EPA postpones scientific review of glyphosate

By Stephen Davies

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2016 - The Environmental Protection Agency has postponed its scientific review of the carcinogenicity of glyphosate in order to get “additional expertise in epidemiology.”

The agency recently appointed nine members to a Science Review Board to serve on a Scientific Advisory Panel that was scheduled to meet from Oct. 18-21 to discuss the herbicide, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup. The review of the chemical's human health impact is a key part of the registration process under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

EPA's full statement, sent by email Friday morning, says it is postponing the meeting “due to recent changes in the availability of experts for the peer review panel. Given the importance of epidemiology in the review of glyphosate's carcinogenic potential, the agency believes that additional expertise in epidemiology will benefit the panel and allow for a more robust review of the data. As a result, the SAP meeting on glyphosate is being postponed to later in 2016. The agency will issue another announcement once the new date for the SAP meeting on glyphosate has been determined.”

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Later on Friday, after CropLife America (CLA) said it had taken exception to one of the appointments, EPA said the meeting was being postponed "due to the voluntary departure of a panel member, and the agency was not able to backfill in a way that would provide broad coverage and balance of experience for epidemiological expertise."

CropLife CEO Jay Vroom said CLA had “expressed concerns to EPA about potential bias among certain panel members, particularly the only epidemiologist who had been named to the panel. Given EPA's stated purpose of postponement of the SAP, we hope they are fully considering that information.”

CropLife sent EPA a letter objecting to the appointment of Peter Infante, an epidemiologist who, CLA said, had "repeatedly testified -- exclusively for plaintiffs -- in chemical exposure cases against Monsanto Company, the original registrant of glyphosate, and its affiliated entities." EPA's ethical rules should preclude his participation in the SAP, CLA said in the letter.

Attempts to reach Infante for comment have so far been unsuccessful. EPA said that the departure of the panel member, whom it would not identify, and CLA's letter are separate issues. "We will review the letter and respond appropriately," EPA said.

In a brief statement about the meeting, Monsanto cited EPA's recent issue paper, which said the evidence strongly supports the conclusion that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans “at doses relevant to human health risk assessment.”  

Monsanto said that conclusion is “based on the overwhelming weight of evidence” and that epidemiological data “clearly support this conclusion.”

“We are confident that when the SAP considers the thorough and complete data on glyphosate, the panel will reaffirm EPA's science-based classification,” the company said.

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Numerous scientists, companies, trade groups, environmental groups and individuals have already sent comments to the agency in anticipation of the meeting. CropLife America, which represents pesticide manufacturers, formulators and distributors, has been critical of EPA's continued use of epidemiologic data in the absence of clear guidelines for how to use that data.

In the case of glyphosate, CropLife questioned the need for a SAP given EPA's own review of the chemical's carcinogenicity. “There is no scientific justification for another EPA review of glyphosate for carcinogenicity when the EPA (Cancer Assessment Review Committee) report of October 2015 found no concerns as to potential carcinogenicity,” Janet Collins, CropLife senior vice president for science and regulatory affairs, said in an Aug. 24 letter to the agency.

EPA has not yet responded to questions about whether scientists who were appointed to the Science Review Board are no longer available to serve on the panel or whether it plans to replace some of the members with new people who have specific expertise in epidemiology.



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