In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an intergovernmental agency charged with conducting and coordinating research into the causes of cancer, listed glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, as a probable carcinogen. Its stance was based, in part, on studies of farmers with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who had been exposed to glyphosate.
Since then, certain Republicans in Congress have criticized the work of the IARC, have fought to defund the organization, and have defended glyphosate on behalf of American farmers and food manufacturers who rely heavily on the herbicide.
But according to new evidence, much of the rhetoric against the IARC has been penned by Monsanto, the company that manufactures Roundup. Monsanto was acquired by Bayer last year.
Monsanto introduced Roundup in 1974. Soon after, the company introduced seeds that were genetically modified to resist the effects of its glyphosate, meaning farmers could douse their crops with Roundup and be assured that the weed killer would target the weeds and not their crops. As a result, Roundup became one of the most widely used herbicides in the world.
What started as a beat of concern about the safety of glyphosate turned into a reverberating drum roll last year when Bayer faced off in the first case to go to trial against a school groundskeeper, Dewayne Johnson. He claimed exposure to glyphosate caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His lawsuit resulted in a $78 million award. Since then, two other cases have been tried, each resulting in multi-million-dollar verdicts for plaintiffs. Bayer faces more than 18,400 more lawsuits.
According to newly disclosed emails, documents and deposition transcripts released by Johnson’s attorney, Monsanto lawyers and lobbyists spoon-fed lawmakers statements questioning the credibility of the IARC and pushing for the U.S. to cut back on its support of the organization.
According to The Intercept, the evidence included an email sent by a former Monsanto attorney that included a draft of a letter from Rep. Rob Aderholt (R-Ala.), a senior lawmaker on the House Appropriations Committee. The letter was addressed to Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the agency that oversees most federal public health research including funding for IARC. In the letter, Aderholt declared that glyphosate “does not cause cancer,” and threatened to reassess the NIH budget to ensure that it was “committed to only funding organizations that produce information and conclusions based on sound science, robust processes, and credible methodology.”
The letter was, in fact, written by a political consulting firm working for Monsanto. The Intercept said it was unclear what ever came of the letter, and Aderholt’s office did not respond to its request for comment.
We are investigating cases involving non-Hodgkin lymphoma related to the commercial application of Roundup/glyphosate. For more information or to discuss a possible claim, contact John Tomlinson or Rhon Jones.