France’s leading daily newspaper Le Monde has published a lengthy expose on Monsanto’s insidious practices in suppressing any science that puts their pesticide products in a bad light. It highlights how the giant agro-chemical company went into attack mode when the U.N.’s International Agency for Research on Cancer suggested that glyphosate in Roundup could cause cancer. Here’s an excerpt translated from the French by Google, so it might sound a little odd sometimes.
Monsanto papers: the pesticide giant’s war against science
To save glyphosate, the firm undertook to harm the United Nations agency against cancer by all means. The first part of our investigation.
We have already been attacked in the past, we have already suffered campaigns of denigration, but this time we are the target of a campaign orchestrated, of a breadth and duration unpublished. “Christopher Wild quickly folded his tall figure and smile. The roofs of Lyon take place below the tower where the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) sits, behind the shoulders of its director. Christopher Wild weighed every word with a gravity to the measure of the situation. For the past two years, a fire has been targeting the institution he is running: the credibility and integrity of his work are being challenged, his experts denigrated, harassed by lawyers and his finances weakened. For nearly half a century, under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), to inventory carcinogens, the venerable agency begins to waver under the assault.
The hostilities were opened on a specific date: 20 March 2015. On that day, IARC announced the conclusions of its “monograph 112”. They leave the whole world stunned. Unlike the majority of regulatory agencies, IARC considers genotoxic – it damages DNA – carcinogenic to the animal and “probable carcinogen” for man the most widely used pesticide on the planet. This pesticide is glyphosate, the main component of Roundup, the flagship product of one of the world’s most famous companies: Monsanto. It is also the Leviathan of the agrochemical industry. Used for over forty years, glyphosate is used in no less than 750 products marketed by about 100 companies in more than 130 countries.
Between 1974, when it was placed on the market, and 2014, its use increased from 3,200 tonnes per year to 825,000 tonnes. A dramatic increase that is due to the massive adoption of genetically modified seeds to tolerate it – “Roundup ready” seeds. Of all the agrochemical companies that could be affected by measures of restriction or prohibition of the product, there is one that risks its very survival. Monsanto, which has developed it, has made glyphosate the keystone of its economic model. She built her fortune by selling and the Roundup and the seeds that support it. So when the IARC announces that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic,” the American firm reacts with unprecedented brutality. In a statement, she vilified IARC “junk science”: a “biased selection” of “limited data”, based on “hidden motivations”, leading to a decision made after only “a few Hours of discussion during a one-week meeting “. Never before had an enterprise challenged the integrity of an agency under the responsibility of the United Nations. The offensive is launched. The one that takes place in the open air, at least.
Because internally, Monsanto plays a completely different music. This evaluation of glyphosate, as is well known, was carried out by a group of experts who, after a year’s work, met several days in Lyon to deliberate. IARC procedures require that the manufacturers affected by the product under review have the right to attend this final meeting. For the evaluation of glyphosate, Monsanto had sent an “observer”, the epidemiologist Tom Sorahan, a professor at the University of Birmingham (UK), whom she employs for consultant missions. The report he sent to his sponsors on 14 March 2015 assures him that everything has been done according to the rules of the art. “I found the chair [of the working group], the co-chairs and the invited guests very friendly and willing to respond to all the comments I made,” wrote Mr. Sorahan in an email sent to a Monsanto executive And which appears in the “Monsanto papers” – a set of internal documents of the firm that the American justice began to make public in early 2017 in the course of ongoing trials.
(The article describes how intimidating letters were sent to the UN panel by Monsanto’s lawyers, and continues with political pressure…)
Republican Jason Chaffetz writes to NIH Director Francis Collins on September 26, 2016. IARC’s choices “have provoked much controversy,” he wrote. And despite its “history of polemics, retractions and inconsistencies”, IARC benefits from “significant US taxpayer funding” through grants from the NIH. Indeed, 1.2 million euros out of the 40 million euros of annual budget of the IARC come from a subsidy of the NIH. To their director, therefore, Jason Chaffetz requested details and justification of any NIH expenditure related to the IARC.
In the months following the publication of the “Monograph 112”, Croplife International, the organization that defends the interests of pesticide and seed companies worldwide, is approaching the representatives of some of the twenty-five member states of the Governance Council Of the IARC to complain about the quality of the Agency’s work. These “participating States” contribute about 70% to the total budget of IARC. At least three of them – Canada, the Netherlands and Australia – were approached, according to IARC. Throughout the year 2016, characters almost out of a novel by John Le Carré also made their appearance in the saga of glyphosate.
In June, a man who presents himself as a journalist but does not announce himself or herself as a participant, is attending the conference that the CIRC is organizing in Lyon for its fiftieth anniversary.The strange Mr. Watts As a scientist as an international civil servant, the individual asks about the functioning of IARC, its funding, its program of monographs, and so on.
“It made me think of those troubled people we meet in the humanitarian community – we never know who they are, but we guess they are making intelligence,” says one participant at the conference, who wants to keep ‘anonymity. A few months later, at the end of October 2016, the man reappeared. This time at the annual conference organized by the Ramazzini Institute, a renowned and respected cancer research organization based near Bologna, Italy.
Why the Ramazzini? A report, perhaps, with the announcement, made a few months earlier by the Italian institute, that he was going to conduct his own carcinogenicity study on glyphosate? Christopher Watts – it’s his name – asks questions about the independence of the institute, its sources of funding.
As he used an e-mail address that ended with “@ economist.com,” his interlocutors did not question his affiliation to the prestigious British weekly The Economist. To the scientists who ask him for details, he says he works for the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a consulting firm subsidiary of the British press group. At the EIU, it was confirmed that Mr. Watts had indeed produced several reports, but said he was “unable to say in what capacity he attended” the two conferences.
“At that time, he was working on an article for The Economist, which was not finally published,” it adds. Surprising, because in the editorial of the weekly, it is said to have “no journalist of that name”.
Within a few months, at least five individuals would have presented themselves as journalists, independent researchers or law firm assistants to approach IARC scientists and researchers associated with its work. All inquiring about very specific information about the procedures and funding of the agency. Another of them, Miguel Santos-Neves, who works for Ergo, a New York-based economic intelligence firm, has been pinned up by US justice for identity theft.
As the New York Times reported in July 2016, Mr. Santos-Neves was investigating Uber on a personality in dispute with the company, and questioned his professional entourage on false pretenses.
(The article continues and closes…)
The attacks on the Ramazzini and the IARC are not likely to stop. Because, after glyphosate, other strategic chemicals are listed in the IARC “Priorities” list for the period 2014-2019. Pesticides, but also bisphenol A (BPA) and aspartame. The NIEHS is one of the world’s leading funders of BPA toxicity research. Aspartame, the study that alerted the carcinogenic properties of the sweetener was carried out several years ago … by the Ramazzini Institute.
“I was not aware of it before all that,” whispered Fiorella Belpoggi, “but if we get rid of IARC, NIEHS and the Ramazzini Institute, we get rid of three symbols of science independence. ” A science that has become a threat to economic interests worth hundreds of billions of euros.