Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, June 7, 2017

Contact: Lori Ann Burd, (971) 717-6406, 

Inspector General Investigating Potential Collusion Between Monsanto, Top EPA Official

Controversy Casts Doubts on EPA's Cancer Assessment of Roundup's Main Ingredient

PORTLAND, Ore.— The inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating possible collusion between Monsanto and a top EPA pesticide official who recently retired. Documents released by court order indicate that the possible collusion may have resulted in a biased review of cancer risks associated with glyphosate, the most commonly used pesticide in the world and the active ingredient in Roundup.

The official, Jess Rowland, was the chair of the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee.

“The EPA is supposed to protect us from toxic chemicals, not go out of its way to protect the profits of chemical companies,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “I'm glad to see the inspector general investigating these disturbing indications that one of the EPA's top staffers may have been working with Monsanto to hide the truth about the dangers of glyphosate.”

Specifically, the documents that spurred the investigation revealed that:

  • The chair of the EPA's Cancer Assessment Review Committee on glyphosate was in regular contact with Monsanto, providing insider information that guided Monsanto's messaging;
  • The chair warned Monsanto that the World Health Organization's cancer research arm had found glyphosate to be a probable carcinogen months before the 2015 determination became public, allowing the pesticide-maker to mount a public relations attack on the finding;
  • The chair promised to thwart the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' review of glyphosate's safety, saying that if he was successful he deserved a medal. The department never did review glyphosate's safety;
  • A Monsanto executive emailed other company officials that they could hire academics to put their names on glyphosate research papers written by Monsanto, citing a previous instance where this was done. The referenced paper was used in the EPA pesticide program's own cancer analysis.

Also, in March a scientific advisory panel of independent top experts commissioned by the EPA to review its work concluded that the EPA's pesticides office failed to follow its own guidelines when it found last year that glyphosate — the active ingredient in Monsanto's flagship pesticide Roundup — is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

“The evidence of Monsanto's troubling coordination with the EPA's pesticide office, combined with an apparent disregard for established scientific guidelines, completely discredits the EPA pesticide office's conclusion that glyphosate doesn't cause cancer,” said Burd. “The 2015 finding of the World Health Organization's cancer arm that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen is still the most credible, scientifically supported finding on glyphosate's cancer risks.”

Court documents also revealed that the EPA's glyphosate cancer review committee came to its conclusion three months before the WHO analysis was published, all the while maintaining that the WHO analysis was taken into consideration.

After news of these documents became a national scandal and the EPA's pesticide office did not announce an investigation, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the pesticide office to determine the scope of the problem. The EPA has not released any documents in response to that request.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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