WASHINGTON, July 27, 2016 - The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking nominees for a Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) that will examine the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup.
In a Federal Register notice published July 26, EPA said it anticipates selecting eight scientists to serve as ad hoc members of the SAP, which currently has six members. Nominations must be received by Aug. 25; the meeting is scheduled to take place Oct. 18-21 in Crystal City, Virginia, where EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs is located.
Glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world, is currently undergoing a registration review by EPA. The chemical has been the subject of charges and countercharges about its health risks for years, but the spotlight on it has become more intense since March 2015, when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that it probably causes cancer in humans. Recently, the European Commission reauthorized its use for 18 months while the European Chemicals Agency evaluates its health and safety risks.
The IARC monograph has been called an “outlier” by Monsanto, the agrichemical industry and the farming community in general. They point to other studies conducted by the European Food Safety Authority and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR), the latter of which said glyphosate was unlikely to pose a cancer risk through diet.
Monsanto also convened its own panel of experts to review the IARC study. They concluded IARC’s study was flawed.
Another report, which was not mentioned by name in the Federal Register notice, was done by EPA itself. The agency’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee found in October 2015 that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer. The CARC report was posted in EPA’s online regulatory docket April 29 and then removed May 2.
The agency said it had been posted by mistake and was a draft document, even though it is labeled “FINAL REPORT,” a fact that did not go unnoticed by Monsanto and congressional overseers.
One of those, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said the Federal Register notice “fails to clearly mention or support the final (CARC) report … The Science Committee continues to find evidence that EPA fails to recognize or acknowledge the final and complete science that its own agency conducts and instead appears to make politically motivated decisions.”
Smith has tried to get EPA to cough up documents related to its review of glyphosate, particularly in regard to its role in the IARC review. However, “EPA has failed to provide the committee with a single document responsive to its oversight request on this matter.”
Monsanto said the upcoming meeting is not needed. Spokesman Sam Murphey said that “glyphosate-based herbicides have a 40-year history of safe use that is supported by one of the most extensive human health and environmental databases ever compiled on an agricultural product. There is no credible evidence that glyphosate is a carcinogen.”
Murphey added that even though the company believes a SAP for glyphosate is unnecessary, “We are fully confident that if the SAP follows sound scientific principles and reviews the overwhelming weight of evidence, it will reaffirm the consistent conclusions of the EPA and regulators around the world.”
In the Federal Register notice, EPA said it’s looking for scientists to serve on the panel who have expertise in “one or more of the following areas: carcinogenicity (mammalian), cancer biostatistics, rodent cancer bioassays, epidemiology (cancer/occupational), genotoxicity/genetic toxicology/mutagenicity (related to human cancer risk), risk assessment, weight of evidence analysis, and mode of action/human relevance/adverse outcome pathway frameworks.
“Nominees should be scientists who have sufficient professional qualifications, including training and experience, to provide expert comments on the scientific issues for this meeting.”
The agency said that no scientists will be ineligible to serve “by reason of their membership on any other advisory committee to a federal department or agency, or their employment by a federal department or agency except EPA.”
In addition, EPA will consider factors such as “absence of any conflicts of interest or appearance of lack of impartiality, independence with respect to the matters under review, and lack of bias. Although financial conflicts of interest, the appearance of lack of impartiality, lack of independence, and bias may result in disqualification, the absence of such concerns does not assure that a candidate will be selected to serve on the FIFRA SAP.”
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