While the public has still been reeling from the "probable carcinogen" determination by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), recent developments have surfaced that could change everything. A new Reuter's investigation has revealed that a particular scientist knew about data reaped from a large study that proved completely the opposite but withheld that information during the review.
Aaron Blair, one of the senior researchers in the initial study and also one of the scientists who led the review with IARC on glyphosate, had access to this data all along. It appears that because the data Blair had access to that showed no link between glyphosate and cancer had not been published when the review took place, the IARC could not take this information into consideration when making their determination. During a sworn deposition, Aaron Blair stated that if the data had been part of the IARC's review, it would have changed their final decision.
The reasoning behind why the data was left unpublished before the IARC's review is not completely clear. However, Blair claimed the data contained too much information to be published in one document before the review took place. Even though there is evidence that Blair and other co-authors of the draft papers on the research findings knew that the study results would be important to science and public health. Other experts who weighed in when asked by Reuter's could find no reason the findings were not published because the data was strong and relevant. A well-known supporter of clarity in science, Michael Eisen, who is also a professor of genomics, development, and genetics at the University of California-Berkeley, deemed the IARC's rule to not review unpublished data silly. He also proposed that the IARC seemed to be in a rush to reach the conclusion they did.
For decades, everyone from farmers and agriculture-related business owners to the average consumer have relied on glyphosate-containing products like Roundup to eliminate weeds and unwanted growth in gardens, crop fields, forests, and landscaping. This non-selective herbicide works wonders to quickly get rid of unwanted growth and understandably has been the go-to remedy for many since its discovery in 1970 by the Monsanto chemist John E. Franz.
Unfortunately, the controversy over such wide use of the chemical has led to some pretty conflicting information for consumers. Some researchers have claimed that the chemical is directly related to certain types of cancers. Yet, there are trustworthy sources that have said otherwise. In 2015, the IARC actually declared glyphosate a probable carcinogen, which in theory means any substance containing the chemical has the probability of causing cancer. This change brought about a huge amount of outcry from public consumers who have long relied on Roundup and similar products for years and led to some pretty astounding lawsuits. But how reliable is this information?
Widespread reliance on glyphosate led to the safety being studied since the 1980's by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and various other international agencies, such as the European Food Safety Authority and Japan's Food Safety Commission. Even after regular review over the past 35 years, all these involved agencies say that the chemical is unlikely to be cancer-causing for humans.
There has been a different take on glyphosate testing by some researchers of the chemical. Many individual and group entity researchers have also tested the chemical on lab animals and monitored the chemical in things like water supplies and food sources to determine its safety and effect on humans with repeated exposure.
Even though there is clear, irrefutable evidence that glyphosate should not be linked to cancer, it is hard to judge if or when anything about the IARC's ruling will change. So far, the IARC is not showing any visible indication that they plan to appeal their decision that the chemical is a probable carcinogen. Nevertheless, the information that says otherwise is out and the public knows it, which can change things for consumers who may have previously been concerned. The new evidence was even brought up at a recent EPA budget hearing to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, when he was simply asked to look into the new evidence that was withheld during the IARC review of the chemical.
There are also plans in the works to dig deeper into glyphosate as a carcinogen, with a manuscript covering a possible peer-review study to be submitted in the near future. While a date to see these new studies take place is still beyond the horizon, it is promising to consider the possible changes that could take place because of them.