In order to save glyphosate, the Monsanto corporation has undertaken an effort to destroy the United Nations' cancer agency by any means possible. Here is part two of an investigation from Le Monde.
Editors Note: This month Le Monde won the Prix Varenne Presse quotidienne nationale (Varenne award for the national daily press) for their Monsanto Papers series, an investigation on the worldwide war the Monsanto corporation has started in order to save glyphosate, originally published in June.
IARC, a stronghold of independence and integrity<p>IARC has seen it all before. Not for the first time is it the target of criticisms and attacks—those are commensurate with the agency's reputation. Although IARC's evaluations do not have any regulatory value, they can sometimes threaten huge commercial interests.</p><p><a href="http://www.who.int/tobacco/publications/industry/who_inquiry/en/" target="_blank">The most documented attack</a> concerns passive smoking, which was evaluated by IARC at the end of the 1990s. But even in the heyday of confrontations with Big Tobacco, the weapons used were relatively tame. "I have been working for IARC for 15 years and I have never seen anything like what has been happening in the past two years," confided Kurt Straif, Head of the agency's Monographs Program.</p><p>It would be difficult to make IARC look like a controversial agency, contested within the scientific community itself and driven by an "anti-industry" bias. For <a href="https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1409149/" target="_blank">the overwhelming majority</a> of scientists in the academic world—cancer specialists or public health researchers—the agency represents a stronghold of independence and integrity. </p><p>"I honestly have trouble imagining a more rigorous and objective way to proceed towards collective scientific reviews," said epidemiologist Marcel Goldberg, a researcher at the French National Institute for Health and Medical research (INSERM), which has participated in the work of several monographs.</p><p>For each of them, IARC brings together around 20 researchers from different countries, selected not only for their experience and scientific competence but for the absence of any conflicts of interest. </p><p>Moreover, IARC bases its opinions on studies published in scientific journals and excludes confidential industry-sponsored studies. This is not the case for most regulatory agencies, which—on the contrary—may give decisive weight to studies performed and supplied by the companies whose products are being assessed.</p><p>Among them is the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the official EU agency in charge of assessing risks related to pesticides. </p><p>In fall 2015, the European Union was to decide whether or not it would renew its authorization for glyphosate for at least another decade. As the basis for that decision, EFSA's opinion on glyphosate was much-awaited. By November, Monsanto could take a breath. <a href="https://www.efsa.europa.eu/fr/press/news/151112" target="_blank">EFSA's conclusions</a> contradicted IARC: EFSA concluded that glyphosate was neither genotoxic nor carcinogenic. </p><p>Shortly afterwards, Monsanto's breath was taken way again.</p>
Attack against a scientist<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xNTA1ODk4My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjg4MDgwNX0.Vn8sHpmUAe7IcgVoNurtZ2mSxDN-Rq6Uozf7FOZrH80/img.jpg?width=980" id="c2d99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="36f5699eddff9351916d1e4c787c7107" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Christopher Portier<p>A few weeks later, around a hundred scientists <a href="http://jech.bmj.com/content/70/8/741" target="_blank">severely criticized</a> EFSA's conclusions in a respected journal, considering them flawed by numerous shortcomings. Behind the initiative was a U.S. scientist who had helped the scientists working on IARC's monograph as an "invited specialist." </p><p>It was on him that the attacks concentrated.</p><p>In environmental health circles, Christopher Portier is certainly not a nobody. "I have read here and there that Chris Portier has no competence and it's probably one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard," said Dana Loomis, the Vice Director of the IARC monographs. "He developed many of the analytic tools that are used everywhere to interpret toxicological studies!" Mr Portier is one of those scientists whose CV does not fit in less than 30 pages.</p><p>Author of more than 200 scientific publications, he has been Director of the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), director of the U.S. Agency on Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, associate director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and of the National Toxicology Program. "That's undoubtedly a unique career," said Robert Barouki, director of a toxicology research unit at INSERM.</p><p>Newly retired, Christopher Portier now offers his competence as an expert and adviser to several international organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a U.S. environmental protection NGO. </p><p>And it is this man who was to become the target of an attack ...</p><p>On April 18, 2016, the news agency Reuters published a<u><a href="http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/health-who-iarc/" target="_blank"> long article on IARC</a></u> in which the agency was described as a "semi-autonomous" WHO agency guilty of "confus[ing] consumers." </p><p>The article referred to "concerns about potential conflicts of interest at IARC: It involves an adviser to the agency who is closely linked to the Environmental Defense Fund, a U.S. campaign group opposed to pesticides".</p>