Monsanto loses cancer label lawsuit, accused of ghostwriting study

A California judge's final ruling requires the Creve Coeur-based chemical giant to label its popular weed-killer with warnings that it could cause cancer.

A California judge has ruled against Monsanto Co. in its attempt to prevent the main ingredient in the company’s Roundup herbicide products from being added to a state list of cancer-causing chemicals.

Separately, Creve Coeur-based Monsanto was accused in a court filing unsealed Tuesday of ghostwriting scientific papers that led an EPA regulator to conclude glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, shouldn’t be classified as a carcinogen, Bloomberg reported. The filing, part of lawsuit by farmers claiming glyphosate exposure caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, included a 2015 email exchanged between Monsanto employees suggesting they ghostwrite a few sections of a research paper in order to save money. The email further states that’s how a 2000 study was handled, the news agency reports.
 

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Monsanto denied the allegations and said the plaintiffs' attorneys "cherry-picked a single email," stating that Monsanto employees did not ghostwrite the paper, which underwent a peer review process.

"Consistent with standard practices for academic and scientific peer-reviewed publications, the contributions of Dr. (William) Heydens and other Monsanto experts were fully and publicly listed in the 'Acknowledgements' section of the Williams et al (2000) paper," the company said in a statement. "Although 15 years later Dr. Heydens referred to such fully acknowledged contributions as ghostwriting, he described his actual role in the Williams et al paper under oath as follows: 'I made some minor editorial contributions to that 2000 paper that do not mount to the level of a substantial contribution or an intellectual contribution and, thus, I was only recognized in the acknowledgements and not as an author, and that was appropriate for the situation.' He further clarified, 'It was things like editing relatively minor things, editing for formatting, just for clarity, really just for overall readability to make it easier for people to read in a more organized fashion.'"

Read the full statement from Monsanto here.

The company has cited the EPA’s ruling numerous times in its defense of glyphosate, including in its 2015 lawsuit against California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) for proposing to add glyphosate to the agency’s Proposition 65 list of known carcinogens.

Glyphosate was added to the state list after a 2015 report by the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, a claim that Monsanto has rejected and one that’s contrary with a ruling by the European Food Safety Authority and the EPA ruling cited above.

Monsanto in its suit against the OEHHA said that officials had illegally based their decision on a non-regulatory organization that is not “accountable to the voters (of California) or anyone else in the state.” The company also said the listing of glyphosate would violate its free speech because the listing would force Monsanto to include a warning label regarding the possible carcinogenic effects of the ingredient.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan ruled Friday that none of Monsanto’s objections were viable because California law allows the state to designate an outside entity for fact-finding tasks and because inclusion on the Prop. 65 list doesn’t require Monsanto to provide a warning label, adding that OEHHA can exempt businesses from adding a label if the chemical poses no significant risk of cancer.

In a statement, Monsanto said: “The agency’s flawed and baseless proposal to list glyphosate under Prop. 65 not only contradicts California’s own scientific assessment, but it also violates the California and U.S. Constitutions. We disagree with the Court’s ruling, and we will continue to fight the decision on the basis of sound science and the law.”

The California assessment referenced was a 2007 report issued by the OEHHA regarding containments in drinking water.


 


 

(St. Louis Business Journal)


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