Vienna/Berlin/Paris/Lisbon/Parma 4.12.2017. An alliance of environmental organisations is submitting an official complaint against the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the European Food and Safety Agency (EFSA) in Austria, Germany, Italy, Portugal and France. With reference to its own investigations, U.S. court documents (“Monsanto Papers”) and an expert plagiarism assessment, the environmental activists demonstrate that the BfR and EFSA had not undertaken an independent, objective and transparent assessment of the health risks associated with glyphosate as required by the EU Pesticides Regulation 1107/2009. As a consequence, the pesticide glyphosate has been reapproved throughout Europe although it would have otherwise probably not met the legal requirements for approval. It is to be feared that extremely severe health risks will be the consequence of this misconduct on the part of the regulatory authorities.
Suspicion of plagiarism involving deliberate concealment of the originator
According to the EU Pesticides Regulation, substances with carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic properties may not be approved for use as pesticides. It is therefore controversial that the BfR did not itself assess the published studies which examine these potential properties of glyphosate, instead adopting word-for-word the assessments provided in the approval application submitted by the manufacturers, thereby “deliberately concealing” their origin, as an expert opinion by the Salzburg-based media scientist and lecturer Dr Stefan Weber has shown.
The authorities refute this accusation. Helmut Burtscher-Schaden, who commissioned the expert plagiarism assessment on behalf of the Austrian environmental protection organisation GLOBAL 2000, explains that: “As BfR President Andreas Hensel declares the accusations in our expert opinion to be ‘unfounded and fictitious’, with EFSA Director Bernhard Url going so far as to claim ‘an orchestrated campaign to discredit the scientific process’, our complaint is intended to instigate an independent and objective examination by the courts of the integrity of our expert opinion”.
No impartial examination of the scientific facts
Indications that EFSA and the BfR had never intended to undertake an independent and objective assessment of the carcinogenicity of glyphosate are evident in the recently published U.S. court documents, also known as the “Monsanto Papers”. According to these documents, on 22 May 2015, i.e. six months prior (!) to publishing their highly anticipated final assessment of the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, and two months prior (!) to completion of the IARC monograph, EFSA had already informed the U.S. authorities that it would evaluate the IARC monograph in August and would refute its findings. This excludes an independent and objective evaluation.
Suspicion of influence by Monsanto
The EFSA contact person at the U.S. EPA was the leading EPA toxicologist named in the U.S. media as Monsanto “mole” at the EPA: Jess Rowland. Accordingly, he is reported to have attempted to prevent the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from undertaking an independent assessment of the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, and this with success. An internal Monsanto text message indicates that he also “aligned EFSA in a phone call”. This “phone call” most probably was the teleconference of EFSA with the EU Member States (TC 117).
As early as May 2017, the toxicologist and PAN Germany Board Member Dr Peter Clausing managed to discover that an intervention by Jess Rowlands during teleconference 117 was the reason for EFSA excluding a key cancer study from its assessment, but without being able to provide a scientific reason for this exclusion.
The lawyer Dr Josef Unterweger says of the above statement of facts: "If plagiarism serves to produce false evidence, then it is not just a matter of copyright. If an authority produces an incorrect report, then it is liable for it. This is called official liability or state liability. If a pesticide is in circulation, which would not be in circulation of the authority would have produced a correct report, the authority is responsible for the damage that occurred.”
The misconduct which has come to light during the glyphosate approvals process has led to a sustained loss of confidence in the European regulatory authorities and in the European approvals process. Comprehensive follow-up and clarification is urgently required. This can be undertaken either by the courts, or by committees of enquiry in the European Parliament or at national level. Only when this takes place, and when the necessary consequences have been drawn, will Europeans once again place long-term trust in their institutions.