Monsanto Co. doesn't have the best reputation, but since the revelation that the company had its own researchers to write safety reviews, the company may never recover.
After creating “Roundup Ready” genetically modified seeds developed to withstand the effects of the company's notorious Roundup herbicide, a great number of farmers quickly ditched whatever they were using. As a result, Roundup's main ingredient, the chemical glyphosate, became the world's most used crop chemical.
Unfortunately, a series of researchers, scientists, and health leaders started raising concerns regarding the chemical. But despite all criticism, the company repeatedly claimed that its product had been approved by external sources after rigorous scientific review.
Now, it appears that these reviews weren't as “rigorous” or even as detached from the company as they led us to believe.
Thanks to several lawsuits against the company, dozens of internal Monsanto emails have been released publicly after a pretrial discovery. The documents were posted online by some of the plaintiffs' attorneys. But Monsanto claims these documents should not have been unveiled. Despite the company's protest, attorneys claim Monsanto missed the 30-day window the defendant has to object.
Thanks to the discovery and publishing of these documents, we now know that Monsanto found a way to convince the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology to publish an “independent” review of Roundup's health effects that heavily involved Monsanto scientists as well as the company's chief of regulatory science, William Heydens.
Hiring a consulting firm to work on its behalf, the company was able to work closely with the panelists on the review without directly associating Monsanto researchers and scientists with the project.
According to emails disclosed by the attorneys, we know that not only did Monsanto staff review the drafts submitted by outside experts, but they also edited and even vetoed some “inflammatory” comments made by panelists.
Thanks to Monsanto's involvement, the review was able to serve as a rebuttal of a 2015 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) assessment that stated that glysphosate was probably a human carcinogen. But now that we know Monsanto's own staff was involved in editing and shaping the discoveries made by the “independent” panel involved in the rebuttal, we can say that the original 2015 assessment stands mostly unchallenged.
As the company battles over 1,000 lawsuits, plaintiffs are claiming they have contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to the herbicide. Thanks to the documents released recently, these victims might as well obtain the justice they deserve.
Thankfully, this discovery will prompt a more stern market response to Monsanto products. Now that consumers know the company's tactics, they also have the tools needed to pressure food producers to stop making use of “Roundup Ready” seeds and Roundup herbicides.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Mike Blake