Quit the Glyphosate Conspiracy Theories
On January 16th the Sacramento Bee ran an op-ed by Nathan Donley telling Americans: Don’t let EPA and Monsanto hide the truth on Roundup. As its conspiratorial headline suggests, Donley’s article is a mess of half truths and bad science designed to fool readers into believing that the popular herbicide Roundup is dangerous.
Because Donley so badly missed the mark, and the Bee declined to publish a rebuttal, I’d like to set the record straight here. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is perfectly safe when used as directed, and the only people who claim otherwise are ideologues with an agenda.
Regurgitating Conspiracy Theories
Donley begins his piece with the outlandish claim that Monsanto has waged a 40-year campaign “to discredit research indicating the pesticide is a carcinogen.” The company succeeded, Donley says, because the U.S. EPA just recently concluded that glyphosate doesn’t cause cancer.
It’s true that the biotech giant has vigorously defended its flagship weed control product--but so has everybody else. Every scientific, regulatory, or health body that has reviewed the voluminous literature on glyphosate’s toxicity (except one I’ll discuss below) has declared that glyphosate is safe when used according to its label.
Parenthetically, Donley hints at how dubious his case is when he writes that 300 millions pounds of the herbicide have been “dumped” on farms and gardens across America. Considering its ubiquity and supposed danger, why don’t we all have cancer? There’s simply no way such a popular product could escape the scrutiny of independent experts, most of whom aren’t very fond of corporations anyway.
“The Most Rigorous Analysis”
So if the expert consensus tells us that glyphosate is safe, how can Donley argue with a straight face that we should be concerned about the health risks posed by Roundup? Well, you see, “the most rigorous analysis of independent, peer-reviewed research” says so. Donley is referring to the 2015 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) monograph that declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen.
Donley doesn’t mention that Congress is investigating IARC for corruption and may cut off funding to the U.N. agency, because their report deliberately excluded studies that didn’t fit their predetermined conclusion. Moreover, one of the IARC experts involved in the monograph’s production was paid $160,000 by lawyers who were planning to sue Monsanto once the agency’s report was released. Despite these damning charges, Donley calls IARC’s work “the gold standard for cancer research.” Independent cancer researchers, however, argue that IARC’s methods are “outmoded and serve neither science nor society.” Additionally, IARC does no research. They review published research, so if key studies are omitted their conclusions are highly biased.
Ideology Over Facts
After shamelessly repeating dozens of myths about Roundup, Donley wraps up his screed with the assertion “that Monsanto and the Scott Pruitt-led EPA want no part of a truly independent scientific process.” But evaluation of the hundreds of independent reports match the Monsanto-Pruitt conclusion. How could Donley possibly be so wrong? The man has a Ph.D. in cellular biology, after all. My best guess is that he’s an ideologue whose worldview trumps the evidence. The fact that he’s employed by an anti-GMO activist group confirms this analysis if you think I’m being mean. It’s also worth noting that Donley’s arguments come almost entirely out of U.S. Right to Know’s (USRTK) playbook. In case you’re unaware, USRTK is an organic industry-funded front group whose dishonesty has been thoroughly documented.
Corporations aren't perfect, and I haven't hesitated to criticize big biotech firms in the past for their malfeasance. However, there is no corporate conspiracy to conceal the risks posed by Roundup. Someone in this debate is ignoring independent science. But it isn’t Monsanto.