A new court filing made on Friday, February 10th, has indicated that The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may be aiding Monsanto in covering up the cancer-causing effects of Roundup. Included in the filing is correspondence dated March 4, 2013, from a 30-year EPA veteran accusing scientist EPA Jess Rowland of playing “conniving games with the science” to favor herbicide manufacturers. Rowland was responsible for assessing the risk of cancer associated with glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, and was a noted author in a report finding that the herbicide was not likely to cause cancer. This argument is directly challenged by a statement made by the late EPA toxicologist Marion Copley, who said, “It is essentially certain that glyphosate causes cancer.” Copley went on to accuse Rowland of intimidating his staff into changing reports related to the glyphosate findings and aiding Monsato’s attempts to brush the matter under the rug. However, Copley left the EPA in 2012 when she became terminally ill with breast cancer and passed away in January 2014 at the age of 66.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also declared glyphosate to be a carcinogen in March 2015. Monsanto responded to this claim by attempting to start a campaign aimed at discrediting the IARC. Monsanto maintains in a recent filing there is no evidence that Roundup is “unreasonably dangerous”, stating further that there is insufficient evidence linking glyphosate to cancer, period.
All plaintiffs in the case are suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma or have lost a loved one to the cancer. They’ve stated that Roundup has contaminated their drinking water, and the same chemical that is responsible for killing weeds also kills healthy bacteria in the gut, leading to a slew of digestive issues. The plaintiffs take issue with the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) being closely tied to Rowland and allege he is aiding in its efforts to disguise the carcinogenic effects of the chemical. Rowland was deputy division director of the OPP up until last year. He was also a chair on the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC).
Attorneys for the plaintiffs are hoping to be able to unveil additional documents discrediting Rowland’s assessments. While Monsanto turned some of these over in the course of discovery, the company asked for them to be kept confidential. The plaintiffs are also seeking to depose Rowland, their attorneys stating, “The Plaintiffs have a pressing need for Mr. Rowland’s testimony to confirm his relationship with Monsanto”. However, the request has been denied by both Monsanto and the EPA. It seems the attorneys have attempted to adequately lay out their case, but their requests have been challenged every step of the way. On Monday, Monsanto attorneys even asked for Judge Vince Chhabria to block the plaintiffs from including copies of the documents obtained in discovery as exhibits, so as to keep them hidden from the public, indicating that exposing these documents would stir up unfair prejudice. The judge agreed.
While the EPA stated it would finalize its glyphosate assessments regarding the safety of the chemical use in 2015, the date keeps getting pushed back. The agency is now indicating the findings will be completed by the end of 2017. Only time will tell.