House Ag leaders want answers from EPA on herbicides

By Stephen Davies

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 12, 2016 - House Agriculture Committee leaders want to know why EPA posted - and then removed from its online regulatory dockets - risk assessments on two widely used but controversial herbicides.

Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, joined by Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the panel's ranking member, and Rodney Davis, R-Ill., who chairs the Subcommittee on Biotechnology, Horticulture, and Research, wrote EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy May 11 seeking answers to their questions on glyphosate and atrazine. A similar request focusing on glyphosate was made last week by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

EPA issued a short statement in response: We have received the letter and will respond appropriately.

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On April 29, EPA posted to its regulatory dockets for glyphosate and atrazine more than a dozen documents related to its registration reviews for the chemicals. The document that got the most attention was a “final report” from the agency's Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC) that concluded glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans. The atrazine documents included a risk assessment - clearly labeled “preliminary” - on ecological impacts.

But on May 2, the agency removed the CARC review, saying that document and 13 others were “preliminary” and “were inadvertently posted.”

The documents were pulled from the web because the agency “has not completed our cancer review,” EPA said in a statement distributed to reporters. “We will look at the work of other governments as well as work by (a Department of Health and Human Services) Agricultural Health Study as we move to make a decision on glyphosate. Our assessment will be peer reviewed and completed by end of 2016.”

Conaway, echoing an observation made by Monsanto, noted that the CARC review was “clearly labeled ‘Final Report' and was signed by thirteen members” of the Cancer Assessment Review Committee.

The House Ag Committee members said they are “concerned that EPA has continually delayed its review of glyphosate.

“In a hearing before this Committee on May 13, 2015, one of our members specifically asked Assistant Administrator Jim Jones when EPA's glyphosate review would be complete and whether EPA would continue to stand behind its previous assessment that glyphosate does not pose a serious cancer risk. Administrator Jones assured this Committee that EPA's review would be final in July 2015, and the agency would continue to stand behind its previous conclusions. Despite these assurances, no report was issued until the one posted on April 29 and removed on May 2.”

In his letter to McCarthy, Smith said, The EPA's backtracking on the finality of its own science review committee's report raises concerns about the agency's willingness to provide a fair assessment on this matter. That the EPA would remove a report, which was marked as a ‘Final Report' and signed by thirteen scientists, appears to be yet another example of this agency's attempt to allow politics rather than science drive its decision making. Sound, transparent science should always be the basis for EPA's decisions.”

Agency officials have insisted the posting/removal was not intentional and simply a mistake by a contractor assigned to maintain the regulatory dockets.

The atrazine ecological risk assessment, which found the chemical in watersheds across the country at levels high enough to harm aquatic life, was also posted and then removed.

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In contrast with the CARC document - which Monsanto touted as evidence that the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) was wrong to classify glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen - atrazine manufacturer Syngenta disputed the results of the ecorisk assessment.

Smith has asked EPA to provide, by May 18, “all documents and communications from January 1, 2015, to the present, referring or relating to the CARC report on glyphosate.”

Conaway, Peterson and Davis requested the following by May 25:

1. A narrative explaining EPA's decision to post and subsequently remove the documents from public view.

2. The name of the person at EPA charged with overseeing the risk assessment process for chemicals, including but not limited to glyphosate and atrazine.

3. A step-by-step description of EPA's approval process for the publication of chemical risk assessments, registration reviews, and associated documents.

4. The steps that remain to be completed in order to finalize EPA's review of glyphosate.

5. The date when EPA will issue its final report on glyphosate?

EPA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawmakers' requests.

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