For the second time in over two months, evidence has surfaced that further demonstrates the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) lack of transparency, conflicts of interest, and hidden agenda.
On August 17, Politico revealed that Charles Williams Jameson, a member of IARC’s working group on glyphosate (Monograph 112 program) and retired National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) scientist, testified under oath that he “did not possess the full picture” on glyphosate prior to the group’s March 2015 conclusion that the herbicide is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Once again, IARC scientists withheld critical data from studies that concluded glyphosate does not pose a cancer threat.
IARC Staff Withholds Relevant Data from Evaluation – Twice
According to a May deposition by Jameson — who Politico describes as a “world-renowned scientist”— he was not made privy to two critical research pieces.
The first instance involved data considered crucial to a report by Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). The research concluded that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. The data had been sent to IARC staff on February 3, 2015 – well before the working group began its glyphosate review in March, and presumably with plenty of time for all Monograph working group members to benefit from the findings.
Jameson also testified that he never received raw data from a peer-reviewed German study, named the Greim Study, that also concluded glyphosate is not carcinogenic prior to IARC’s glyphosate determination. Instead, IARC staff shared a brief summary of the study just a day before the working group’s final evaluation. That study, which drew tumor data from 14 carcinogenicity studies on rats, concluded that glyphosate is not carcinogenic:
“The lack of a plausible mechanism, along with published epidemiology studies, which fail to demonstrate clear, statistically significant, unbiased and non-confounded associations between glyphosate and cancer of any single etiology, and a compelling weight of evidence, support the conclusion that glyphosate does not present concern with respect to carcinogenic potential in humans.” (emphasis added)
Impact on IARC’s Conclusions
Jameson also stated under oath that proper access and analysis of the data could have altered IARC’s final determination on glyphosate. This is a significant statement.
Another particularly telling excerpt from Jameson’s deposition revealed that his animal sub-group was led to believe that the study was submitted to IARC after its official deadline:
“There was a lot of discussion around the table about if this publication should be even looked at, because it was not received in the time identified in the announcement for submission of data that IARC had for this particular monograph meeting.” (emphasis added)
But the data had in fact been sent to IARC a full month prior to the evaluation. And when presented with evidence that a pair of his IARC colleagues — Kate Guyton, the officer responsible for IARC’s monographs section, and another lead scientist and member of the IARC working group — failed to send him the latter study, Jameson responded bluntly: “I’ll be damned.”
Broader Trends of Data Suppression
These revelations come just two months after a Reuters investigation revealed that another IARC glyphosate working group member, Monograph 112 chair Aaron Blair, suppressed updated data from the Agricultural Health Study (AHS), the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted on glyphosate exposure in humans. That study also found glyphosate is not carcinogenic. Blair told Reuters that he didn’t include the data — which he had been aware of since 2013 — because it hadn’t been published yet due to spacing constraints.
Similar to Jameson’s testimony, Blair admitted that had IARC considered the study, it likely would have changed its conclusion on glyphosate, stating “[the] data would have altered IARC’s analysis.”
This summer’s revelations by Politico and Reuters are just the latest additions to a rapidly mounting list of evidence that brings IARC’s scientific integrity into question. These reports show IARC has repeatedly ignored reputable data demonstrating glyphosate’s safety, while cherry-picking other flawed studies that support its positions. This is a critical issue, since IARC’s determinations have a direct impact on public health policy in the U.S. and U.S taxpayers help fund IARC’s flawed science.
In a statement issued following Politico’s report, American Chemistry Council (ACC) president and CEO Cal Dooley said:
“Today’s Politico report provides new evidence that the IARC Monographs Program suffers from a lack of transparency, conflicts of interest, and is beholden to the agenda of those seeking specific outcomes. It is clear that important data demonstrating the safety of glyphosate was intentionally omitted from the IARC Monograph.…Today’s report raises questions about the integrity of other Monographs and whether there has been a pattern of omitting inconvenient data. With a majority of IARC’s funding coming from the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) National Cancer Institute (NCI), U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for questionable science.”
Reuters’ reporting on the suppression of updated data from the AHS study prompted U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C) to launch an investigation probing why the National Institutes of Health (NIH) failed to publish compelling evidence that shows no link between glyphosate and cancer. Likewise, Politico’s reporting should prompt further investigation into why an IARC Monograph program clearly in urgent need of reform continues to directly influence domestic policy, doing so on the tab of American taxpayers.
Scientists and researchers across the globe agree that IARC’s Monographs program must be reformed. IARC’s classification of substances as carcinogens must no longer ignore essential elements of dose and exposure – they must consider the risk, not just hazard. As we can see in this latest case with Jameson, it is unclear how IARC determines which studies to consider and which to disregard for its Monographs – and who should receive what. Not only should IARC give the most weight to studies that are of the highest quality, but also establish clearly defined, transparent criteria for assessing the quality and reliability of studies.
While IARC’s misguided review of glyphosate is just one example of the agency’s flawed Monograph processes, these latest revelations have influenced stakeholders worldwide to demand an increase in transparency and participation from industry experts. Increased transparency and industry participation would help identify and/or eliminate conflicts of interest and improve Monograph releases in general. With so many case studies highlighting the shortcomings of the program, it is not clear that IARC’s goal is to protect public health.