Story at-a-glance –
- Evidence now suggests taxpayers’ money has been used to shield Monsanto and other pesticide companies from liability and obstruct consumers’ ability to prove damages
- Jess Rowland, former associate director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, appears to have aided and protected Monsanto’s interests; legal teams are now requesting he be ordered to supply information about his work to ascertain quid pro quo relationships
- Rowland’s post-EPA work includes consulting for three chemical companies and that work involves a chemical in all three instances. All three companies are also close associates of Monsanto
Conspiracy — “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.” Discussing conspiracies is one of the fastest ways to be labeled a nut job, but the fact of the matter is that conspiracies do happen. And, by definition, conspiracies typically involve and result in something that is far from honorable or life-saving.
Toxic industries have a long history of conspiring against the public good, and lately we’ve been seeing more and more proof of this reality in regard to toxic pesticides. Of course, I’m talking about glyphosate, and Roundup in particular — Monsanto’s flagship product. Over the years, Monsanto has been accused of — and in some cases found guilty of — lying about and/or covering up the harmful effects of Roundup.
Then, in 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the “gold standard” in carcinogenicity research, found glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen.”1,2
Since then, lawsuits have mounted against the chemical giant. More than 60 plaintiffs are currently suing Monsanto claiming Roundup caused or contributed to their non-Hodgkin lymphoma.3,4 (Since its release in 1970, 700 people have sued Monsanto, alleging Roundup caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma.5)
Glyphosate Conspiracy Deepens
Monsanto has defended Roundup’s safety in court by leaning on a 2016 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which, contrary to the IARC’s determination, concluded glyphosate is “not likely to be carcinogenic” to humans.6 However, evidence suggests the EPA has in fact conspired with Monsanto to protect the company’s interests by manipulating and preventing key investigations into glyphosate’s cancer-causing potential.
Jess Rowland is one of the key figures in this scheme. He was the associate director of the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) and a key author of the EPA’s controversial glyphosate report. Evidence now suggests taxpayers’ money has been used to shield Monsanto and other pesticide companies from liability and obstruct consumers’ ability to prove damages, as:
- Attorneys for plaintiffs suing Monsanto found email correspondence between EPA toxicologist Marion Copley and Rowland suggesting Rowland may have colluded with Monsanto to find glyphosate non-carcinogenic7,8
- Court documents also suggest Monsanto employees ghostwrote parts of two scientific reports (one in 2000 and another in 2013), which the EPA then relied on to conclude glyphosate is non-carcinogenic9
- Court records show Rowland warned Monsanto of the IARC’s determination months before it was made public,10 giving the company time to plan its defense strategy
- Email correspondence shows Rowland helped stop a glyphosate investigation by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) on Monsanto’s behalf — a task Rowland allegedly said he should “deserve a medal for,” were he to pull it off11,12,13 (which he did)
- Correspondence also suggests Monsanto was planning to rely on Rowland’s influence after his departure from the EPA. In an email to a colleague, Dan Jenkins, Monsanto’s regulatory affairs manager, noted Rowland “could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense”14
For Whom Does Rowland Work?
Initially, efforts were made to prevent Rowland, who is now retired from the EPA, from being deposed by plaintiffs’ attorneys about his involvement with Monsanto, but a judge has since ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor. Alas, the plot thickened further when, on April 24, Rowland refused to answer who he’s been working for since leaving his post at the EPA.15 According to a court motion filed on April 28:16
“Plaintiffs deposed Mr. Rowland on April 24, 2017, after nearly a year of correspondence, negotiation and litigation on the subject. At deposition, Mr. Rowland refused to answer the simple question of whom he has been working for post-EPA departure.
Plaintiffs filed a request for the Court to compel testimony from Mr. Rowland during the deposition. Following the Court’s ruling, the witness was compelled to, and did, identify three companies for whom he performs “consulting” work since his May 2016 retirement from the government.
Plaintiffs now seek answers to the follow-up questions, which he refused to answer; undersigned counsel asserts that Mr. Rowland’s connection to Monsanto is only just beginning to come to light. Plaintiffs, and the public, have a right to determine if there was an explicit, or implicit quid pro quo between Monsanto or its associates and Mr. Rowland, as the documents suggest.”
Rowland Forced to Admit He’s Working for Monsanto Associates
As it turns out, Rowland’s post-EPA work includes consulting for three chemical companies and, according to his forced testimony, that work involves a chemical in all three instances. All three companies are also close associates of Monsanto. This, despite the fact that Rowland’s attorney initially claimed Rowland should not be forced to answer questions about his post-EPA consulting because the work was “unrelated to the chemical industry.”
“In light of this misrepresentation and the witness’ refusal to answer follow-up questions directly related to the purpose underlying the Rowland deposition, Plaintiffs request that Mr. Rowland be compelled to answer the questions he continued to refuse to answer following the Court’s ruling that day,” the motion states, adding:17
“Monsanto’s production of documents suggests that Mr. Rowland went out of his way to benefit Monsanto’s business. The remaining questions that the witness refused to answer are relevant to the reasons why EPA engaged in this relationship. Plaintiffs must be permitted to explore further the nature of this work and how he came into it.
Undersigned counsel requests an Order compelling Mr. Rowland to answer the foregoing questions, as well as related questions about the nature of this work, when he was first contacted about this work, by whom, how much he has been paid, and other basic factual inquiries … Without that information, Plaintiffs will still be fighting Monsanto’s “EPA defense” with two hands tied behind their backs.”
The Inner Workings of Quid Pro Quo Arrangements
The reason it’s so important to determine the details of Rowland’s work following his departure from the EPA is because, as noted in an email from plaintiff attorneys to United States District Judge Vince Chhabria:18
“If Rowland received any recompense for assisting Monsanto at EPA, it certainly would not have come in the form of a check from Monsanto Company; it would be, for example, a lucrative post-retirement contract ‘consulting’ for another entity, such as CropLife America, the American Council on Science and Health [ACSH]. More likely, his ‘consulting’ work runs through a whole series of intermediaries but tracks back to Monsanto.”
The ACSH, mentioned here as a potential Monsanto-associated entity, is basically an industry front group. It was only a little over a month ago since USA Today was criticized for publishing science columns by ACSH. While claiming to be an independent research and advocacy organization of scientists devoted to debunking junk science, ACSH is far from being a trustworthy, independent science source.
On February 23, more than two dozen doctors and health, environmental, labor and public-interest groups called on the editor of USA Today to stop publishing ACSH content19 — or, at the very least, identify it for what it truly is: a corporate front group that has “received funding from tobacco, chemical, pharmaceutical and oil corporations,” according to the letter.
As just one example, in 2009 ACSH received a cool $100,000 from Syngenta to produce favorable material about atrazine, the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. after glyphosate, which has been linked to a variety of disturbing health effects.
Collusion With Industry Is Widespread
Industry-funded research has become notoriously unreliable, as many studies looking into funding bias have confirmed financial interests almost always skews results. A vast majority of journal reviewers are also on industry payrolls (in the case of drug study reviewers, that number is estimated at 95 percent20), which further taints the peer-review process, virtually guaranteeing biased studies will get a passing grade.
The fact that the chemical industry funds and has close working relationships with agricultural research institutions at higher education facilities adds to the dilemma. How can one trust the science such institutions produce? This issue was recently addressed in an article in The Walrus,21 which highlights the cozy relationship between the University of Guelph, Canada, a premiere agricultural school, and the private sector.
“Scientists are graded on the amount of outside investment they secure,” Bruce Livesey writes.22 “Academic critics warn that the arrangement is a Faustian bargain. Faculty members, they say, are being recruited by agrochemical giants to undermine criticisms leveled at their products, and therefore help keep potentially dangerous chemicals on the market …
Given the widespread use of [pesticides] … it’s critical that agrochemical companies prove to regulatory agencies that their products are safe. Every year, Monsanto, Bayer CropScience, [BASF] and DuPont collectively spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at the University of Guelph on research projects largely designed to examine the environmental and health impacts of their compounds …
Jay Bradshaw, president of Syngenta Canada, may well have been speaking for the entire industry when, in a 2014 report that was prepared to drum up investment in the university, he was quoted as saying: ‘There is a phenomenal network of agrifood hubs of activity — of formal networks and informal networks — to be able to tap into.
That’s a huge benefit for us.’ Part of that benefit, for Syngenta and others, appears to involve access to a number of Guelph researchers who are capable of effectively challenging claims that herbicides and pesticides are a threat to people, wildlife and the environment.”
In the case of Roundup, University of Guelph scientists (who’d worked on Monsanto-funded studies) have been part of the cadre that challenge detrimental findings, such as Rick Relyea’s 2001 study showing high mortality among tadpoles after Roundup application. (Relyea, an ecologist, was at the time working at the University of Pittsburg; the study was funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.)
The two University of Guelph scientists in question, Dean Thompson and Keith Solomon, claimed Relyea had exposed the tadpoles to greater concentrations of Roundup than typically used — a charge Relyea firmly refuted, noting he’d applied manufacturer-recommended concentrations.
Such scientific challenges are part of what Harvard University science historian Naomi Oreskes calls “doubt-mongering,” a strategy intended to delay regulatory action. More often than not, it’s an effective one. By creating doubt — even if it’s merely the illusion of doubt — the science remains controversial or “unclear.” In this way, action can be delayed for years if not decades, while more research is called for. As noted by Livesey:23
“Take the example of bisphenol A … According to a 2005 review of 115 studies that examined the effects of the industrial chemical on living organisms, 94 of the 104 that were publicly funded uncovered harmful results — none of the 11 funded by industry did. The chemical manufacturers, however, used their own studies to call into question any opposing findings.”
That really is a perfect, crystal-clear illustration of how the game is played. Most reasonable individuals would conclude that 94 studies showing harm would outweigh the 11 showing no harm. Yet the doubt seeded by those industry-funded studies is enough to delay any action that might take the product off the market. This game plan, in large part perfected by the tobacco industry in the 1950s, has worked brilliantly for many decades. It’s time to expose it and see it for what it is.
Regulatory Insanity at Work
In related news, EPA chief Scott Pruitt recently issued an order denying the petition to ban chlorpyrifos on food,24,25 a pesticide made by Dow Chemical commonly used on citrus, apples, cherries and other crops. It’s also a commonly found water contaminant.
Pruitt, assigned by President Trump, has a work history that includes attorney general of Oklahoma, a post in which he often sided with chemical companies in legal disputes. As noted by USA Today,26 Pruitt “filed more than a dozen lawsuits seeking to overturn some of the same regulations he is now charged with enforcing.”
Recent government studies have found the pesticide can hinder brain development in infants, even in tiny doses, and poses serious risks to a whole host of endangered animals.
On April 13, a legal team representing Dow Chemical and two other organophosphate manufacturers also sent letters to the three agencies responsible for joint enforcement of the Endangered Species Act27,28 — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the Department of Commerce — asking them to “set aside” these incriminating government-funded studies, as the companies deem them flawed. As reported by USA Today:
“Over the past four years, federal scientists have compiled … more than 10,000 pages indicating the three pesticides under review — chlorpyrifos, diazinon and malathion — pose a risk to nearly every endangered species they studied. Regulators at the three federal agencies … are close to issuing findings expected to result in new limits on how and where the highly toxic pesticides can be used …
The EPA’s recent biological evaluation of chlorpyrifos found the pesticide is ‘likely to adversely affect’ 1,778 of the 1,835 animals and plants accessed as part of its study, including critically endangered or threatened species of frogs, fish, birds and mammals … In a statement, the Dow subsidiary that sells chlorpyrifos said its lawyers asked for the EPA’s biological assessment to be withdrawn because its ‘scientific basis was not reliable.'”
Pruitt claims he’s “trying to restore regulatory sanity to EPA’s work.” I would argue the definition of sanity is not to give developmentally crippling toxins a free pass, which is basically what ignoring unbiased research will accomplish.
Pesticides Take a Heavy Toll on Global Health and Life
Pesticides like Roundup are taking a major toll on health and life across the globe, and by colluding with pesticide makers to shield them from that liability, the EPA has committed a serious crime against humanity. According to a recent United Nations (UN) report,29 pesticides are responsible for 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year, and chronic exposure has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.30
While food is a major source of pesticides for the average person, people living in agricultural areas are at particular risk.31 A second report, this one by WHO, notes environmental pollution — which includes but is not limited to pesticides — kills 1.7 million children each year. Both of these reports offer the same recommendations in regard to agricultural chemicals — reduce or get rid of them altogether.
In fact, the UN report goes so far as to propose a global treaty to phase out toxic pesticides and transition to a more sustainable agricultural system. Pesticides like Roundup also threaten the health of the soil, thereby threatening the very future of agriculture itself, as healthy soils are key for growing food.32 Indeed, if we want to survive as a species, we need to focus our efforts on regenerative farming systems.
Tests by the Organic Consumers Association found 93 percent of Americans have glyphosate in their urine,33 making food testing and stricter regulations all the more pressing an issue. Unfortunately, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture had promised to begin testing food for residues of glyphosate as of April 1, the agency quietly canceled the plan.34
Meanwhile, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports finding glyphosate residues in 30 percent of grains sampled, with excessive levels occurring in nearly 4 percent of samples.35
I recently got tested for glyphosate and had no detectable levels. According to Health Research Institute Laboratories, where I got my glyphosate testing done, the average level of glyphosate in the U.S. population is 3.3 parts per billion (ppb),36 significantly higher than the average of 0.2 ppb found in Europeans.37
The U.S. also has much higher maximum safe average daily intake levels for glyphosate than the European Union (EU) — 1.75 milligrams per kilo per day (mg/kg/day) compared to 0.3 mg/kg/day. Ditto for the maximum residue level in drinking water. The U.S. allows 700 ppb whereas the EU allows only 0.05 ppb.
If you’re interested in getting tested, I provide both a glyphosate water test kit and an environmental exposure test kit in my online store. As a general rule, people who eat primarily organic foods and/or filter their water will have far lower levels. My own test result is a testament to this. So, yes, it is possible to avoid glyphosate and its associated health risks.
Be aware that desiccated crops tend to be particularly high in glyphosate. Desiccation is the process where the crop is doused with glyphosate just before harvest to increase yield. This includes non-GMO oats, wheat, garbanzo beans and lentils. According to Health Research Institute Laboratories, these foods can contain glyphosate levels exceeding 1,000 ppb, and people who eat organic oats have half the glyphosate levels than those who eat non-organic oats on a regular basis.