A newly released confidential, internal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) document from 2016 suggested that several studies reported elevated risks of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) associated with exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weed and grass killer.
Intercept journalist Sharon Lerner, who obtained the report for her investigation on the influence of pesticide companies on the EPA, wrote that the four highest-quality studies out of 13 epidemiological studies demonstrated that the risk of developing NHL was even controlled for exposure to other pesticides, and concluded that the research “provides suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential between glyphosate exposure and increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”
However, the EPA never published the report and opted instead to publish reports drawn from an earlier document that concluded glyphosate is “not a probable carcinogen,” despite the fact that several sections of different reports have identical wording.
Genna Reed, a senior analyst with the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Lerner that the EPA cherry-picked data from the internal report.
“They only used the pieces of the meta-analysis that fit the conclusion they wanted to support … There is clearly a need for more firewalls to prevent political interference with the science,” Reed told Lerner.
After a 2015 meeting of experts at the International Agency for Research on Cancer—under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO)—identified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen, the EPA officially maintained that glyphosate does not cause cancer.
According to The Defender, the EPA blocked California’s attempt to put a warning label on glyphosate-based herbicides sold within the state, even after the 2016 internal report suggested evidence of toxicity.
California’s Proposition 65 list of carcinogenic chemicals was supposed to have included glyphosate in the summer of 2018, roughly around the same time Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto was finalized for $63 billion. With the addition of glyphosate to Prop 65, Roundup and other herbicides would have included a cancer warning label.
However, a federal judge later banned California’s attempt to add a cancer warning label on glyphosate-based herbicides.
Now that this newly-revealed EPA report has been released, a 2020 appeal filed by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra may favor the issuance of a Prop 65 warning.
In 2016, the first Roundup cancer lawsuit was filed. Since then, more than 125,000 individuals have filed Roundup suits. Last year, Monsanto’s owner, Bayer AG, agreed to settle approximately 95,000 of those suits for more than $10 billion.
Three Roundup lawsuits have gone to trial. Juries in all three trials sided with the plaintiffs and found that glyphosate was responsible for their cancer.
In July, as part of an effort to stem future litigation expenses, Bayer announced that it would halt commercial sales of Roundup by 2023 and reformulate its line of glyphosate-based herbicides with other active ingredients.
But Roundup can still be sold for agricultural uses. This means glyphosate can still be used for crops and “can still be sprayed in schools, parks and other public settings,” stated the Defender, which drew a parallel between Bayer’s decision to commercially remove glyphosate and that of Dow Chemical’s 20 years ago to remove chlorpyrifos, a highly neurotoxic pesticide. Chlorpyrifos was banned by the EPA last month.