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Conflicting Reports Concerning Monsanto's Roundup® Products

On June 19, 2017


An article originally published by Reuters on June 14, 2017, seemingly calls into question the carcinogenicity studies performed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on glyphosate, the main chemical ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup® family of herbicide products. In 2015, the IARC classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, meaning that the researchers found sufficient evidence that people who are exposed to the chemical are more likely to develop cancer. However, the Reuters' article casts doubt on these findings by citing "previously unreported court documents" that show that a senior epidemiologist had knowledge of an unpublished study that showed no connection between the chemical and cancer.

Dr. Aaron Blair of the U.S. National Cancer Institute stated in a sworn deposition that this data may have altered the IARC's analysis and would have made it less likely that glyphosate would meet the agency's criteria for the carcinogenicity classification. Dr. Blair also stated that this data was excluded from the IARC analysis because the agency's rules on assessing substances only permit published research, and this data had not been published. The Reuters article also quoted two experts who were "independent of Monsanto" as saying that the research was sound and they could see no reason why it had been held back from publication. 

"Flawed Reuters Story"

Two days after the Reuters story was published, the Huffington Post responded with a report that called the original article a "well-orchestrated and highly coordinated media coup." This report digs into the Reuters piece and finds that it is seriously flawed, attempts to conceal or mislabel source material, and that it may be "part of an ongoing and carefully crafted effort by Monsanto and the pesticide industry to discredit IARC's work." 

The report first addresses the "previously unreported court documents" that were cited by Kate Kelland in the Reuters article. These documents have not been filed in court and are therefore not yet available to the public. However, the deposition that Kelland references, as well as other documents, had been made available to Monsanto's legal team as part of the discovery process in the Roundup lawsuit that is pending in San Francisco, CA. The Huffington Post report alleges that Kelland cited court reports to avoid "addressing whether or not Monsanto had spoon-fed records to her." Additionally, by not linking to the full deposition, the comments that were cited in the Reuters article could be taken out of context. 

The report then addresses one of the independent experts that was quoted heavily in the Reuters article. Bob Tarone stated that the IARC's evaluation of glyphosate is "flawed and incomplete." However, Tarone himself has acknowledged that he is a paid consultant of Monsanto, and work that he had previously published in scientific journals on glyphosate is being corrected to include information about his potential conflict of interest.

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