"Ghostwriting" by Monsanto - a Story Behind the Monsanto Cancer Trial


# chemicals & waste #business

Earlier this month, Monsanto was forced in a court of law for the first time to defend the safety of its popular weed killer Roundup. It was found liable for the terminal cancer of California groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson.

Similarly important, the internal company emails and work plans provided to the jury indicate that Monsanto had been corrupting the scientific record by ghostwriting literature asserting safety.

One example being:

A series of papers reviewing the carcinogenic potential of weed-killing agent glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, were published on the scientific journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology (CRT) in 2016. Their conclusion directly contradicted the findings of the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which in 2015 found glyphosate to be a probable human carcinogen. The authors of the 2016 review found that the weight of evidence showed the weed killer was unlikely to pose any carcinogenic risk to people. These work which saved Monsanto in earlier cases, claimed to be from "independent" authors, but turned out to have been significantly influenced by Monsanto scientists, including the tone of the manuscript. It has been acknowledged by William Heydens, Monsanto's chief of regulatory science, when placed under oath in a deposition, that the manuscripts were sent to him and he read "parts of some of them," prior to their submission to the journal, but he did not "recall" whether or not he made the 28 edits that plaintiffs' attorneys counted in the internal records.

All of this was among the evidence presented to jurors in San Francisco Superior Court as they considered Johnson's claims. But the evidence of ghostwriting and misconduct have far broader implications than one lawsuit.

Recalling the recent case of Shell failure to warn investors of climate risk for years despite research, we may want to ask: what are the late lessons and what should have been done to prevent similar cases in the future?

For more details, please refer to the original EHN news.