Agrochemical giant Monsanto, the maker of the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup filed a motion on June 16 in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California to reconsider the addition of glyphosate to California's Proposition 65 list of chemicals and substances known to cause cancer.
Monsanto based its motion on a Reuters investigation of Dr. Aaron Blair, a lead researcher with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) committee, that classified glyphosate as a "2A probable human carcinogen" in March 2015.
The Reuters article accuses Blair, a highly respected epidemiologist with the U.S. National Cancer Institute, of withholding "important" scientific data from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) he conducted with other scientists to assess the herbicide for IARC.
IARC scientists, including Blair, reviewed a large body of published, peer-reviewed scientific research on glyphosate and determined in March of 2015 that the chemical should be classified as a probable human carcinogen. The Reuters' article implies that IARC scientists were unaware of the additional AHS data and that if IARC had known about this missing data, its conclusion could have been different.
Dr. Blair, worked on both the AHS study and the IARC analysis said he supported IARC's carcinogenicity finding despite the lack of AHS results. He said that because the AHS study was unfinished and unpublished, and IARC requires that findings only rely upon studies that were complete, therefore the incomplete AHS data could not have been relied upon by IARC scientists.
Earlier this year, California became the first state in the U.S. to require Monsanto to label its Roundup products with a carcinogen warning in accordance Proposition 65. The designation resulted from IARC's glyphosate classification. However, that designation was upheld by a Fresno Superior Court Judge on March 30.
Glyphosate is implicated in hundreds of cancer lawsuits where plaintiffs across the U.S. claim that they or their loved ones developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma resulting from exposure to glyphosate in Monsanto’s Roundup products, based on IARC’s classification of the pesticide as a probable human carcinogen.
While Monsanto continues to steadfastly defend the safety of its market leading product the company along with its industry allies accused Blair of deliberately concealing data, a charge he denied.
Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with Consumers Union, said the Reuters report "omits the fact that the data from the other epidemiology studies (all case control studies), and the meta-analyses, clearly show a statistically significant increase in non-Hodgkin's lymphoma with glyphosate exposure."
Carey Gillam, a veteran journalist who worked for Reuters for 17 years before joining the non-profit consumer group U.S. Right to Know in 2016, claims "Monsanto clearly planted that false and misleading story with Reuters and now is exploiting the carefully spun story to try to gain political advantage."
Environmental Lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. was more to the point about the company’s last-ditch motion, calling it “a classic smoke and mirrors flim-flam."
Kennedy is leading multi-district lawsuits on behalf of dozens of California residents and hundreds of people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma throughout the U.S. who allege exposure to Roundup causes cancer.
Kennedy added. "Like all of its other products and campaigns, Monsanto's motion is equal parts poison, deception, and chutzpah."
Monsanto's petition for review and application for the stay were denied by the California Supreme Court on June 22.