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How Monsanto fought a negative assessment of Roundup active ingredient glyphosate

Published: March 12, 2019
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Source: cbc.ca

In March 2015, agrochemical giant Monsanto had a problem. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announced that glyphosate, the principal ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup weed-killer product, was probably carcinogenic to humans.

Negative results from the IARC panel, which identifies and evaluates environmental causes of cancer in humans, could mean a potential hit to the company's profitability. Roundup is a major profit generator for Monsanto. In 2015, Monsanto made nearly $4.76 billion US in sales and $1.9 billion in gross profits from its "agricultural productivity" sector, a large part of which was made up of Roundup sales, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

A review by CBC/Radio-Canada of internal Monsanto documents disclosed in the court case of Dewayne Johnson, who sued Monsanto and won $78 million last October, showed the many efforts the company took to fight the IARC assessment.

The documents also reveal communications between Monsanto and a Canadian firm hired to recruit scientists to publish studies that ultimately defended glyphosate — some of which were secretly reviewed by Monsanto prior to publication. All those papers, as previously reported by CBC/Radio-Canada, were also used as part of Health Canada's re-approval process of glyphosate in 2017.

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Most of us take it for granted that the food and drinks we buy from the store are not putting our health at risk.However, new research from public health groups and scientists from the past several years indicates that food and drinks are contaminated with glyphosate, the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup. This is a potential health problem because in 2015 the World Health Organization found that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, and in 2017, the state of California agreed.

German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer is set to face a second US trial over allegations that its glyphosate-based weed killer Roundup causes cancer. This is six months after the company was rocked by a $289-million verdict by a California state court.

A far-reaching new scientific analysis found that the weed-killing chemical glyphosate is far more dangerous than U.S. government officials admit,  showing a 41 percent increased risk of developing cancer for people who have frequent exposure.

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