The European Union is poised this week to enact a continent-wide ban on glyphosate, a safe and popular weedkiller used by millions of farmers around the world. The vote to outlaw glyphosate—better known as Roundup to us city and suburban folk—will be the culmination of a deceptive yet well-orchestrated effort led by “green” activists that has absolutely nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with punishing U.S. companies such as Monsanto, the maker of Roundup.
If the EU bans glyphosate, it will set the stage to enact the same regulations here, which could be a devastating blow to American farmers who rely on the herbicide to grow the world’s most abundant supply of grains. Glyphosate is a key farm chemical that helps farmers control weeds and boost yields. It is also used on public spaces, parks, and lawns around the country. U.S. consumers are already being warned about “glyphosate residue” showing up in food samples, breast milk, and drinking water. The scare campaign is in full swing.
The EU ban looks very likely to pass. Germany, Italy, and France are staunch supporters; French President Emmanuel Macron is lobbying hard for its passage and has outraged his country’s farmers by capitulating to Green Party bullies on this. (France is Europe’s top grower of wheat, corn, and barley.)
Graeme Taylor, spokesman for the European Crop Protection Association, said “glyphosate has been used safely for the past 40 years, and I’m concerned that if we engage in this hysteria, inevitably what will happen is that we will sleepwalk into a food crisis in Europe.” The United Kingdom, Poland, and Spain oppose the ban.
The Crusade Rests on Crumbling Science
As this calamity unfolds across the Atlantic, the credibility of the scientific report central to the glyphosate-ban crusade is rapidly disintegrating and Congress is continuing to investigate how the report was handled. In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report concluding glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. IARC, under the purview of the World Health Organization, is the only major scientific organization to make that claim and has since been heavily criticized by other international scientific groups and governmental agencies.
Members of the IARC committee who worked on the report have been exposed as environmental activists who cherry-picked questionable data to reach a politically motivated conclusion. Congress is also reviewing federal funding for IARC and investigating whether likeminded officials in Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) colluded with IARC members to help draft the dubious report.
Despite its weak scientific mooring and shady authorship, the report has been widely embraced by the media and cited by activists as the reason glyphosate use should be stopped. (This summer, California added glyphosate to its Prop 65 list of possible carcinogens that must be labeled.) It is also an evidentiary bonanza for law firms now trolling for litigants to sue Monsanto and exploit cancer-stricken farmers and their families who now believe glyphosate is responsible for causing the disease.
Key Figure Exposed for Major Conflicts of Interest
But a funny thing happened on the way to the deposition. A key figure in the IARC glyphosate committee, Christopher Portier, an American scientist and environmental activist, revealed in testimony last month that he was hired as an expert consultant nine days after the glyphosate report was released, by one of the law firms representing glyphosate “victims.” He signed a contract and collected a $5,000 retainer. Portier was the guy who pushed to have glyphosate evaluated by IARC. He also admitted that he was in conversations with one of the law firms two months before IARC finalized the report.
According to his testimony, Portier, a former employee of the Environmental Defense Fund, has been paid $160,000 over the past two years by law firms that are suing Monsanto. According to a blog post defending Portier, he has another $30,000 in outstanding billable hours for his work on these lawsuits and more pay dirt ahead as litigation continues.
As he sought to influence U.S. and European regulators who were preparing their own studies on glyphosate, Portier failed to divulge this egregious conflict of interest. His bottom-feeding benefactors made sure of it: Portier signed an agreement that stipulated he would not disclose his work “to media organizations, trade journals, professional publications, members of the public or other purported experts.”
Asked during questioning whether, “in your submissions to these regulators, you do not disclose your relationship as an expert in private litigation against Monsanto, do you?” Portier answered, “I do not recall in my letters to EPA whether I did such a thing.” Portier’s testimony also revealed his ongoing contact with officials at Obama’s EPA. That agency repeatedly delayed releasing its own final report on glyphosate, although two internal studies concluded the herbicide is non-carcinogenic.
A Study ‘Based on Predetermined Outcomes’
These latest revelations have not gone unnoticed by Congress. “This new information heightens our concerns about the IARC report’s objectivity,” Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee, told me via email. “It also raises questions as to whether the study is based on scientific facts or rather on pre-determined outcomes that advance the personal and political goals of those involved.” The committee is already investigating a sketchy Italian “scientific” organization with close ties to IARC that receives U.S. tax dollars and of which Portier is a fellow.
But that’s not all. This week, a Reuters reporter compared IARC’s draft with the final version and found edits were made to support the conclusion that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen. Reuters “found 10 significant changes that were made between the draft chapter and the published version of IARC’s glyphosate assessment. In each case, a negative conclusion about glyphosate [finding it had no harmful effects] was either deleted or replaced with a neutral or positive one.”
It is now obvious that this outlier report was prepared and promoted by dishonest activists to wage an international assault on a safe, necessary chemical just because they hate the company that makes it. Even more shameful is that EU leaders are capitulating to these charlatans, destroying the livelihood of European farmers, disrupting the international food supply, and potentially causing a food crisis in Europe. But they are not sleepwalking. Their eyes are wide open to this sham.