Pesticide Manufacturer Accused of Ghostwriting Chemical Safety Reports

By Emily Cox
Pesticide and GMO Protest
Photo by William Murphy

Court documents in the lawsuit against Monsanto involving its Roundup pesticide include emails that indicate the company had ghostwritten research on the pesticide’s active ingredient that was later attributed to academics.

NPR reports that Monsanto asked scientists to co-sign safety studies on glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup pesticide. In internal emails. Monsanto executive William Heydens suggested that the company “ghost-write” a paper.

“We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak,” he wrote.

He indicated this is how the company had “handled” an earlier paper on glyphosate’s safety. While the paper from 2000 acknowledges Monsanto’s help in collecting data, it does not list any employees as authors.

The emails also suggested a collaboration between Monsanto and a senior regulator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Jess Rowland.

If I can kill this, I should get a medal,” Rowland said to a Monsanto regulatory affairs manager in April 2015. The manager recounted the conversation in an internal email. The company was trying to get Rowland’s assistance to stop an investigation of glyphosate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after the International Agency for Research on Cancer declared that glyphosate probably causes cancer.

Monsanto executives were concerned that Rowland could not stop a federal glyphosate review. However, it’s evident that they believed the EPA was on their side.

“I doubt EPA and Jess can kill this, but it’s good to know they are going to actually make the effort,” a Monsanto executive wrote.

Since Rowland retired from the EPA last year, he has become a central figure in more than 20 lawsuits. These lawsuits claim Monsanto failed to warn consumers of the risks associated with its glyphosate-based pesticide.

Roundup Pesticide Lawsuits

There are hundreds of individuals suing Monsanto, Roundup’s parent company. They cite a 2015 World Health Organization study that says glyphosate is probably carcinogenic and damages DNA in human cells. A California judge recently ruled that the state can legally require Monsanto to warn customers of Roundup’s cancer risks.

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