International Agency for Research on Cancer defends glyphosate cancer findings despite industry opposition

November 02, 2016 - roundup


The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has been under fire lately after a controversial finding that the world’s leading herbicide, glyphosate, is “probably carcinogenic.” Criticism of the agency, including the charge that they are sometimes too hasty in concluding that a substance is carcinogenic, has led to some U.S. lawmakers calling into question the U.S. funding of the WHO program.

Groups like CropLife America have been standard-bearers for criticism of the agency, alleging that the agency’s hazard-based approach to assessing “crop protection products” (or herbicides) is misleading about the “real” human health risk. CropLife America is a group that represents the interests of herbicide companies like Monsanto. Monsanto produces Roundup, a glyphosate-containing herbicide currently the subject of ongoing litigation in the United States.

Corn farming

Several lawsuits have been filed regarding Monsanto’s line of Roundup Weed Killer products. The herbicides that include glyphosate have been linked to many forms of cancer, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. If you or a loved one used or were exposed to Roundup herbicides and then suffered from any type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, you may be entitled to compensation. Lawyers at Kishish Law Group can help. Contact us for a free case evaluation by calling our toll-free number 1-888-402-5552 or by using our online contact form.

A recent Reuters article further increased pressure on the agency, claiming that the IARC failed to release material requested under freedom of information laws in the United States. Conservative advocacy groups as well as Monsanto lawyers sought documents from the IARC concerning their aforementioned review of glyphosate. Interest in the review and its pertaining documents has increased as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nears finishing its own review of the potential danger of the key ingredient of Roundup. Reuters claims to have seen an email and letter written by the IARC suggesting that scientists involved in the glyphosate investigation not release documents pertaining to this work. Monsanto’s VP of strategy went a step further and accused the IARC of having “secret agendas” in light of these email revelations.

The IARC disputes these criticisms. In a response to the Reuters article, the IARC says that U.S.-based scientists involved in the IARC’s glyphosate evaluation approached them with questions about requests made from many parties, including lawyers from the Roundup producer, Monsanto. Some scientists, the IARC reports, “felt that they were being intimidated.” The IARC says their position is consistent with national laws surrounding the disclosure of draft and deliberative documents.

Furthermore, the IARC maintains that the glyphosate report is based on sound science. As Carey Gilliam, research director at U.S. Right to Know, reports, the scientists that made up the glyphosate working group are extensively qualified and strived to make an accurate determination based on the available evidence. The team reviewed the available evidence and found evidence tying human glyphosate exposure in agricultural settings to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as well as weaker evidence tying it to multiple myeloma. Furthermore, the scientists found evidence for kidney tumors in animal models after exposure to the chemical.

The IARC’s findings will likely play a role as the EPA finishes its assessment of glyphosate. Commentators like Gilliam speculate that the treatment of the IARC is only part of a larger effort to “undermine the scientists and push EPA to ignore cancer concerns.” While the EPA has postponed its panel on the re-registration of glyphosate, leaving that decision for another day, the agency recently approved the expansion of a different glyphosate-containing pesticide, a decision George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety, called “a capitulation to the agrichemical industry.”


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