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Monsanto Was Its Own Ghostwriter For Some Safety Reviews (bloomberg.com) 48

Reader schwit1 writes: Dozens of internal Monsanto emails, released on Aug. 1 by plaintiffs lawyers who are suing the company, reveal how Monsanto worked with an outside consulting firm to induce the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology to publish a purported independent review of Roundups health effects that appears to be anything but. The review, published along with four subpapers in a September 2016 special supplement, was aimed at rebutting the 2015 assessment by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen (PDF). That finding by the cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization led California last month to list glyphosate as a known human carcinogen. It has also spurred more than 1,000 lawsuits in state and federal courts by plaintiffs who claim they contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma from Roundup exposure. Monsanto disclosed that it paid Intertek Group Plc consulting unit to develop the review supplement, entitled An Independent Review of the Carcinogenic Potential of Glyphosate. But that was the extent of Monsantos involvement, the main article said. The Expert Panelists were engaged by, and acted as consultants to, Intertek, and were not directly contacted by the Monsanto Company, according to the reviews Declaration of Interest statement. Neither any Monsanto company employees nor any attorneys reviewed any of the Expert Panels manuscripts prior to submission to the journal.
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Monsanto Was Its Own Ghostwriter For Some Safety Reviews

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Devils Advocate, don't get all mad at me. What if Monsanto had submitted the paper under its own name? Would it stand a chance at being published? Would anyone actual take it seriously? It sounds nefarious, but what if they actually wanted what they view as legitimate information to be actually read by someone?

    With that said, doing crap like that only further damages trust.

    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @01:17PM (#54976047)

      Well it only damages trust if they are caught.

      However the GMO Crazies are mainly a subset of all companies are evil crazy. Means an article posted by them, will immediately be considered false and lies. Much like a report from the Tobacco industry saying smoking doesn't cause cancer. And the from the Oil Industry saying carbon doesn't cause global warming.

      Granted they should had posted it with their own name, just so if other independent results confirm it, they look all the better.

      But in general for Science Reporting for man made things, are politically charged.
      Liberal groups have a hard time accepting science which says man made product is safe. (GMO, Vaccines)
      Conservative groups have a hard time accepting science saying that a product is dangerous. (Global Warming, Tobacco)

      In a culture where we are unable to trust science, because of all the bad science going on.

      • by Mr D from 63 ( 3395377 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @01:31PM (#54976223)
        It would be great if there were an independent review, from credible and qualified individuals, of the conflicting studies to perform some sort of validation and also to point out the potential flaws or margins of error. But who would choose and fund that review? It would be ideal if the two opposing entities funded it together, but that's not gonna happen.

        My biggest concern with these 'causes cancer' studies is that its always a matter of levels of exposure, and there often is a big hole when it comes to what level of exposure a typical user would encounter, and what risk that presents, and how that compares with other risks. In my opinion, any study that puts forth an association of cancer to a product is incomplete, and sometimes even negligent, when they stop without attempting to answer that questions whilst leaving the public to assume the worst. But to be fair to those performing the studies, often its the media that simply takes the study and mis-characterizes its findings for either clicks or agenda.
      • I think that they're damaged just by the accusation.

        Assume for the sake of argument that Monsanto is completely innocent of any wrongdoing or impropriety for which they're being accused of in this specific case. It's essentially impossible to prove that you didn't do something (which is why the burden of proof must lie with the claimant) but there will always be some number of people that will only view a lack of evidence of guilt as proof of a wider-ranging cover up.

        Once they've made up their mind, i
        • by dryeo ( 100693 )

          What about the surfactants (sp?) that are mixed into roundup to break the surface tension and allow the glyphosate to penetrate the plants? They're usually a trade secret, not studied and also a potential carcinogen. Roundup is not just glyphosate, which at least breaks down real quick and appears to be quite safe.

      • by dryeo ( 100693 )

        But in general for Science Reporting for man made things, are politically charged.
        Liberal groups have a hard time accepting science which says man made product is safe. (GMO, Vaccines)
        Conservative groups have a hard time accepting science saying that a product is dangerous. (Global Warming, Tobacco)

        The big difference is that GMO, Vaccine are processes or tools while global warming and especially tobacco are things. GMO is like a hammer and saw, can be and usually is used for constructive purposes such as building a house but can be used to kill and dismember a person. Even when used to build a house, it is smart to make sure the house is built to some standards so it doesn't collapse and kill someone. Tobacco is a substance that has all kinds of evidence that it is harmful when consumed by people.
        The

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @01:32PM (#54976241) Homepage Journal

      That's not even necessary. Journals have conflict of interest disclosure rules; any potential conflict such as funding from an interested party is disclosed when the paper is published, and everything is kosher.

      In fact if you go to the paper itself [tandfonline.com], here's the relevant bit from the disclosure statement:

      The Expert Panelists were engaged by, and acted as consultants to, Intertek, and were not directly contacted by the Monsanto Company. Funding for this evaluation was provided to Intertek by the Monsanto Company which is a primary producer of glyphosate and products containing this active ingredient. Neither any Monsanto company employees nor any attorneys reviewed any of the Expert Panel's manuscripts prior to submission to the journal.

      [emphasis mine]

      The bit I've highlighted is the crux of this matter. The accusation was that those bits were false.

      Deliberately misrepresentation on a conflict of interest statement constitutes scientific fraud.

    • Can the same results be duplicated by someone who doesn't care about the outcome? If not, it's bullshit. So why did the mother f**kers lie?
    • Devils Advocate, don't get all mad at me. What if Monsanto had submitted the paper under its own name? Would it stand a chance at being published? Would anyone actual take it seriously? It sounds nefarious, but what if they actually wanted what they view as legitimate information to be actually read by someone?

      If you want your research to be read, the last thing you do is submit it for peer review in a respected journal.

  • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Neuronwelder ( 990842 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @12:59PM (#54975889)
    Even if they are proved to be dangerous. They won't fix it. And if you do sue them. It will be your tax dollars: For court fees. And the settlement will probably come out of your taxes. They know how to buy Lobbyists and manipulate laws. You can't fight big companies. Look what happened to Flint Michigan.. nothing. People cant move from their houses until they pay for utility repairs and their houses are not worth squat.
  • What an article (Score:5, Informative)

    by bluefoxlucid ( 723572 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @01:07PM (#54975957) Homepage Journal

    The Declaration of Interest statement was rewritten per McClellan’s instructions, despite being untrue.

    Just a paragraph up:

    Specifically, McClellan told Roberts to make clear how the panelists were hired--"ie by Intertek," McClellan wrote. "If you can say without consultation with Monsanto, that would be great. If there was any review of the reports by Monsanto or their legal representatives, that needs to be disclosed."

    McClellan instructed them to disclose any contact. If they didn't, then that's not a fault of McClellan's instructions, and McClellan's instructions were not followed.

    • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

      Just a paragraph up:

      Specifically, McClellan told Roberts to make clear how the panelists were hired--"ie by Intertek," McClellan wrote. "If you can say without consultation with Monsanto, that would be great. If there was any review of the reports by Monsanto or their legal representatives, that needs to be disclosed."

      McClellan instructed them to disclose any contact. If they didn't, then that's not a fault of McClellan's instructions, and McClellan's instructions were not followed.

      Actually, McClellan specifically instructed them to disclose if Monsanto or their legal representatives reviewed the reports. That's a whole different statement than disclosing any contact. The panelists could all have been consultants for Monsanto who were hired by Intertek and be 100% following instructions without disclosing Monsanto ties under the wording used.

      • Consultation with Monsanto or their legal representatives. Consultants for Monsanto hired by Intertek would be legal representatives in some fashion.

        They put in the disclosure that they didn't consult with Monsanto when writing the paper, even though there's a hell of a lot of consultation with Monsanto going on in the review of the reports. Saying that McClellan instructed them not to disclose that Monsanto had been consulted in reviewing the reports is ... at odds with the facts.

        The whole thing is

        • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

          The correct way of stating it would be "Please disclose if there was any communication with Monsanto for any reason while producing this report and note each incident along with topics discussed."

          That covers full disclosure of all potential problems.

          • Probably clearer and better, yeah. I still say that there was, in fact, review (and editing!) of the reports by Monsanto and their legal representatives, and that we can't claim McClellan ordered such contact to not be reported.

            I've a vested interest in seeing people of integrity in positions of power. From what I can tell, McClellan acted to maximize disclosure and minimize collusion, albeit with minimal apparent involvement himself he doesn't have much power until someone elevates a problem to his aw

            • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

              I've a vested interest in seeing people of integrity in positions of power. From what I can tell, McClellan acted to maximize disclosure and minimize collusion, albeit with minimal apparent involvement himself he doesn't have much power until someone elevates a problem to his awareness. We should be focusing on Monsanto and the panel which accepted a paper with undisclosed editing by its key stakeholder.

              We all have vested interests in seeing such things otherwise things go down the slippery slope of deteriorating services and standards. McClellan appears to have left lots of legal wiggle room, whether intentional or not. And yes, we absolutely should also focus on whether there was editing of the paper by Monsanto backed interests. That is a separate issue.

  • This is hardly "news" in that itâ(TM)s pretty standard for companies to fund "independent" research papers on their products, and of course the expectation is that these studies will be friendly to whatever thing they are studying. The bigger issue to me is that the majority of the public does not understand this is going on and has been since almost the beginning of time.

  • DDT was considered bad too, but, years later it is found to be safe, but, don't tell that to the save the whales/bambi/tree hugger types. They will hit you with website after website saying how DDT kills this or that. Roundup has been used for almost 40 years. If it was THAT deadly, it would have showed up by now. Like I said, you can't have a peaceful meaningful conversation with the "animals first" bunch...they are always right, and anyone with an opposing view is a (insert one of their favorite terms).
  • Nothing works better. I'll sneak it in from Canada if I need to.
  • ... another article regarding Roundup, Monsanto, and lax oversight by US EPA...

    Internal EPA Documents Show Scramble For Data On Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide
    The documents raise questions about how and why regulators for years have failed to require robust testing on what is the world’s most widely-used weed killer. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/... [huffingtonpost.com]

  • Thats all you need, but you need to be really careful with it. It'll kill any small plants that grow and the salt helps prevent plants from growing back. The soap helps it all "stick." It's actually an ancient military tactic to salt the ground of your enemies. We've use it in and along the driveways and it takes a few days to notice, but with this hot weather, maybe not.
  • by ytene ( 4376651 ) on Wednesday August 09, 2017 @03:43PM (#54977785)
    I wonder if any regular Slashdot reader has knowledge of the 10Ks that were filed by Monsanto during this period. Under Securities Law, the SEC requires that publicly listed companies like Monsanto complete a number of publications. The annual 10K includes a section, (Item 1A, Risk Factors) in which Monsanto should have been fully disclosing the risks that they were attempting to protect with the edits that they were inducing these "independent" specialists to produce.

    If the "evidence" that was being claimed via these "independent" results were substantially different from what the company knew to be reality, then it is entirely within the realm of possibility that a class-action lawsuit could be raised by shareholders who could reasonably claim that they were materially misled.

    Why am I focusing on this dimension first and foremost? Simply because we've seen how little large corporations care for the opinions of employees, of adversely affected clients, of the neighbours to their industrial plants, pipelines and processing centres or even the law. The only thing that really seems to worry a CEO these days is a posse of angry shareholders with the power to vote them out of their job.
    • So what you're saying is that all of the hippies that are showing up to things the March Against Monsanto [wikipedia.org] should actually invest in the company instead because it has a better chance of actually allowing them to attain their goals?

      I'd pay good money just to see a video of someone suggesting this to such a crowd and their reaction to said proposal.
      • by ytene ( 4376651 )
        I concede that the idea is unlikely to be popular. But I'm open to suggestions for a better way to make a change.

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