Monsanto and the EPA: A Love Story
It would be easy to believe the Environmental Protection Agency’s mission “to protect human health and the environment” — after all, environment is right, smack in the government agency’s very name — but that would be quite the mistake. In fact, judging the EPA’s magical manipulation of testing and data concerning glyphosate — the chief ingredient in Monsanto’s weedkiller, Roundup — it’s arguable the government ‘watchdog’ functions primarily as a de facto propaganda division for the agrichemical behemoth.
While the World Health Organization’s classification earlier this year of glyphosate as a Group 2A probable carcinogen — probable cause of cancer in the same category as creosote, among other noxious substances — is well-known and accepted, Monsanto’s leverage means Roundup isn’t likely to be pulled from store shelves in the U.S. any time soon. That leverage, however entertaining the resulting propaganda might be, bears potentially harmful consequences.
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This government propaganda — unlike the inane political quibbling between presidential candidates — could be directly harmful to your health.
In June, the EPA found “no convincing evidence” glyphosate acts as an endocrine disruptor. How the agency reached this conclusion involved quite a bit of distortion and manipulation, as The Intercept points out in a recent report:
But the EPA’s exoneration — which means that the agency will not require any further tests of the chemicals’ effects on the hormonal system — is undercut by the fact that the decision was based almost entirely on pesticide industry studies. Only five independent studies were considered in the review of whether glyphosate interferes with the endocrine system. Twenty-seven out of 32 studies that looked at glyphosate’s effect on hormones and were cited in the June review — much of which are not publicly available and were obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request — were either conducted or funded by the industry. Most of the studies were sponsored by Monsanto or an industry group called the Joint Glyphosate Task Force. One study was by Syngenta, which sells its own glyphosate-containing pesticide, Touchdown.
At issue are the genetically modified crops that now dominate American farmland — in particular, those known as “Roundup-ready” since their very design mandates thorough dousings of the herbicide. Incidentally, though marketed and widely known as a weedkiller, glyphosate is more accurately deemed a pesticide — the chemical kills foliage and other living organisms by design. Its endocrine-disrupting properties, though proven in myriad peer-reviewed studies, have been either obfuscated or completely ignored by the EPA.
To wit: a study sponsored by Monsanto in 1980 inexplicably concluded that a “statistically significant” increase in failure of embryo implantation from glyphosate exposure was somehow a random occurrence. Similarly, in 1990, as The Intercept reports, a 14% increase in pancreatic cancer of rats exposed must have been “unrelated to glyphosate administration” since higher doses of the chemical saw a drop in that same rate.
Professor of Biology Laura Vandenberg explained, “We see effects at levels that are 1,000 times lower” than what the EPA delineated as a cutoff level. “It’s like putting your deaf grandfather in front of a TV and asking him if he can hear it and when he says no, you conclude the TV is off.”
As with many activities of government, budget dictates results. Monsanto netted a whopping $15.8 billion in profit in 2014 — around twice the EPA’s annual budget — allowing the agrichemical menace the best study conclusions money can buy.
The EPA’s willingness to warp science — and therefore the truth — shows the true depth of its love for Monsanto. This unholy matrimony between the EPA and Monsanto has resulted in sound science’s divorce from the planet’s health.
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