New evidence has come to light that illustrates the cancer agency of the World Health Organization advised experts to withhold documents pertaining to the dangerous pesticide glyphosate rather than release them, as they were asked to do under United States freedom of information laws. WHO made a splash last year when it denounced the widely used pesticide glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” kicking off a fierce backlash from Monsanto (whose best-selling product, RoundUp, contains glyphosate) and other companies and industry groups aiming to profit from toxic chemicals. Reuters broke the news in an exclusive report, citing a letter and email in which officials from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) urged scientists who worked on 2015 review of glyphosate not to release the documents in question.
Glyphosate has been linked with cancer, autism, and other illnesses. Following the initial WHO report in March 2015 which dubbed glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic,” the chemical was banned in several countries, while others implemented new restrictions on its use. However, Monsanto continues to produce and distribute RoundUp, the company’s best-selling weedkiller which contains glyphosate as its primary active ingredient. Monsanto has also worked every angle to prevent glyphosate from being further restricted or outlawed in the US, including a lawsuit against the state of California regarding the state’s attempt to force warning labels on the hazardous chemicals.
IARC officials came under fire in the months to follow, as industry leaders with deep pockets (like Monsanto) criticized the agency’s report and demanded more details about the tests conducted and the research data. Now, the IARC is being accused of asserting its ownership rights over the material by urging academic experts not to release documents that, at least in the US, they were legally bound to produce. “IARC is the sole owner of such materials,” IARC told the experts (as quoted in the Reuters report). “IARC requests you and your institute not to release any (such) documents.”
In response to Reuters’ queries, the IARC said “it was seeking to protect its work from external interference and defending its panels’ freedom to debate evidence openly and critically.”