What science to trust?

There is not increasing mistrust in science, rather, there is increasing mistrust in how it is not being applied.

The common saying, 'separate the chaff from the grain', is no less applicable to research and assessment of environmental chemicals and their toxicity.

We live in a confusing 'posttruth' and 'fakenews' world that has been enhanced by unparalleled technology directed shifts in the media environment. Large media organisations may be owned by greater networks that have interests in the chemical industry. Small media groups may have an agenda and advertising committments. Publicly (government) owned and funded media organisations may be restricted in enquiry by government policies that are deeply embedded in established trade relationships and economic programs. Other independent organisations may have a 'barrow to push.'  In many instances where pesticides have been demonstrated to be unsafe, trade considerations (which include commercial confidentiality and investment protection) have been permitted to outweigh public health considerations and media representations of this discussion may not disclose financial conflicts of interest.

Increasing PR roles to manage public trust

Senior managers in regulatory authorities and communications specialists may frame their role to include a duty to educate the public, to change public perception,  to uphold and explain standards that can be defended rigorously; to ensure the public knows that the authority is making decisions in the public interest, all the while working with industry to facilitate trade.

This is rarely compatible with the legislation that establishes a regulatory agency, conferring responsibility and power to public servants. Instead , these so called claims of responsibilities may be in direct conflict with the purpose of the regulatory authority. Most regulatory authorities have founding legislation that requires that the purpose of that authority is to assess a chemical substance for health and safety purposes. Not to educate, just to evaluate. For safety.

Regulatory managers and communications specialists may not understand the legislative obligations as public servants to protect public and environmental health, and may be hired in a special communications role that directly contradicts their organisational duties and obligations.They may be hired to 'work with industry and business' and to promote and facilitate adoption of new chemical or organism technology - while greater obligations as public servants in the interests of public health are ignored. 

Paradoxically, while these public servants may promote new commercial technological advancements, conversely they can act to resist and stifle adoption of new technology and scientific understanding that may more accurately outline the acute, chronic and downstream risks associated with a particular substance or organism. Effectively they have worked to resist consideration of the greater toxicity of the chemical mixtures the public is exposed to.  These public servants can be sublimely oblivious to the history behind the controversy, the quality and implications of science that they choose to ignore and degraded public trust.

These public servants directly resisting consideration of the greater toxicity of a substance or organism to which the public is exposed, might also find themselves acting illegally, when consideration of constitutional and administrative law is taken into account.

Regulatory assessments altering the scientific weighting to favour the a finding of 'not carcinogenic.'

Drum down into scientific assessments and evidence indicates realignment via guidelines and protocols to alter the 'weight of evidence' in favour of industry. Removal of a study that does not fit guidelines and protocols, even if cancer tumours are detected, is an effective way to reduce the 'weight of evidence.' 

If there is a chance to act with caution in the public interest, this has been demonstrated to have been downplayed in an effort to prove safety of the chemical under assessment.

Recent glyphosate assessments by the European Commission's EFSA, the USA EPA and the WHO FAO JMPR have excluded studies that have resulted in an altered 'scientific weighting', while deliberately including industry reviews which have included unpublished industry science. The 'classic' glyphosate paper, Williams et al 2000, was co-authored by C. Munro, a scientist with a long affiliation with consultancy firm Cantox, whose mission is to “protect client interests while helping our clients … bring products to market.”  [1] The Williams paper scientists worked closely with Monsanto, thanking toxicologists and other scientists at Monsanto who made significant contributions to the development of exposure assessments and through many other discussions.' The paper does not advise source of funding. 

This consultancy firm was recently hired to 'review' the 2015 IARC report on glyphosate and cancer. To quote GMWatch.org, 'The consultancy firm, Intertek, was formerly known as Cantox.'

Democracy cannot exist without transparency. Public health cannot exist without commitment to 21st century scientific enquiry - for chemical evaluations are of formulation ingredient that represent the very latest in chemical technology.

Several papers have observed inconsistencies, omissions and observed results that may have resulted in flawed assessments if current guidelines were to be followed:

When reading and reviewing journalism and scientific literature, it is very important to follow the money. Pregnant mothers, their developing foetuses, and infants deserve the very best science the world has to offer and our public agencies and regulators have a duty to understand the downstream consequences of chemical pollution, the resultant stress on human biology; disease implications, and the long term economic costs societies face by light handed governance that has as it's focus short term budgetary stimulation.

Lets pretend cancer and glyphosate don't go together

Green Med Info organisation detailed this issue in the article: 'Surprise! Monsanto-Funded Research Finds Their Products Safe'.  The study: Developmental and reproductive outcomes in humans and animals after glyphosate exposure: a critical analysis was Monsanto funded. [2]

Suspicion as to who funded the following studies was answered again by Green Med Info in the article: Monsanto-Funded Science Denies Emerging Roundup-Cancer Link   [3] :

  1. Epidemiologic studies of glyphosate and cancer: A review.2012. Supported by the Monsanto Company, St. Louis, Missouri
  2. Epidemiologic Studies of Glyphosate and Non-Cancer Health Outcomes: A review. 2011. 

Published by Elsevier, the pesticide industry connection is revealed via authors connections to the Exponent Health Sciences Group. An article by Mother Jones in collaboration with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, advised 'former government regulator David Michaels refers to Exponent as "one of the premier firms in the product defense business," famous for its ability to "manufacture uncertainty." [4]

Europe & endocrine disruptor deniers

This letter signed by 18 Toxicology journal authors with established links to corporate industry resulted in international scientific outcry. Titled:  'Scientifically unfounded precaution drives European Commission's recommendations on EDC (endocrine disruptor) regulation'. [5]  The paper was written by people with extensive industry links. The paper's lead author, was a former advisor for an industry organisation funded by chemical, pesticide and oil companies that lobbies the European Commission on endocrine disruptors. 

EHN article identifying industry links: Science and Conflicts of Interest: Ties to Industry Revealed.  

The independent (non-corporate paid) scientists wrote that the “most worrying aspect” of the editorial “is the blurring of the border between what constitutes science and what belongs to the realm of political, societal and democratic choices.” [6]

Europe's '2009 Pesticides Regulation' legislation prohibits endocrine disruptors. But this legislation is at risk of being weakened as a result of industry lobbying which seeks to amend the criteria used to establish the level at where an endocrine disruptor is prohibited. Corporate Europe Observatory have released information in May 2017 which 'shows how industry not only lobbies various EU institutions to try to influence their position, but also tries to influence the very rules of the decision-making process, making sure that certain institutions get listened to more.'

 

Credible journals may become vulnerable

When Food and Chemical Toxicology retracted the Seralini study there was a massive international outcry from public domain scientists and claims of conflicts of interest within the editorial staff.  It was retracted due to 'inconclusivity'. Seralini responded to the journal, and later republished the study ' [7]

 

Further reading:

Experts say European proposal limits ability to protect public from endocrine disruptors. University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

UK Daily Mail: Scientists' hidden links to the GM food giants: Disturbing truth behind official report that said UK should forge on with Frankenfoods

Atrazine Tyrone Hayes: Pest Control: Syngenta’s Secret Campaign to Discredit Atrazine’s Critics. C.Howard

Atrazine Tyrone Hayes: A valuable reputation. R. Aviz. 

Paraquat: Company pays government to challenge pesticide research showing link to Parkinson's. S.Kaplan.

How Pesticide Companies Silence Scientific Dissent. March 2014. Naturalrevolution.org

Many of the Charles studies used in US EPA 2,4-D carcinogenicity assessments, while appearing independent, have industry connections back to Dow corporation or the 2,4-D industry task force.  These studies have been repeatedly used when citing 2,4-D's non-carcinogenic status.

 

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References:

[1] Williams GM, Kroes R, Munro IC (2000) Safety evaluation and risk assessment of the herbicide Roundup and its active ingredient, glyphosate, for humans. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol 31: 117-165.

Information regarding Cantox sourced from: Antoniou et al 2012. Teratogenic Effects of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides: Divergence of Regulatory Decisions from Scientific Evidence. 

[2] Williams AL, Watson  RE, DeSesso JM (2012). Developmental and Reproductive Outcomes in Humans and Animals After Glyphosate Exposure: A Critical Analysis. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B 15(1): 39-96. DOI:10.1080/10937404.2012.632361

[3] Epidemiologic studies of glyphosate and cancer: A review. Pamela J. Mink, Jack S. Mandel, Bonnielin K. Sceurman, Jessica I. Lundin. 2012

Epidemiologic Studies of Glyphosate and Non-Cancer Health Outcomes: A Review. Pamela J. Mink, Jack S. Mandel, Jessica I. Lundin, Bonnielin K. Sceurman. 2011

[4] Monsanto's Roundup Is the Most Used Herbicide in NYC. A.Lenzer. 2012. 

[5] Scientifically unfounded precaution drives European Commission's recommendations on EDC regulation, while defying common sense, well-established science and risk assessment principles.
Dietrich DR, von Aulock S, Marquardt H, Blaauboer B, Dekant W, Kehrer J, Hengstler J, Collier A, Batta Gori G, Pelkonen O, Lang F, Nijkamp FP, Stemmer K, Li A, Savolainen K, Wallace Hayes A, Gooderham N, Harvey A.  ALTEX. 2013;30(3):381-5.

[6] Environmental Health News. Special report: Scientists critical of EU chemical policy have industry ties.

[7] Séralini, GE, Clair E, Mesnage R, Gress S, Defarge N, Malatesta M, Hennequin D and de Vendômois JS.  Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. RESEARCH Open Access Springer. Environmental Sciences Europe 2014, 26:14.