Shedding Light in the Darkness

How U.S. Politicians Try to Suppress Concerns About Roundup

roundupWhat happens when conservative American politicians aligned with the chemical industry object to a World Health Organization International Agency for Cancer Research report that the herbicide glyphosate in Roundup might be carcinogenic? You try to cut off U.S. funding to the agency. It’s the same insidious strategy that was employed by U.S. politicians to threaten WHO funding over a report on the danger of sugar.

So the “In Defense of Scientific Integrity: Examining the IARC Monograph Programme and Glyphosate Review,” took place on February 6, in Washington, D.C. The hearing was held by the Science, Space and Technology Committee, and led by its chair, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, who has previously blocked the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate industrial excesses, and curbed research on climate change.

In his opening statement on the 6th Smith demonstrated his obvious bias. “Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world,” he stated. “There are real repercussions to IARC’s unsubstantiated claims, which are not backed by reliable data. There appear to be serious problems with the science underlying IARC’s assessment of glyphosate. It has become apparent that the Monograph on glyphosate uses nothing more than cherry-picked science created by those that have a financial stake in the resulting conclusions. The selective use of data and the lack of public disclosure raise questions about why IARC should receive any government funding in the future.”

According to the law firm Baum, Hedlund, Aristei and Goldman, who are spearheading a Monsanto lawsuit, all of Rep. Smith’s assertions were false. They reported the hearing should probably have been named “Monsanto’s Daily Glyphosate Talking Points.”

The witness lineup was stacked with chemical industry cheerleaders like Dr. Tim Pastoor, who was a Principal Scientist at the Swiss agrochemical giant Syngenta.

What did Pastoor have to say? “The International Agency for Research on Cancer Monographs program is an antiquated review process that is based on the state of scientific knowledge a half a century ago. It has done little to keep up with advances in science and the protection of human health in the intervening years. While cancer classification systems such as IARC’s may have served a useful purpose when they were created, they are as irrelevant today as the telegraph or 8-track tape player.”

He even has the gall to quote 16th century physician Paracelsus in dismissing cancer concerns. “Paracelsus noted that “the dose makes the poison.” He understood that anything at a high enough dose is poisonous, but at a low enough dose that same substance will be completely harmless. The same holds true for substances that could possibly cause cancer. Many things that could cause cancer at extremely high doses are harmless at levels likely encountered by human beings. IARC simply ignores this essential fact. if one were to take IARC seriously, there would be little if anything we could eat.”

Jennifer Sass, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, was one of the few who were allowed to testify in defense of IARC. Sass declared: “Because of its scientific excellence and its scientific and regulatory relevance, IARC enjoys overwhelming support from the global scientific and medical community.”

She went on to outline how the agrochemical has lined up to attack the IARC noting how, “Today’s hearing supports the agrochemical industry agenda to discredit and ultimately defund IARC.

She ended her testimony, “this hearing is about the ability of a public health agency to call a carcinogen a carcinogen, even if it makes a huge amount of money for a powerful corporation. Are we willing to sell out the public’s right to know about harmful chemicals in the places we work, live, and play, just so that Monsanto Co. can sell more glyphosate?”




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