Originally published January 15, 2019 on The Guardian
By Arthur Nelsen
A crossparty group of MEPs commissioned an investigation into claims, revealed by the Guardian, that Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) copy-and-pasted tracts from Monsanto studies.
The study’s findings have been released hours before a parliamentary vote on tightening independent scrutiny of the pesticides approvals process.
The authors said they found “clear evidence of BfR’s deliberate pretence of an independent assessment, whereas in reality the authority was only echoing the industry applicants’ assessment.”
“This helps explain why the World Health Organization assessment on glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen was so at odds with EU assessors, who awarded this toxic pesticide a clean bill of health, brushing off warnings of its dangers,” she said.
The study found plagiarism in 50.1% of the chapters assessing published studies on health risks – including whole paragraphs and entire pages of text.
The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), based its recommendation that glyphosate was safe for public use on the BfR’s assessment.
An Efsa spokesperson said: “The report does not provide any new scientific information that calls into question the assessment and conclusions of glyphosate. Efsa stands firmly behind the integrity of its risk assessment processes and its conclusions on glyphosate.”
In a statement, the BfR rejected any notion of deliberate deception, saying that its authors had evaluated the relevant industry reports before selecting passages of text to “integrate”.
“We often see that the complexity of the conventional procedure for the re-approval of the pesticidal active substances is not understood properly,” said the BfR professor, Dr Andreas Hensel. “The term ‘plagiarism’ is not relevant in this context.”
A separate analysis of research methods used to evaluate glyphosate by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also raised questions about regulatory independence.
It found that EPA regulators used unpublished industry reports in 63% of the studies they evaluated, whereas the IARC relied solely on publicly available literature.
Almost three-quarters of the peer-reviewed papers looked at by IARC found evidence of genotoxicity in glyphosate, compared with just 1% of the industry analyses, according to the study published in Environmental Sciences Europe.
Jo Lewis, the Soil Association’s policy director, said: “It is unacceptable that pesticide-industry studies receive greater recognition than scientific peer-reviewed open literature in regulatory decision-making. Whilst this paper focuses on the US EPA, similar criticisms have been made of EU decisions and we fear that outside the EU, pressure to approve pesticides will increase.”