The New York Times has a story today on one of my most despised products, Roundup, made by Monsanto. Roundup is the most widely used weed killer in the world and Monsanto has spent a great deal of effort genetically modifying crops to be resistant to the weed killer. It was a win-win for Monsanto as farmers bought Monsanto seeds in order to use Monsanto weed killer.
Roundup, which goes by the chemical name of glyphosate, has always been surrounded by a suspicion that it is a carcinogen. I remember, years ago, my doctor railed against Roundup, describing its chemical composition as being almost exactly like formaldehyde which is a known and recognized carcinogen. The idea of spraying the food that we eat with this stuff was insanity and it is.
Finally, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, determined that Roundup was indeed a carcinogen linked to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. That finding prompted lawsuits from people who had developed that disease and the court case ins currently ongoing.
Monsanto was tipped off to the fact that the IARC was going to determine Roundup a carcinogen by a friendly partner in the EPA. With that advance knowledge, the company brought the full force of its PR machine against that finding. Internal emails produced during discovery prompted by the litigation showed that Monsanto's man in the EPA, Jess Rowland, was also working to ensure the EPA would no reach a similar conclusion as the IARC as well as to kill another investigation by the Department of Health and Human Services. Rowland was a senior member of the EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs, whose work was deemed as lacking robustness and criticizing its assessments on human health by another department in the agency. Those internal emails also hint that Rowland's motivation to work with Monsanto was to get hired by Monsanto after he retired.
Another revelation from the discovery phase of the litigation was more email traffic suggesting that Monsanto wrote research reports on Roundup that were then given to scientist to publish as academic research. One Monsanto executive wrote, "We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak". He indicated that this had been done before at Monsanto.
Meanwhile, the damage that Roundup continues to inflict continues. Roundup Ready, in other words resistant, crops first appeared in 1996. But barely 20 years later, Roundup resistant weeds have already started to appear. Right now, that is actually a benefit for Monsanto because these weeds can be killed by applying even higher doses of the herbicide. The Department of Agriculture has determined that the appearance of the resistant weeds has resulted in an additional 383 million pounds of Roundup being sold. But that strategy of increasing doses can only last so long. In the meantime, we continue to bombard the food we eat with a known carcinogen. And Monsanto and its paid cronies continue to deny, deny, deny.