Today, 27 November 2017, the European Union approved the use of glyphosate for another five years.
Stéphane Horel, Stéphane Foucart, Le Monde, 21 November 2017 (translation)
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.
Below is part two, originally published June 2, 2017, translated by the Health and Environment Alliance.
They had promised it was "safer than table salt" – but that was in the advertisements.
It is the most widely used herbicide in the world. It is the main ingredient in their flagship product, Roundup, the bedrock on which their firm has built its economic model, its wealth and its reputation. A product which has been on the market for more than 40 years and became a best-seller with the development of genetically-modified seeds called "Roundup Ready."
It is this product, glyphosate, that could in fact be carcinogenic.
On March 20, 2015, Monsanto took a major hit. On that day, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate to be genotoxic (it causes DNA damage), carcinogenic for animals, and a "probable carcinogen" for humans.
The jury was a group of 17 seasoned experts representing 11 different nationalities who were brought together by this official UN agency, which is responsible for establishing an inventory of carcinogenic substances and whose scientific opinions on the matter have been authoritative for half a century.
There was therefore no doubt that this would also be the destiny of their conclusions on glyphosate, published in the form of a report called "Monograph 112."
A declaration of war
Safe from prying eyes, the fury of the U.S. corporation crossed the Atlantic via optical fibre. On the very same day, a message that carried the whiff of a declaration of war was sent to Geneva (Switzerland) to the director of the World Health Organization (WHO), which is IARC's parent organization.
The letterhead sported the famous little green branch framed by an orange rectangle: the Monsanto logo. "It is our understanding that IARC participants purposefully chose to disregard dozens of studies and publicly available regulatory assessments that support the conclusion that glyphosate does not pose a human health risk," wrote an accusatory Philip Miller, Monsanto's Vice President of Global Regulatory and Governmental Affairs.
Among the points that he wanted to be discussed in an "urgent meeting" were what "steps can be immediately taken to rectify this highly questionable review and conclusion," the selection criteria for the experts, and even "an accounting of all funding for the classification of glyphosate by IARC, including donors."
The roles had switched: it was now the international organization that had to be accountable to the company.
Throughout the summer of 2015, CropLife International—the lobby organization of the agrochemical sector in which Monsanto is a member—took over the intimidation by letter. Intrusive demands jostled with veiled threats.
Read Part 1 here: