup, California has become a national leader in flagging the very real danger posed by this vastly over-used pesticide … The state based its decision on the findings of the world’s most reliable, transparent and science-based assessment of glyphosate.”10
Scotts Pushes Cancer Chemical
Many people believe Scotts Miracle-Gro is owned by Monsanto. This isn’t true, but the two companies do have a close link. Scotts is the exclusive marketer of Roundup and generates about $154 million in total sales from the herbicide.11 With Monsanto’s reputation quickly tanking, however, The Motley Fool pointed out, “it's clear the Scotts Miracle-Gro name is getting besmirched by its association, and that … is tough to put a price tag on.”
While Monsanto brought in more than $3.5 billion from herbicide (primarily Roundup) sales in 2016, this pales in comparison to the $10 billion generated by Monsanto’s seed and genomics sector. Monsanto profits not only off the sales of Roundup but also, and more so, off the sale of the GE Roundup Ready seeds to go with it.
Scotts, on the other hand, enjoys no such double-dipping, but still paid Monsanto $300 million in 2015 to gain the rights to sell Roundup in China, Latin America and other markets.12 Another blow to their joint reputation occurred in 2003 when, with the permission of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Monsanto and Scotts performed a field trial of experimental GE grass which, like Roundup Ready crops, is impervious to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
The grass, a type of GE creeping bentgrass that was being designed specifically for use on golf courses, turned out to be extremely hardy, so much so that the test plot was shut down and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expressed concerns that the grass could negatively affect endangered species in Oregon. But by then it was too late.
The grass had already spread beyond the test plot, including into a nearby national grassland preserve. More than a decade later, the invasive GE grass is still a problem in Oregon. This certainly didn’t help Scotts’ reputation, and some, including The Motley Fool, have suggested the company should simply stop selling Roundup:13
“It's hard to quantify exactly how many sales Scotts Miracle-Gro foregoes because of this partnership, and it is possible Roundup sales actually outweigh those lost, but there is still harm to the brand reputation, which seems like a preventable forced error. It might be one the lawn-care specialist would be better off not committing simply by not having Roundup in its portfolio.”
Roundup May Be Killing Butterflies
Numbers of Monarch butterflies have decreased by 90 percent since 1996. As usage of glyphosate has skyrocketed, milkweed, which is the only plant on which the adult monarch will lay its eggs, has plummeted.
In 2013, it was estimated that just 1 percent of the common milkweed present in 1999 remained in corn and soybean fields and, tragically, while milkweed is not harmed by many herbicides, it is easily killed by glyphosate.14 A 2017 study published in the journal Ecography further noted a strong connection between large-scale Monarch deaths and glyphosate application.15,16 Sarah Saunders, Michigan State University integrative biologist and lead study author said in a press release:17
“Our study provides the first empirical evidence of a negative association between glyphosate application and local abundance of adult monarch butterflies during 1994 [to] 2003, the initial phase of large-scale herbicide adoption in the Midwest."
2,4-D Is Another Toxic Agricultural Chemical
2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) is one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, which was used to defoliate battle fields in the jungles of Vietnam, with horrendous consequences to the health of those exposed.
It’s also a common ingredient in “weed and feed” lawn care products, because it kills weeds without harming grass, fruits or vegetables, the latter of which makes it very popular among farmers. It’s also very popular among backyard gardeners, however, and this population may spread it on even heavier than farmers do on their crops. As reported by KCET news:18
“In several studies, 2,4-D was the most common herbicide found in suburban areas, and other studies have detected the herbicide in two-thirds of interior air samples taken from households. The herbicide breaks down in around a month in rich, moist soils but can linger indefinitely in other settings, for instance as a constituent of household dust.
An Ohio study found 2,4-D in 98 percent of the homes tested, though just one of the homeowners reported having used the herbicide in recent weeks.”
This is concerning because, like glyphosate, IARC ruled 2,4-D a possible human carcinogen in 2015, and there is concern it may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and soft-tissue cancer known as sarcoma. Further, it’s an endocrine-disrupting chemical that may negatively affect thyroid hormones and brain development.
It may also be associated with birth defects, reduced fertility and neurological problems. Despite this, in 2014 the EPA approved the use of Enlist Duo — an herbicide manufactured by Dow Chemical that combines 2,4-D with Roundup, to be used on corn and soybeans genetically engineered to tolerate both 2,4-D and glyphosate.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that by 2020, the use of 2,4-D on America's farms could rise between 100 percent and 600 percent now that it has been approved as part of Enlist Duo,” the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated, continuing:19
“According to [NRDC staff scientist Kristi] Pullen, ‘When you combine increased use with the potential for increased developmental, cancer, and other health impacts, you could create a perfect storm of hazard and exposure coming together.’”
Test Your Personal Glyphosate Levels
If you’d like to know your personal glyphosate levels, you can now find out, while also participating in a worldwide study on environmental glyphosate exposures. The Health Research Institute (HRI) in Iowa developed the glyphosate urine test kit, which will allow you to determine your own exposure to this toxic herbicide.
Ordering this kit automatically allows you to participate in the study and help HRI better understand the extent of glyphosate exposure and contamination. In a few weeks, you will receive your results, along with information on how your results compare with others and what to do to help reduce your exposure. We are providing these kits to you at no profit in order for you to participate in this environmental study.
In the meantime, eating organic as much as possible and investing in a good water filtration system for your home are among the best ways to lower your exposure to glyphosate and other pesticides.
In the case of glyphosate, it’s also wise to avoid crops like wheat and oats, which may be sprayed with glyphosate for drying purposes prior to harvest. As for the collusion between Monsanto and EPA, the lack of independence among regulators and promoters and distributors of health information has become of tremendous concern.
Due to a dramatic rise in scientific fraud and rampant conflict of interest, it's more important than ever to be able to gain access to the full set of data on research studies and identify potential conflicts of interest, as well as seek opinions from experts you know and trust, before making or taking a health recommendation.