Forc­ing tax­pay­ers to fund anti-chem­i­cal ac­tivism

Gov­ern­ment agen­cies col­lude with ac­tivists and lawyers against chem­i­cals

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Paul Driessen Paul Driessen is se­nior pol­icy an­a­lyst for the Com­mit­tee For A Con­struc­tive To­mor­row and au­thor of books and ar­ti­cles on en­ergy and en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­icy.

It’s bad enough when tax-ex­empt foun­da­tions and ac­tivist groups use junk sci­ence and scare cam­paigns to pro­mote ex­ces­sive reg­u­la­tions and set the stage for class ac­tion law­suits against per­fectly good prod­ucts. It’s intolerable when our tax dol­lars di­rectly fi­nance U.S. and Euro­pean Union gov­ern­ment agen­cies that do like­wise. A par­tic­u­larly egre­gious ex­am­ple is the Na­tional In­sti­tute for En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Sci­ences (NIEHS), a Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health agency in the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. Ev­i­dence is pil­ing up that Di­rec­tor Linda Birn­baum’s $690-mil­lion-per-year NIEHS has been col­lud­ing with ac­tivists in in­ter­na­tional agen­cies, anti-chem­i­cal pres­sure groups and even trial lawyers, to un­der­mine the U.S. reg­u­la­tory process.

Its prin­ci­pal col­lab­o­ra­tors are the In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search on Can­cer (IARC) in France and Ra­mazz­ini In­sti­tute in Italy. The three groups have be­come adept at us­ing the “pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple” and ma­nip­u­lat­ing sci­ence to la­bel mod­ern in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural chem­i­cals as some­how dan­ger­ous and car­cino­genic, de­spite thor­ough safety test­ing by reg­u­la­tory agen­cies in the United States, Europe and else­where.

Ms. Birn­baum & Co. waged a 15-year, $170 mil­lion cam­paign against Bisphe­nol-a (BPA), a high-per­for­mance com­pound found in many plas­tics. Their cur­rent tar­get is glyphosate, the ac­tive in­gre­di­ent in the herbicide Round-Up, but they have many other chem­i­cals, food ad­di­tives and ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms (GMOs) in their crosshairs.

Over the past 40 years, vir­tu­ally every rep­utable reg­u­la­tory agency and sci­en­tific body has de­ter­mined that glyphosate does not cause can­cer, in­clud­ing the Euro­pean Food Safety Au­thor­ity, Euro­pean Chem­i­cals Agency, Ger­man In­sti­tute for Risk As­sess­ment and U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency. More than 800 stud­ies demon­strate its safety.

IARC alone says glyphosate causes can­cer — just as it has all but one of the 900-plus chem­i­cals it re­viewed over the decades, of­ten us­ing stud­ies con­ducted by Ra­mazz­ini, which is be­hind bo­gus claims that cell phones and ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers cause can­cer.

Reg­u­la­tory bod­ies from Europe to the United States and New Zealand have in­ves­ti­gated and crit­i­cized Ra­mazz­ini’s sloppy, sub­stan­dard pseudo-sci­ence. But Ms. Birn­baum is still a mem­ber of the Col­legium Ra­mazz­ini and has di­rected more than $90 mil­lion in NIEHS tax­payer funds to her Ra­mazz­ini col­leagues, who have served on many IARC “ex­pert pan­els.”

Pri­mar­ily through the NIEHS, the U.S. is also IARC’s big­gest donor. It even ear­marked $4.2 mil­lion to sup­port IARC’s cur­rent ef­fort to list more agri­cul­tural and in­dus­trial chem­i­cals as car­cino­gens. NIEHS also plays a lead role in co­or­di­nat­ing and di­rect­ing th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties.

The end re­sult, if not the goal, is to un­der­mine pub­lic con­fi­dence in sci­ence-based risk as­sess­ments, lend cred­i­bil­ity to ag­i­ta­tor claims that count­less chem­i­cals con­tam­i­nate our foods and im­peril our health, frighten con­sumers about prod­ucts, and let preda­tory lawyers run roughshod.

In­deed, more than 1,000 U.S. law­suits al­ready claim glyphosate causes can­cer, and law firms are run­ning ads say­ing any­one who has can­cer and was ever ex­posed to glyphosate in any form or amount may be en­ti­tled to mil­lions in com­pen­sa­tion.

A sim­i­lar tac­tic makes the oft-re­peated but never-proven claim that “en­docrine dis­rupt­ing” chem­i­cals, which don’t cause can­cer or other harm in high doses, some­how do so at barely de­tectable lev­els. An­other clever ploy claims no ex­po­sure is needed; kids get can­cer be­cause their par­ents or even grand­par­ents were ex­posed to some­thing.

Just as trou­bling, the 2014 ad­vi­sory group that de­cided which sub­stances IARC would re­view was led by ac­tivist sci­en­tist Christo­pher Portier, who worked for years for NIEHS and Ms. Birn­baum.

In­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists David Zaruk and Kate Kel­land found that Mr. Portier also served for years as the U.S. gov­ern­ment lia­son to IARC — driv­ing the glyphosate re­view while work­ing for the an­tipes­ti­cide En­vi­ron­men­tal De­fense Fund, and serv­ing as the only “con­sult­ing ex­pert” on the work­ing group that la­beled glyphosate car­cino­genic. Mean­while, Mr. Portier was be­ing paid by the lawyers who are bring­ing the glyphosate law­suits — an en­gage­ment that has net­ted him at least $160,000 so far.

Even more out­ra­geous than th­ese bla­tant con­flicts of in­ter­est is the way IARC se­cured its guilty ver­dict on the Round-Up chem­i­cal. As Ms. Kel­land ex­plained in a sep­a­rate ar­ti­cle, IARC re­peat­edly ig­nored or al­tered stud­ies and con­clu­sions that ex­on­er­ated glyphosate.

One re­port clearly said the re­searchers “unan­i­mously” agreed that glyphosate had not caused ab­nor­mal growths in mice they had stud­ied. IARC deleted the sen­tence.

In other cases IARC pan­elists in­serted new sta­tis­ti­cal analy­ses that re­versed a study’s orig­i­nal find­ing; qui­etly changed crit­i­cal lan­guage ex­on­er­at­ing the chem­i­cal; and claimed they were “not able to eval­u­ate” a study be­cause it in­cluded in­suf­fi­cient ex­per­i­men­tal data, while ex­clud­ing an­other study be­cause “the amount of data in the ta­bles was over­whelm­ing.”

This is not sci­ence. The ev­i­dence sug­gests it is ma­nip­u­la­tion, cor­rup­tion and fraud — sup­ported by our tax dol­lars, and used to de­stroy com­pa­nies and en­rich class ac­tion lawyers.

Thank­fully, Congress is hold­ing hear­ings, send­ing let­ters to the De­part­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices and IARC, de­mand­ing ex­pla­na­tions, data and emails — and sum­mon­ing agency di­rec­tors and em­ploy­ees to Capi­tol Hill. Shortly af­ter House in­ves­ti­ga­tors sum­moned IARC Di­rec­tor Chris Wild to a hear­ing, IARC posted a no­tice say­ing he would resign.

In the mean­time, he and his agency are stonewalling con­gres­sional re­quests. Per­haps they will change their tune if the Congress, White House and Health and Hu­man Ser­vices let them know there will be no more U.S. grants un­til they co­op­er­ate.

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