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Roundup, the Usual Suspects

August 20, 2018 in Economics

By Walter Olson

Walter Olson

The American tort system has generated many litigation campaigns
and completed verdicts we now recognize as scientific
embarrassments. Among them are lawsuits claiming that silicone
breast implants caused auto-immune disease, common childhood
vaccines caused autism, the morning sickness drug Bendectin caused
birth defects, one or another make of car suddenly accelerated
without any input from the driver or gas pedal, and so forth.

A San Francisco jury’s August 10 verdict ordering Bayer/Monsanto to pay $289
million to a school groundskeeper who contracted
non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma may add to this list.

The American tort system
has generated many litigation campaigns and completed verdicts we
now recognize as scientific embarrassments.

Most bodies of expert opinion both private and public around the
world, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and
National Institutes of Health, do not consider glyphosate, the
active ingredient in Roundup, a probable cause of cancer in humans.
Here’s one discussion of how a large study
(>50,000) looking directly at the health of agricultural workers
went far to dispel earlier concerns based on weaker and more
indirect studies. Similarly: Steven Novella at Science-Based Medicine after
the verdict, and Health Canada, Guy-André Pelouze at Slate and Angela Logomasini at Science20 before.

The outlier exception was a pronouncement by a French-based
advisory panel to the World Health Organization, the International
Agency for Research on Cancer, classifying glyphosate as a
“probable” carcinogen based on animal studies. This was
subsequently (and quite controversially) picked up and endorsed by
the state of California as an addition to a list of suspected
carcinogens. The California courts have upheld that listing,
although in June a federal judge told the state that it could not
require a warning label on Roundup because the evidence against the
compound was too flimsy.

Following the San Francisco verdict, some of the more credulous
press accounts cited IARC’s pronouncement without mentioning
the many assessments to the contrary. But the problems with that
pronouncement go well beyond “unconvincing” or
“tenuous” and on into territory some, like Geoffrey Kabat at Forbes, have termed
“scandal.”

“A scientist who advised a United Nations agency to
classify the world’s most widely used weed-killer as
carcinogenic received $160,000 (£121,500) from law firms bringing
claims by cancer victims against the manufacturer,” reported
London’s Times last fall. “He did not declare his links
to the law firms in a letter to the European Commission urging it
to accept the IARC classification.” One of the law firms that
engaged his services now advertises for
claimants to sue over Roundup in U.S. courts.

Meanwhile, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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