The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) closed out 2017 by finally weighing in on the controversy surrounding glyphosate, a compound that has no color or smell and is the main ingredient in Roundup, the most widely used herbicide in the country. The herbicide that’s proved a cash cow for manufacturer Monsanto has long been touted by the company as safe for human use, though as Beasley Allen has previously reported, it has been linked to the development of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

Breaking with the opinion of the World Health Organization and many American and European critics, the EPA released a draft risk assessment report Dec. 18 that concludes glyphosate is unlikely to be a human carcinogen, according to Reuters.

Last year reports surfaced during multidistrict litigation (MDL) that Monsanto colluded with the EPA to deceive consumers about these potential health risks, which has many raising eyebrows at the agency’s December decision. The documents were unsealed as part of a MDL consolidated in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California containing more than 45 suits claiming Roundup use resulted in the development of NHL.

The unsealed court documents caught the attention of the European Union, which was set to vote on extending its usage approval of Roundup by December 2017. In light of the documents and subsequent hearings that Monsanto refused to attend, resulting in the company being banned from parliament, the European Commission failed to grant the 15-year license extension. Only half of the 28 member-states backed the proposal, so instead, it only issued a five-year extension. At that time, the Natural Resources Defense Council stated European action against Monsanto “would have a potentially profound effect upon glyphosate-related policies here in the U.S., where EPA appears to still be taking its cues from Monsanto.” But unfortunately, the EPA sided with big business, noting it found “no other meaningful risks to human health” when glyphosate is used according to its label.

The move counters the formal opinion of the World Health Organization. Its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labels glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic.” In its evaluation, the IARC notes the EPA classified glyphosate as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” in 1985 based on the presence of tumors found in mice and only changed its stance after a “re-evaluation” of those results. The IARC determined “sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experiment animals” exists based on that study and other more recent ones. It also found evidence to suggest glyphosate can cause DNA and chromosomal damage to human cells.

Despite the EPA’s decision, cases around the country of farmers, landscapers and gardeners developing NHL after years of using Roundup continue to highlight who is paying the true price for Monsanto’s continued deception.

Beasley Allen
National Resource Defense Council

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