Health News Digest


May 13, 2019

Glyphosate: How A Safe Chemical Is Being Maligned By Greedy Elites

By Michael D. Shaw

You may have heard of the pesticide Glyphosate—first introduced in 1974. It targets a broad range of weeds and is important in the production of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and glyphosate-resistant field crops such as corn and soybeans. The compound has also been the subject of high-profile and controversial litigation, as well as much scientific study.

The EPA has been involved with this chemical from the outset, and recently reaffirmed that “[T]here are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen.” Moreover, since glyphosate was introduced, all regulatory assessments have established that it poses low hazard potentials to mammals and does not show enough evidence to be considered carcinogenic.

But, there is the matter of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) ranking glyphosate a Group 2A carcinogen (probably carcinogenic to humans). Bear in mind that IARC also puts red meat consumption into Group 2A, while processed meat falls into Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans)—the same group containing cigarettes and mustard gas. Here is more detail on the IARC groups.

Notably, the findings of this single agency—which disagreed with essentially everyone else—spawned millions’ of dollars worth of litigation. After all, there are deep pockets, and the plaintiff’s attorneys have willing accomplices in the fear entrepreneur “environmental” groups.

However, a Reuters investigative article found that IARC dismissed and edited findings from a draft of its review that were at odds with its final Group 2A conclusion. “Reuters found 10 significant changes that were made between the draft chapter on animal studies and the published version of IARC’s glyphosate assessment. In each case, a negative conclusion about glyphosate leading to tumors was either deleted or replaced with a neutral or positive one.”

A piece in Forbes echoed these complaints, and also referred to an article written by Robert Tarone, who spent 28 years as Mathematical Statistician at the US National Cancer Institute and 14 years as Biostatistics Director at the International Epidemiology Institute. Tarone found that IARC highlighted certain positive results from the rodent studies they relied upon in the deliberations, and, glaringly, ignored contradictory negative results from the same studies. He also found that an inappropriate statistical test was used, making the data look more impressive than they were.

Tarone concluded, “When all relevant data from the rodent carcinogenicity studies of glyphosate relied on by the Working Group are evaluated together, it is clear that the conclusion that there is sufficient evidence that glyphosate is an animal carcinogen is not supported empirically. Even a conclusion that there is limited evidence of animal carcinogenicity would be difficult to support…” Likewise, he found that IARC’s case for glyphosate’s association with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma also resulted from favoring certain study results, rather than considering the totality of the evidence.

There is also proof of a disturbing conflict of interest involving scientist Christopher Portier, who, as a chair of an IARC committee had proposed that the agency undertake a review of glyphosate in the first place. He was instrumental in the 2A finding, and then signed a lucrative contract to act as a litigation consultant for two law firms that were preparing to sue Monsanto on behalf of glyphosate cancer victims.

We should also address the recent highly-publicized study from Zhang et al. The media was quick to tout this paper’s finding linking glyphosate to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but the work has been widely criticized…

1.     The research, measured no chemicals, and examined no cancer patients. Rather, it was simply a review of other papers published between 2001 and 2018. Regardless of the clear agenda of the senior author (ideological conflicts of interest need not be declared) reviewers gave the paper a pass, even though the brew was a mix of human and animal data, a red flag at more reputable journals, and threw very different methods into one mixture.

2.     It cherry-picks data, and combines incompatible data. This is not comparing or combining apples with apples, but apples with oranges and is one reason for the skewed results. It combines data from studies that controlled for exposure to other pesticides with data from studies that did not. Combining flawed case control studies into a meta-analysis only repeats the methodological problems with those studies. This is a classic case of garbage in, garbage out.

Do the elites and litigators who advocate pesticide-free agriculture really believe that we can feed the world in that manner? Do they really believe the junk science? At the very least, do they care that the price of food would certainly rise, and how that might affect the 40 million Americans who are food insecure? It’s anybody’s guess, but stoking fear is big business these days, with most of the media all too willing to comply.