Tuesday, October 24, 2017

GWPF Newsletter: War Against Chemicals Is A Shame On Science

Glyphosate Showdown In Europe This Week

In this newsletter:

1) Glyphosate Showdown In Europe This Week
Agriland, 23 October 2017
2) Matt Ridley: War Against Chemicals Is A Shame On Science
The Times, 23 October 2017

3) If The European Union Bans Roundup, It Could Lead To A Global Food Crisis
The Federalist, 23 October 2017
4) Green NGO Sockpuppets: Taxpayer Funded Lobbying
Gaia Fawkes, 19 September 2017 
5) IARCgate: Six Reasons Why IARC’s head, Christopher Wild, Must Be Fired
Risk Monger, 23 October 2017

Full details:

1) Glyphosate Showdown In Europe This Week
Agriland, 23 October 2017

In Brussels this week, the EU is set to vote on the controversial proposal to relicense glyphosate for another 10-year time-frame.

This will be conducted at a meeting of the European Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed.

The proposal set to be tabled on Wednesday, October 25, to member states is identical to the one that was put forward earlier in the month on October 5, which was postponed to a later date.

France has already voiced its opposition to the proposal and Germany is believed to be looking into abstaining from the vote.

It is believed that France has taken this position as a result of concerns over glyphosate’s risk to human health – which has led to significant investigative reports across the world.

Back in July, EU health commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said glyphosate would only be relicensed if it got sufficient backing, noting that the commission has no intention of reauthorising the herbicide without a “qualified majority”, according to Reuters.

This would mean that at least 16 member states would have to support the proposal, along with a representation of 65% of the European population.

Copa-Cogeca, the umbrella organisation that represents European farmers’ groups at EU-level, has urged the EU to reauthorise glyphosate for longer than the 10-year time-frame, pushing instead for a 15-year period – noting that there are “no safety concerns” and that its use is “essential together with catch crops to prevent soil erosion and reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.

Irish MEP and first vice-president of the European Parliament, Mairead McGuinness recently said in parliament that “nothing new” was heard in a recent public hearing on ‘The Monsanto Papers and Glyphosate’.

Scientific evidence and advice from EU agencies – the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) – that glyphosate is not a carcinogen was repeated during the hearing, she said.

McGuinness highlighted that this is advice and guidance that she accepts, while also noting that even those who are in favour of banning glyphosate admit that there will be huge consequences for European agriculture.


2) Matt Ridley: War Against Chemicals Is A Shame On Science
The Times, 23 October 2017

A perfectly useful herbicide could be banned in Europe thanks to a tangled network of lobbyists, lawyers and activists.

Bad news is always more newsworthy than good. The widely reported finding that insect abundance is down by 75 per cent in Germany over 27 years was big news, while, for example, the finding in May that ocean acidification is a lesser threat to corals than had been thought caused barely a ripple. The study, published in the leading journal Nature, found that corals’ ability to make skeletons is “largely independent of changes in seawater carbonate chemistry, and hence ocean acidification”. But good news is no news.

And bad news is big news. The German insect study, in a pay-to-publish journal, may indeed be a cause for concern, but its findings should be treated with caution, my professional biologist friends tell me. It did not actually compare the same sites over time. Indeed most locations were only sampled once, and the scientists used mathematical models to extract a tentative trend from the inconsistent sampling.

Greens were quick to use the insect study to argue for a ban on the widely used herbicide glyphosate, also known as Roundup, despite no evidence for a connection. Glyphosate is made by Monsanto and sometimes used in conjunction with genetically modified crops.

Their campaign comes to a head this Wednesday in Brussels, where an expert committee of the European Commission will decide whether to ban glyphosate. The European parliament has already voted to do so, though its vote carries no weight. The committee will probably defer a decision until December, amid signs that the commission is getting fed up with the way French politicians in particular demand a ban in public then argue against it in private.

The entire case against glyphosate is one “monograph” from an obscure World Health Organisation body called the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which concluded that glyphosate might cause cancer at very high doses. It admitted that by the same criteria, sausages and sawdust should also be classified as carcinogens.

Indeed, pound for pound coffee is more carcinogenic than the herbicide, with the big difference that people pour coffee down their throats every day, which they don’t glyphosate. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was recently found to contain glyphosate at a concentration of up to 1.23 parts per billion. At that rate a child would have to eat more than three tonnes of ice cream every day to reach the level at which any health effect could be measured.

The IARC finding is contradicted by the European Food Safety Authority as well as the key state safety agencies in America, Australia and elsewhere. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment looked at more than 3,000 studies and found no evidence of any risk to human beings at realistic doses: carcinogenic, mutagenic, neurotoxic or reproductive. Since glyphosate is a molecule that interferes with a metabolic process found in all plants but no animals, this is hardly surprising.

Meanwhile, glyphosate has huge environmental benefits for gardeners and farmers. In particular, it is an alternative to the destructive practice of ploughing to control weeds. It allows no-till agriculture, a burgeoning practice that preserves soil structure, moisture and carbon content, enabling worms and insects to flourish, improving drainage and biodiversity while allowing the high-yield farming that is essential if we are to feed humanity without cultivating more land. Organic farmers rely on frequent tillage.

How did the IARC paper come to its alarmist conclusion? Well, we now know, thanks to Reuters, which reported that IARC prepared a draft which somebody altered in ten different places. “In each case, a negative conclusion about glyphosate leading to tumors was either deleted or replaced with a neutral or positive one.”

Last week, The Times reported how the scientist who advised the IARC to classify glyphosate as carcinogenic received $160,000 from law firms suing Monsanto on behalf of cancer victims. Christopher Portier began advising one of the firms about two months before IARC’s decision on glyphosate. He said that he had been hired to advise on an unrelated matter and his contract to advise on glyphosate was dated nine days after the IARC announcement in 2015.

Dr Portier has denied that his advice was influenced by financial interest. He told The Times that he “probably should have” declared his links with the law firms in an open letter sent to the European health commissioner urging him to disregard the European Food Safety Authority’s finding before he did so.

The Corporate European Observatory, which claims that it is in the business of “exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU”, rushed to the defence of Dr Portier. It argued that reports about the scientist should be seen as “outright attempts at character assassination”.

Europe banning glyphosate would open up a litigation bonanza in the US. Bounty-hunting law firms are in cahoots with environmental NGOs, to bring them business putting companies under pressure based on the theory that barely detectable doses of chemicals might do harm. Johnson & Johnson faces claims over the alleged carcinogenicity of talcum powder, for instance.

The technique, says David Zaruk of the Universit√© Saint-Louis, Brussels, is to “manipulate public perception, create fear or outrage by co-operating with activists, gurus and NGOs, find a corporate scapegoat and litigate the hell out of them”. The glyphosate story is a scandal, of the kind that would be front-page news if it happened in industry, rather than a branch of WHO. But the BBC has not covered the Reuters story. WHO itself shows no sign of investigating, although the US Congress, a major funder of IARC, is starting to take an interest.

The episode lifts the lid on a questionable network of activist scientists, NGOs, and financiers, not to mention useful-idiot politicians. Scientists raise a scare, lawyers sue on the back of it, bureaucrats give themselves work, all profit. Cancer victims are misled, consumers deceived, farmers’ livelihoods destroyed and environmental benefits undone. But who cares if there is money to be made?

Full post & comments 

3) If The European Union Bans Roundup, It Could Lead To A Global Food Crisis
The Federalist, 23 October 2017
Julie Kelly

The European Union is poised this week to enact a continent-wide ban on glyphosate, a safe and popular weedkiller used by millions of farmers around the world. The vote to outlaw glyphosate—better known as Roundup to us city and suburban folk—will be the culmination of a deceptive yet well-orchestrated effort led by “green” activists that has absolutely nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with punishing U.S. companies such as Monsanto, the maker of Roundup.

If the EU bans glyphosate, it will set the stage to enact the same regulations here, which could be a devastating blow to American farmers who rely on the herbicide to grow the world’s most abundant supply of grains. Glyphosate is a key farm chemical that helps farmers control weeds and boost yields. It is also used on public spaces, parks, and lawns around the country. U.S. consumers are already being warned about “glyphosate residue” showing up in food samples, breast milk, and drinking water. The scare campaign is in full swing.

The EU ban looks very likely to pass. Germany, Italy, and France are staunch supporters; French President Emmanuel Macron is lobbying hard for its passage and has outraged his country’s farmers by capitulating to Green Party bullies on this. (France is Europe’s top grower of wheat, corn, and barley.)

Graeme Taylor, spokesman for the European Crop Protection Association, said “glyphosate has been used safely for the past 40 years, and I’m concerned that if we engage in this hysteria, inevitably what will happen is that we will sleepwalk into a food crisis in Europe.” The United Kingdom, Poland, and Spain oppose the ban.

The Crusade Rests on Crumbling Science

As this calamity unfolds across the Atlantic, the credibility of the scientific report central to the glyphosate-ban crusade is rapidly disintegrating and Congress is continuing to investigate how the report was handled. In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) issued a report concluding glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. IARC, under the purview of the World Health Organization, is the only major scientific organization to make that claim and has since been heavily criticized by other international scientific groups and governmental agencies.

Members of the IARC committee who worked on the report have been exposed as environmental activists who cherry-picked questionable data to reach a politically motivated conclusion. Congress is also reviewing federal funding for IARC and investigating whether likeminded officials in Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) colluded with IARC members to help draft the dubious report.

Despite its weak scientific mooring and shady authorship, the report has been widely embraced by the media and cited by activists as the reason glyphosate use should be stopped. (This summer, California added glyphosate to its Prop 65 list of possible carcinogens that must be labeled.) It is also an evidentiary bonanza for law firms now trolling for litigants to sue Monsanto and exploit cancer-stricken farmers and their families who now believe glyphosate is responsible for causing the disease.

Key Figure Exposed for Major Conflicts of Interest

But a funny thing happened on the way to the deposition. A key figure in the IARC glyphosate committee, Christopher Portier, an American scientist and environmental activist, revealed in testimony last month that he was hired as an expert consultant nine days after the glyphosate report was released, by one of the law firms representing glyphosate “victims.” He signed a contract and collected a $5,000 retainer. Portier was the guy who pushed to have glyphosate evaluated by IARC. He also admitted that he was in conversations with one of the law firms two months before IARC finalized the report.

According to his testimony, Portier, a former employee of the Environmental Defense Fund, has been paid $160,000 over the past two years by law firms that are suing Monsanto. According to a blog post defending Portier, he has another $30,000 in outstanding billable hours for his work on these lawsuits and more pay dirt ahead as litigation continues.

As he sought to influence U.S. and European regulators who were preparing their own studies on glyphosate, Portier failed to divulge this egregious conflict of interest. His bottom-feeding benefactors made sure of it: Portier signed an agreement that stipulated he would not disclose his work “to media organizations, trade journals, professional publications, members of the public or other purported experts.”

Asked during questioning whether, “in your submissions to these regulators, you do not disclose your relationship as an expert in private litigation against Monsanto, do you?” Portier answered, “I do not recall in my letters to EPA whether I did such a thing.” Portier’s testimony also revealed his ongoing contact with officials at Obama’s EPA. That agency repeatedly delayed releasing its own final report on glyphosate, although two internal studies concluded the herbicide is non-carcinogenic.

A Study ‘Based on Predetermined Outcomes’

These latest revelations have not gone unnoticed by Congress. “This new information heightens our concerns about the IARC report’s objectivity,” Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee, told me via email. “It also raises questions as to whether the study is based on scientific facts or rather on pre-determined outcomes that advance the personal and political goals of those involved.” The committee is already investigating a sketchy Italian “scientific” organization with close ties to IARC that receives U.S. tax dollars and of which Portier is a fellow.

But that’s not all. This week, a Reuters reporter compared IARC’s draft with the final version and found edits were made to support the conclusion that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen. Reuters “found 10 significant changes that were made between the draft chapter and the published version of IARC’s glyphosate assessment. In each case, a negative conclusion about glyphosate [finding it had no harmful effects] was either deleted or replaced with a neutral or positive one.”

It is now obvious that this outlier report was prepared and promoted by dishonest activists to wage an international assault on a safe, necessary chemical just because they hate the company that makes it. Even more shameful is that EU leaders are capitulating to these charlatans, destroying the livelihood of European farmers, disrupting the international food supply, and potentially causing a food crisis in Europe. But they are not sleepwalking. Their eyes are wide open to this sham.

4) Green NGO Sockpuppets: Taxpayer Funded Lobbying
Gaia Fawkes, 19 September 2017 

Green NGOs are spending millions lobbying against the interests of British taxpayers, analysis by the Taxpayers’ Alliance has found. Taxpayers’ cash received by charities including Friends of the Earth and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is being splurged on partisan political activities such as supporting parliamentary candidates and lobbying ministers. The cash has been used to block projects which experts say would bring down energy costs for consumers. 

The RSPB received £27.5 million in grants from UK taxpayers in 2015 and 2016. Its sister organisation Birdlife International received the third highest amount of European Commission taxpayer funding of any green group, being granted €3.8 million.

Likewise, Friends of the Earth received the second highest amount of any such group, being handed €7.6 million. In conjunction with Greenpeace (which does not receive EC funding), these charities have acted more like pressure groups by:

Orchestrating a massive media campaign to fight a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point;

Launching law suits to obstruct the construction of new power stations;

Lobbying the UK government to prevent expansion of infrastructure;

Lobbying successfully to prevent exploration for shale gas taking place in Wiltshire;

Publishing misleading advertising to influence consumer and public opinion, and spread falsehoods about shale gas exploration.

Friends of the Earth also spent more than £100,000 backing a pro-Green crop of parliamentary candidates. The Electoral Commission intervened and fined Friends of the Earth for failing to register properly as a donor. The amount spent was way over the limit imposed on candidates themselves in the final stages of the election campaign…

Meanwhile, the Pesticide Action Network, which has received more than €710,000 from the European Commission over the past decade, is currently campaigning to ban glyphosate (a weed killer). The pressure group claims glyphosate is a “potentially cancer-inducing chemical”, despite Europe’s own chemicals regulator, the European Chemicals Agency, finding

“The available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria… to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or for reproductive toxicity.”

A ban would cost taxpayers £228 million a year. A probe carried out by the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the Energy and Environmental Legal Institute found that, overall:

A total of €86.5 million has been given to a range of environmental groups by the European Commission over the past 10 years;

34 groups have been given more than €1 million.

This enormous pile of taxpayers cash is being ploughed into lobbying activities which directly prevent UK taxpayers from benefiting from cheaper energy and new infrastructure. Taxpayers’ Alliance Chief Executive John O’Connell said:

“It’s bad enough that politicians are piling costs onto consumers with their hare-brained energy schemes, but the fact that taxpayers are paying pressure groups to campaign against their interests adds insult to injury.

“There are plenty of reasons for the government to stop this gravy train in its tracks as it is, but the fact that some of these groups have run dishonest campaigns and fallen foul of electoral commission rules must surely be a final nail in the coffin for this taxpayer funded lobbying.”

5) IARCgate: Six Reasons Why IARC’s head, Christopher Wild, Must be Fired
Risk Monger, 23 October 2017 

David Zaruk

IARC, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is a mighty battleship ready to wage war against any government agency, company or science communicator that gets in its way. But as it has recently received several torpedo direct hits, its captain, Christopher Wild has ordered his ship straight into a battle likely to sink the entire agency. 

Respectable scientists have mutinied, a militant skeletal crew remains and has upped its propaganda. It seems they are considering a last ditch ramming attack that will bring down the reputation of all regulatory science with them.

IARC’s captain, Chris Wild, is not fit to lead the agency and every day he continues to struggle on through this crisis of confidence of his own doing, is one day closer to IARC’s 25 member countries pulling out and shutting the entire agency down. He should have resigned long ago, and as IARC lurches from one crisis to the next, as it picks battles rather than making concessions, its path of destruction is widening. The agency has become a ship-wreck, soon to be unsalvageable.
What follows are six reasons why Chris Wild must be fired. Any single one would be reason enough in a normal, responsible and accountable institution. That he continues to soldier on despite all six cases shows what a strange place the IARC battleship has become.

1. Wild has brought the scientific risk assessment approach into disrepute

IARC conduct hazard assessments, they acknowledge that, but then strangely present their findings in contrast to government agencies that conduct risk assessments. A hazard-based approach merely identifies that there could be a link between a substance or activity and a harm – it does not look into exposure levels or likelihood of harm (that is part of a risk assessment). Its only value is to indicate to the research community that more investigation should be conducted on exposure, probability and mitigation strategies. For example, when an IARC monograph declared that sunlight was a carcinogenic hazard, the agency left it to each government health agency to consider exposure levels, prevention or significance. No one expects governments to ban people from going out on a sunny day.

A hazard-based assessment, from the policy point of view, is practically worthless (many scientists have published how the hazard process is outmoded for today’s needs). So why  has Wild condoned an aggressive campaign against the EFSA, BfR and ECHA glyphosate risk assessments? Often the authors of the glyphosate monograph keep using the word ‘risk’ in place of ‘hazard’.

IARC monograph directors like Kurt Straif and Kate Guyton feel their identification of a remote cancer link from glyphosate exposure in rats is enough evidence to criticise risk assessors for not recommending banning the substance. For risk managers, the toxicity and exposure of this herbicide is so low, and the benefits so high, that any ban would be ridiculous and catastrophic to farmers and consumers. So why couldn’t Wild and his monograph team accept the decisions of the all of the world’s risk assessment agencies, all of them, and just move on?

When the EFSA head, Bernhard Url, mentioned that IARC’s hazard studies were used as “screening assessments”, Wild wrote back referring to his agency’s monographs as: “Far from being “screening” assessments, they are comprehensive evaluations based on systematic assembly and review of all publicly available studies.” Fine, but they are still not risk assessments and offer no guidance on hazard exposure management or policy choices.

IARC’s irrational persistence with glyphosate (and promotion of unethical anti-GMO activist campaigners) has confused consumers and raised doubt over the professionalism of regulatory scientists. Their continuous pursuing of this conflation of risk and hazard has damaged the public trust in science. Why would IARC have pushed this twisted regulatory approach?

Full post 

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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