European regulators based a decision to relicense the controversial weedkiller glyphosate on an assessment large sections of which were lifted directly from industry documents, according to a report for the European parliament.
A crossparty group of MEPs commissioned an investigation into claims that Germany’s Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) copy-and-pasted tracts from studies by the pesticide manufacturer Monsanto. The investigation found “clear evidence of BfR’s deliberate pretence of an independent assessment, whereas in reality the authority was only echoing the industry applicants’ assessment.”
Molly Scott Cato, a Green MEP, said the findings published on 16 January 2019 were “extremely alarming”, adding: “This helps explain why the World Health Organisation 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.”
The investigation found plagiarism in 50.1 per cent of the chapters assessing published studies on health risks – including whole paragraphs and entire pages of text.
Simona Bonafé, a member of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group in the European Parliament and the shadow rapporteur on the report, said: “The European authorisation procedure for pesticides has clearly shown shortcomings.”
She added: “The glyphosate case must stop being synonymous with the lack of transparency, lack of resources, and private interests overcoming public ones, and instead turn into the example of an opportunity seized by the EU to make human health and the environment a paramount priority. This is what we have strongly fought for, and we will continue to fight for full and decisive implementation.”
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”. BfR professor Dr Andreas Hensel said: “We often see that the complexity of the conventional procedure for the re-approval of the pesticidal active substances is not understood properly,” adding: “The term ‘plagiarism’ is not relevant in this context.”
A study published this year in the journal Environmental Sciences Europe found almost threequarters of the peer-reviewed papers looked at by WHO’s International Agency for Research on cancer (IARC) found evidence of genotoxicity in glyphosate, compared with just 1 per cent of the industry analyses.
- Stefan Weber and Helmut Burtscher-Schaden. Detailed Expert Report on Plagiarism and superordinated Copy Paste in the Renewal Assessment Report (RAR) on Glyphosate, 2019.
- Charles M Benbrook. How did the US EPA and IARC reach diametrically opposed conclusions on the genotoxicity of glyphosate-based herbicides?, Environmental Sciences Europe, volume 31, number 2, 2019.