Bombshell documents reveal Monsanto colluded with Republicans to bully and silence cancer researchers
For several years, Republicans have been waging a war against the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) — which is the World Health Organization’s cancer research division — in response to its assertion that glyphosate (an ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup) is probably carcinogenic. And according to a report by Lee Fang for The Intercept, newly released documents show that Republicans’ anti-IARC campaign was encouraged by Monsanto’s attorneys and lobbyists.
Documents ranging from e-mails to deposition transcripts, Fang reports, have been made public by the law firm Baum Hedlund — which represents Dewayne Johnson, a cancer patient and former groundskeeper who alleges that years of using Roundup contributed to his non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Johnson won a lawsuit against Monsanto and was awarded $289 million by a jury, although a judge reduced that amount to $78 million.
Fang reports that according to Baum Hedlund, a combination of “company e-mails, documents and deposition transcripts” show that “Monsanto lawyers and lobbyists guided lawmakers, coordinating efforts to question the IARC’s credibility and slash U.S. support for the international body.”
It was in March 2015 that IARC first publicly warned that glyphosate could be carcinogenic. And in June 2015, according to Fang, Michael Dyke (who was Monsanto’s vice president of government affairs at the time) outlined the company’s political and lobbying strategy to discredit the IARC. In an e-mail, Fang reports, Dyke wrote that he had sent teams of lobbyists to talk to “key staff” at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the State Department as well as members of Congress.
Later in 2015, Fang reports, Dykes updated his colleagues at Monsanto on additional ways to discredit the IARC — including a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing where the EPA was to be asked about glyphosate’s safety.
“We will make sure Committee members ask EPA the glyphosate safety question,” Dykes wrote.
In 2016, according to Fang, FTI Government Affairs was one of the consulting firms that helped Monsanto in its anti-IARC efforts. FTI, that year, ghost-wrote a letter that was attributed to Republican Rep. Rob Aderholt of Alabama and insisted that glyphosate “does not cause cancer” and that IARC was promoting “bunk science.” Although Aderholt’s name was attached to the letter, it was actually written by FTI lobbyists.
That letter, Fang adds, was followed by other letters from Republican Congress members demanding an investigation of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding for IARC. Republicans who wrote those letters included Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (who chaired the House Oversight Committee at the time), South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy (who succeeded Chaffetz as House Oversight chair) and Texas Rep. Lamar Smith (who chaired the House Science Committee at the time). All of them demanded inquiries into IARC funding and glyphosate being designated a carcinogen.
In 2018, according to Fang’s report, Smith sent letters to cancer researchers in Norway demanding that they “correct the flaws in IARC.” And the House Appropriations Committee cut $2 million in IARC funding.