Republican lawmakers are once again questioning science.
At a House Science Committee hearing on Tuesday, several Republicans sided with Monsanto in their questioning of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) classification of glyphosate as a possible carcinogen. Lawmakers are going so far as to threaten to cut off the agency’s funding over it’s claim that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s major pesticide, Roundup, potentially causes cancer in humans.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) claims that the IARC’s findings are “unsubstantiated” and “not backed by reliable data”, a claim disputed by independent scientists.
Smith stated, “The selective use of data and the lack of public disclosure raise questions about why IARC should receive any government funding in the future.” Smith’s citations for this claim include government officials and a former scientist for the pesticide industry.
A review by the Environmental Protection Agency concluded in December that glyphosate is not likely to cause cancer at typical levels of exposure.
The IARC’s program that investigated the affects of certain chemicals, including glyphosate, on humans, relied on studies where high doses of chemicals were fed or injected in rats and mice. The EPA’s studies on the other hand often rely on industry-funded studies, look at the long-term threat pesticides and herbicides pose based on anticipated uses.
Monsanto has been in full-panic mode since the IARC released their conclusion. The mega-corporation filed a suit against California when the state moved to require a warning of the potential cancer threat on the packaging label for Roundup. Monsanto also meant more than $4.3 million in lobbying last year along.
Jennifer Sass, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council who testified at the hearing, says that the attacks on the IARC “can be traced to the ‘playbook’ of the tobacco industry for discrediting findings related to active and passive smoking.”
“Fundamentally, this hearing is about the ability of a public health agency to call a carcinogen a carcinogen, even if it makes a huge amount of money for a powerful corporation,” Sass said. “Are we willing to sell out the public’s right to know about harmful chemicals in the places we work, live and play, just so that Monsanto can sell more glyphosate?”
Fortunately, some lawmakers remain in the IARC’s side. In a report released shortly before the hearing, Democrats on the House Science Committee expressed that the efforts of Monsanto and Big Ag, “Appear aimed at corrupting and disrupting any honest, thorough and complete scientific evaluation of glyphosate and its potential adverse impact on the public’s health.”