Environmental activists are claiming the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent findings in regards to the health effects of the widely used herbicide glyphosate are flawed. Other studies have found the herbicide to be an endocrine disruptor linked to serious health effects including cancer, diabetes and infertility.
Activists are saying that the EPA relied for the most part on findings from research paid for by manufacturers of pesticides. Most of the studies were sponsored by Monsanto and an industry group called the Joint Glyphosate Task Force. One study was funded by Syngenta, which sells its own glyphosate-containing herbicide called Touchdown.
Michelle Boone, a biologist who served on an EPA panel which evaluated the safety of another pesticide, atrazine, says analysis of the results is an area "particularly ripe for bias".
“Once you have industry intimately involved in interpreting the data and how it’s written up, it’s problematic,” she says.
While recent independent research shows that even very low doses of endocrine disruptors cause serious health effects, the EPA dismissed them.
Because the labs that do testing and research into pesticides depend on large corporations to employ them as evaluators, final report findings are skewed. Doug Gurian Sherman, a senior scientist at the Center for Food Safety and a former EPA staff scientist at the organization's Office of Pesticide Programs says, “They know who’s buttering their toast. It’s not that people are going to necessarily do something clearly fraudulent. It’s more that it puts a pressure to shave things in a direction to whoever’s paying the bills.”
Monsanto, which sells glyphosate under the name Roundup, is certainly feeling good about the EPA findings. Steve Levine, Monsanto’s Ecotoxicology and Risk Assessment chief, writes on the Monsanto blog, “I was happy to see that the safety profile of one of our products was upheld by an independent regulatory agency."