WASHINGTON, - The EPA report that said glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans is simply “one step in the process” of the agency’s review of the herbicide’s health effects, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said today at a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing.
The report, completed last fall and labeled “final” by the Cancer Assessment Review Committee (CARC), was posted in the online regulatory docket on and then removed .“It is unfortunate that it was mistakenly released by a contractor because it is still in review in the agency,” McCarthy said when questioned by Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. “When we have an issue that’s important as glyphosate is to the agriculture community, we want to make sure we get the science right.”
Lucas said the fact that the CARC document was posted and then removed raises concerns “that perhaps a decision made in regular order, in the regular process by the people of responsibility who understand the issues, had been overruled somewhere else on high.”
McCarthy, however, insisted that even though the CARC document was marked “final report” on every page, “you should not take it as a signal that any decision has been made or what direction that decision will go. The committee offered us wonderful information. We just need to make sure it’s as robust as it needs to be for a decision as big as this one.”
She said she hoped the agency would have a final report on carcinogenicity completed by the fall. Glyphosate, most commonly known as the active ingredient in Monsanto’s line of Roundup products, is currently undergoing a multiyear review of its registration. It’s also up for reauthorization for use in Europe, with a vote scheduled.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate probably causes cancer in humans. Two EPA employees were involved in preparing that report, according to the IARC monograph.
Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chairman of the science committee, wants to interview those two officials and two others who serve on the CARC.
“Given the apparent contradictions of the CARC and IARC findings for glyphosate and the participation of EPA officials in IARC’s report, the committee has concerns about the integrity of the IARC process, the role played by agency officials in the IARC study, and the influence that EPA officials involved in the IARC process have on the agency’s analysis of glyphosate,” Smith said in a June 7 letter to McCarthy.
Later in the hearing, Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., took up the issue, noting that the CARC report was at times critical of the IARC report. But McCarthy said none of the EPA employees who participated in the IARC assessment “were there . . . to participate in the issue of carcinogenicity.”
Loudermilk said the EPA employee who chaired the CARC glyphosate panel had retired in May and wondered aloud whether the retirement was at all related to the “controversy over the CARC report.”
“Not that I am aware of,” McCarthy said.
“But you can understand the concern we have here,” Loudermilk said. “It’s a final report, but maybe it didn’t turn out the way you anticipated it would,” prompting EPA to look more carefully at it.
“I know that the mistake that was made by the contractor to post this has caused all kinds of conspiracy theories to erupt,” McCarthy said. “But there is nothing that is unusual about the process we are following with this, and we’ll do it on the basis of the science. And I don’t want you to think that anyone, including me, is prejudging what our scientists say about this.”
The committee members also touched on other issues, including the “waters of the U.S.” rule and the Clean Power Plan, both of which have been stayed by the courts.
McCarthy continued to insist that the WOTUS rule does not “add any permitting or other responsibilities for the agriculture community,” but Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill., said, “That’s not what the Farm Bureau says. I don’t think you’re going to get that from anybody in agriculture.”
“I paid very close attention to their comments and concerns,” McCarthy said of the farming community. “In finalizing the rule, I went above and beyond the exemptions and exclusions in that rule. That’s what confuses me and concerns me.”
She said she believed the Clean Power Plan, the agency’s attempt to regulate greenhouse gases, would be upheld by the courts “because it rests on strong scientific and legal foundations.”
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