Is Glyphosate As Safe As Monsanto Claims? Health Canada Takes Another Look

A coalition of Canadian environmental groups has made some serious allegations where the approval of Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup is concerned, and Health Canada is listening… although some say not as well as it should be.

The government agency now has the agrochemical giant and various studies on the chemical glyphosate under the microscope.

CBC News reports that scientists are taking a closer look at hundreds of academic papers they used during the approval process of glyphosate. The herbicide was re-evaluated by Health Canada in 2017, which extended its registration for 15 years.

The problem is those studies are alleged to have been manipulated by Monsanto in an effort to downplay any possible cancer risk associated with using the Roundup product.

There are several environmental groups involved in the demand for a turnover of the approval, including Equiterre, Ecojustice, and Canadian Physicians for the Environment. They say the studies looking at possible links between cancer rates and the chemical were presented to Health Canada as independent but were really ghostwritten by Monsanto.

The Monsanto Papers

It’s enough to send chills down your spine, all of it brought to light in the recent groundbreaking case of Dewayne “Lee” Johnson.

Last August, a California jury ordered Monsanto to pay Johnson $289 million US in damages after he developed non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Johnson claims it was his exposure to Roundup as a school groundskeeper that led him to his terminal diagnosis.

That verdict was upheld earlier this month, although the payout was reduced to $78 million US.

During the trial, the prosecution revealed secret documents including emails between Monsanto and scientific experts. According to the coalition of Canadian environmental groups, that’s evidence that Monsanto co-wrote or edited glyphosate studies.

Johnson, who is 46-years-old, may never live to see the money, but by bringing Monsanto to court, he was able to shed light on something we all need to be aware of. Will it be enough to spark our governments into action?

Environmental Groups Disappointed

If the scientists at Health Canada find that Monsanto did, in fact, influence the research, the original decision deeming the chemical safe could be reversed, or another team of experts independent from the government could be brought in to investigate.

But that’s not good enough for Equiterre. In a press release, the organization has called on the government to immediately cancel the decision to renew the approval of glyphosate in Canada. It says an independent body should investigate right away.  

In Canada, glyphosate has been deemed safe just as long as it’s used properly. It’s commonly used on crops such as corn, soy, wheat, oats, chickpeas, and other legumes. But a recent study found traces of the chemical in several everyday food items, including many popular kinds of cereal, pasta, and brands of hummus.  

Those findings don’t shake Monsanto (now Bayer AG), which says it stands by years of research finding glyphosate completely safe.

In response to Health Canada’s current reevaluation of hundreds of studies, the company told CBC News it has an “unwavering commitment to sound science transparency,” and is denying having influenced or edited any of the reports.

In 2017, the US Environmental Protection Agency announced it could not find any link between glyphosate and cancer rates. But just two years earlier, the World Health Organization concluded the chemical was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

So, who do you believe? Has the wool been pulled over our eyes? It’s time to get to the bottom of the glyphosate debate, once and for all.

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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.