OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) – As the trial over the world’s most widely used herbicide and its connection to a California couple’s cancer stretches into its third week, their attorney showed the jury more unsealed records showing a cozy relationship between the agrochemical company and U.S. regulators.
Attorney Brent Wisner, representing plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod, played video testimony of Monsanto corporate spokesman William Reeves in court Monday, in which he acknowledged Monsanto executives had exchanged text messages with regulators who sat on a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency committee that found glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is not carcinogenic for humans.
The Pilliods’ legal team hopes these email and text exchanges will be enough evidence of collusion between Monsanto and the EPA to delay a review by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a public health agency connected to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alva and Alberta Pilliod, who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma within four years of each other, claim Roundup was a substantial factor in causing their cancer. Both Alva and Alberta sprayed the herbicide for roughly 30 years on their properties, and they accuse Monsanto of covering up the product’s harms.
On June 18, 2015, Monsanto scientist Eric Sachs sent a text message to former EPA toxicologist Mary Manibusan, asking if she knew anyone in the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
“Yes. Where specifically?” Manibusan asked.
“On tox profiles,” Sachs said, referring to “toxicity.” The agency had been working on a toxicological profile of glyphosate on the heels of the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s 2015 classification of the herbicide as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The U.S. agency had announced the review in February 2015 with a planned publication date that October.
“It’s been a while but I can. Sweetheart, I know lots of people so you can count on me,” Manibusan told Sachs.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to keep from having a domestic IARC occur with this group. May need your help,” he said.
Wisner also showed the jury internal emails of Monsanto’s efforts to get the agency to wait with its review until after the EPA’s own re-evaluation/preliminary risk assessment of glyphosate.
On June 23, 2015, Dan Jenkins, Monsanto’s liaison to various U.S. regulatory agencies like the EPA, wrote in an email to colleagues saying that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry had assured Jack Housenger, at the time the director of EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, that it would put its report on hold.
“ATSDR Director and Branch Chief have promised Jack Housenger (Director of the US Office of Pesticide Programs) to put their report ‘on hold’ until after EPA releases its preliminary risk assessment (PRA) for glyphosate. EPA will not have the final meeting of its internal cancer review technical group until after the IARC monographs are published, and thus will not put out the PRA until after this (guessing this would mean around mid-August),” Jenkins wrote. “ATSDR has cited a GAO Audit report in arguing that their process is distinguishable and not duplicative. They look at different endpoints and told EPA they don't ‘make a call on cancer’, but I think we should continue to be cautious. EPA will send me the name of the Branch Chief so that we can hopefully set up a meeting.”
In a response thanking Jenkins for the follow-up on June 24, Monsanto toxicologist William Heydens wrote, “‘Distinguishable and not duplicative'? Seriously? And I will believe the not 'making a call on cancer' part when I see it. Anyway, at least they know they are being watched, and hopefully that keeps them from doing anything too stupid ...”