Monsanto paid a shadowy chemical industry front group to help push back against the mounting scientific evidence that the company’s signature Roundup weedkiller causes cancer, court documents reveal.
“If a company like [Monsanto] won’t support us, then who will?” the head of the American Council on Science and Health wrote to a Monsanto scientist in 2015. A day later came the reply: “[T]he answer is yes…. [D]efinitely count us in!!”
Emails between Monsanto and the American Council on Science and Health, or ACSH, and related internal Monsanto emails were first made public during the trial last July of a lawsuit by a former California school groundskeeper who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after using Roundup. The jury awarded Dewayne “Lee” Johnson $289 million in punitive and compensatory damages, later reduced by the judge to $78 million.
The internal Monsanto/ACSH emails reappeared as evidence in the most recent lawsuit to go before a court, brought by a California couple who were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after decades of using the herbicide. In May, the jury ordered Bayer-Monsanto to pay Alva and Alberta Pilliod more than $2 billion in damages.
It was the third verdict in less than a year in which juries found that glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, causes cancer and that Monsanto covered up evidence of its health risk for decades. Last year, Bayer bought Monsanto for $63 billion and is now facing tens of thousands of similar lawsuits.
The emails – here and here – show that in February 2015, Monsanto was working with ACSH to prepare for the expected fallout from a pending report on the safety of glyphosate by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC. The following month the IARC, part of the World Health Organization, would release a report that classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Anticipating the report, Gilbert Ross, then the acting head of ACSH, asked Monsanto for support, “particularly if ACSH’s commentary is needed to critique an adverse outcome.”
On Feb. 26, Dr. Daniel Goldstein, the head of medical sciences and outreach at Monsanto, wrote to several colleagues, urging them to support continued payment to ACSH for its work.