Shedding Light in the Darkness

Monsanto’s War on the International Agency for Research on Cancer

glyphosate-is-good-for-meEver since the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer released a report suggesting that glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling pesticide Roundup, could cause cancer, there has been a relentless campaign to discredit the agency.

One of the champions of that campaign is journalist Kate Kelland, who works for the Reuters news agency. Her latest critique, published October 19, announced the IARC “dismissed and edited findings from a draft of its review of the weedkiller glyphosate that were at odds with its final conclusion that the chemical probably causes cancer.”

She continued: “Documents seen by Reuters show how a draft of a key section of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) assessment of glyphosate – a report that has prompted international disputes and multi-million-dollar lawsuits – underwent significant changes and deletions before the report was finalised and made public.”

“One effect of the changes to the draft, reviewed by Reuters in a comparison with the published report, was the removal of multiple scientists’ conclusions that their studies had found no link between glyphosate and cancer in laboratory animals.”

Kelland’s article was soon promoted by agencies such as the Kaiser Family Foundation. Even the liberal Morning Consult has highlighted her findings. “Reuters reported on new data that might mean the final nail in the coffin for allegations that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the world’s most widely used weed killer, is a known carcinogen.”

In June she reported that Monsanto told Reuters, that fresh data on glyphosate could and should have been published in time to be considered and that the failure to publish it undermined IARC’s classification of glyphosate. “The company told Reuters the data was deliberately concealed.”

In support of her argument Kelland offers a quote by David Spiegelhalter of the University of Cambridge, a member of the London-based Science Media Centre, which promotes the agro-chemical industry. Spiegelhalter has written: “In Britain we don’t have these massive fears of GMOs.” The SMC is funded by Bayer, DuPont, Monsanto, Coca-Cola and food and chemical industry trade groups.

The non-profit U.S. Right to Know came out swinging against Kelland’s biased polemic noting: “The American Chemistry Council, the chemical industry trade group, immediately issued a press release praising Kelland’s story, claiming her story “undermines IARC’s conclusions about glyphosate” and urging policy makers to “take action against IARC over deliberate manipulation of data.”

“Kelland’s story quoted a Monsanto executive claiming that “IARC members manipulated and distorted scientific data” but failed to mention the significant amount of evidence that has emerged from Monsanto’s own documents through court-ordered discovery that demonstrate the many ways the company has worked to manipulate and distort data on glyphosate over decades.

“The story also failed to mention that most of the research IARC discounted was Monsanto-financed work that did not have sufficient raw data to meet IARC’s standards. And though Kelland cites a 1983 mouse study and a rat study in which IARC failed to agree with the original investigators, she failed to disclose that these were studies financed by Monsanto and the investigators IARC failed to agree with were paid by Monsanto.

“She also failed to mention the critical information that in the 1983 mouse study, even the EPA toxicology branch did not agree with Monsanto’s investigators because the evidence of carcinogenicity was so strong, according to EPA documents. They said in numerous memos that Monsanto’s argument was unacceptable and suspect, and they determined glyphosate to be a possible carcinogen.

“As we have previously reported, Kelland’s earlier reporting on IARC has been deeply problematic; her stories have contained errors that Reuters refused to correct, made blatantly misleading claims about documents that were not provided to the public, and relied on industry-connected sources who were presented as independent sources.”

Monsanto’s attempts to discredit the IARC were highlighted in a major report in the French newspaper Le Monde. In a front-page series titled “The Monsanto Papers,” Le Monde (6/1/17) described the attacks as “the pesticide giant’s war on science,” and reported, “To save glyphosate, the firm (Monsanto) undertook to harm the United Nations agency against cancer by all means.”

Dubbed a “brutal multi-pronged assault” by the website, Monsanto’s attacks against the IARC were detailed by journalists Stéphane Foucart and Stéphane Horel. “The severity, scale and duration of those attacks (were) unprecedented,” said IARC’s director Christopher Wild. “This time we are the target of an orchestrated campaign of unseen scale and duration.”

Among the tactics used by Monsanto and Monsanto-affiliate organizations are: the constant hounding of IARC scientists including “intimidating and noxious” requests to surrender all files related to their work on glyphosate, the reliance on “a squadron of propagandists” to squash dissent online, and much more. Several people posing as journalists have also engaged in “legal, bureaucratic, intrusive guerrilla warfare” against the IARC on behalf of the chemical industry since the organization’s glyphosate declaration.

The report also details Monsanto’s “Let Nothing Go” program, a confidential set of social media tactics that aims to silence dissent online by hiring “individuals who appear to have no connection tot he industry who in turn post positive comments on news articles and Facebook posts, defending Monsanto, its chemicals, and GMOs.”

In a critique of Kelland’s reporting, former Reuters journalist Carey Gillam pointed out that it should be seen as “part of an ongoing and carefully crafted effort by Monsanto and the pesticide industry to discredit IARC’s work.”

So what does Kelland say about Roundup’s safety – “The safety of the chemical has been under scientific and regulatory scrutiny since the 1980s. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other international bodies, including the European Food Safety Authority, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority and Japan’s Food Safety Commission, have kept it under regular review, and all say glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.”

Her biased reporting influenced House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy who, in August, demanded answers about “possibly withheld information” that “could change” a cancer panel’s decision to list glyphosate, the main chemical in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, as a probable human carcinogen. Gowdy’s letter was heavily referenced with one source: the June 14 Reuters article by Kate Kelland.

2 responses to “Monsanto’s War on the International Agency for Research on Cancer

  1. Jeff Kirkpatrick October 22, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Reblogged this on Ban GMOs Now Blog and commented:
    Jon Woodhouse: “Monsanto’s War on the International Agency for Research on Cancer”


  2. Pingback: Jon Woodhouse: “Monsanto’s War on the International Agency for Research on Cancer” | Ban GMOs Now Blog

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