A little over a year ago, GMO giant Monsanto was furious at the World Health Organization for linking glypshophate, the chief ingredient in weed killer Roundup, to cancer. As a result Monsanto immediately demanded that WHO retract said report, saying that the report was biased and contradicts regulatory findings that the ingredient, glyphosate, is safe when used as labeled.
A working group at WHO said after reviewing scientific literature it was classifying glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans." Howeber Monsanto was relentless and said that "we question the quality of the assessment," according to Philip Miller, Monsanto vice president of global regulatory affairs. "The WHO has something to explain."
In retrospect it may have been Monsanto who had something to explain, which it did, indirectly, when last week another report was released, this time from the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), according to which Roundup's glyphosphate is unlikely to cause cancer in people. Continuing the explanation, diazinon and malathion, two other pesticides reviewed by the committee, which met last week and published its conclusions on Monday, were also found to be unlikely to be carcinogenic.
"In view of the absence of carcinogenic potential in rodents at human-relevant doses and the absence of genotoxicity by the oral route in mammals, and considering the epidemiological evidence from occupational exposures, the meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet," the committee said.
As Reuters itself notes, the conclusions appear to contradict the abovementioned finding by the WHO's Lyon-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which in March 2015 said glyphosate is "probably" able to cause cancer in humans and classified it as a 'Group 2A' carcinogen. This is when the alarm bells at Monsanto went off and, according to some, the company's spending on favorable reports shot through the roof. The result was immediate.
Seven months after the IARC review, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), an independent agency funded by the European Union, published a different assessment, saying glyphosate is "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans". The United States' Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which first assessed glyphosate in 1986 and has reviewed it several times since then, had also previously concluded it has "low toxicity for humans".
In other words, whether or not a Monsanto compound is carcinogenic may depend on how much in "research funding" Monsanto has spent in advance to the writers of the study.
In any case, whether Roundup causes cancer or not, the opinion of millions of people around the world is already be made up, and as RT reports more than 400 simultaneous demonstrations around the world are voicing fury at US biotech leviathan Monsanto, which is now facing a hostile takeover from German pharmaceuticals company Bayer (a transaction which ha stunned analysts and shareholders who warn Bayer would need to take on too much debt and dilute equity holdings in its quest to acquire an embattled target).
But while Bayer may or may not end up being the new owner of Monsanto, it won't matter to millions of people who will boycott the product regardless.
"The whole world hates Monsanto!" read the banners among a throng in Paris, marching to the sound of a drum band.
The crowd held up posters condemning the sale of the herbicide RoundUp, which may or may not lead to cancer in humans (depending on who one asks) and the development of genetically-modified crops.
Environmentalist and leftist politicians, such as former presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, marched at the front of the column, but the impetus for the rallies was provided by another group.
The grassroots Nuit Debout has mobilized hundreds of thousands for labor reform protests in recent months, and many of the same demonstrators turned out to barrack the St. Louis-based giant in Lyon, Bordeaux and Lille.
Genetically-modified crops are banned in France, despite the European Union gradually loosening regulation on the varieties, as they become more popular across the world due to higher yields and greater disease resistance.
Meanwhile, despite the latest UN report supposedly clearing Monsanto of any carcinogenic fault, Glyphosate, the active chemical in RoundUp and other leading herbicides, could still face a Europe-wide ban, after an EU committee failed to issue it with a new retail license, following protracted negotiations. A UN report published this month stated that it was not likely to be ingested in quantities sufficient to cause cancer in humans, but last year’s report by the UN cancer agency called for it to be recognized as a carcinogen that could cause non-Hogdkin’s lymphoma.
Monsanto March meeting at Union Square Park South today at 1 o'clock NYC pic.twitter.com/c3Y0prlrHN— Time's Up! (@nyctimesup) May 21, 2016
“Monsanto is killing me & you!” and “I am not your experiment!” read placards at a protest march through New York. More than 90 percent of US-grown corn, soybean and cotton is genetically-modified.
RT`s correspondent Caleb Maupin talked to some of the hundreds of activists gathered in the center of Manhattan to protest against Monsanto. People marched through the streets chanting, “No more Monsanto” and “Monsanto has got to go.” The demonstrators carried signs saying: “Ban glyphosate,” the herbicide which is suspected of causing cancer, and “Stop Monsanto.”
“I think it`s very corrupt and they have too much power over our government,” one of the rally`s participants told Maupin, referring to the biotech giant`s outreach.
“I`m tired of being lied to about what is in my food. We are getting sick, there`s cancer, there`re kids that are being affected, so we want to put a stop to that,” said another activist.
The safety of glyphosate, which is an active ingredient in Monsanto`s herbicide Roundup, has been doubted by many environmental organizations, including Greenpeace.
“If I were Monsanto right now, maybe a Monsanto executive gonna hear this, I would be worried. I would than change my life and come over to the right side of history. Amen,” another protester said.
Well-attended rallies also took place in Tokyo, across Germany and in Canada. Monsanto, which has repeatedly put out publicity campaigns to try and demonstrate that its product range is safe, issued a conciliatory statement to the protesters.
“The 22,000 people of Monsanto are committed to having an open dialogue about food and agriculture – we’re proud of the work we do, and we’re eager for people to know more about us,” said a Monsanto text sent out to the media. “We know people have different points of view on these topics, and it’s important that they’re able to express and share them.”
Marches against Monsanto have become a regular event over the past half-decade, but activists may soon need to find a new target for their anger, following Bayer’s proposed bid for the US company, which has a market cap of nearly $46 billion.