Guest columnist Dr. Stephen C. Frantz: Pesticide regulatory reform needed

  • Monsanto's Roundup brand herbicide products are arranged for a photograph in Shelbyville, Kentucky. Bloomberg photo by Luke Sharrett

Published: 8/31/2021 3:28:51 PM

Internal Monsanto emails, text messages, reports, studies, and memoranda were deemed by the courts as “not confidential” and were thereafter published as “The Monsanto Papers,” and widely distributed by the Los Angeles law firm, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman. An overview of the process has been published the May 24 edition of the Elsevier’s Science Digest.

The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) needs to study such documents. The Massachusetts Pesticide Board is responsible for advising MDAR’s commissioner on administration and implementation of pesticide general laws. The Pesticide Board Subcommittee is responsible for registering all pesticides.

Since the latter frequently defaults to “EPA standards,” the scientific robustness of their scrutiny of each pesticide is questionable, as evidenced, for example, by their allowance/registration of various formulations of 2,4-DB, oxytetracycline, paraquat, atrazine, neonicotinoids, chlorpyrifos, and, of course, glyphosate. These are largely banned in the European Union.

The EPA and MDAR are obligated to alter their registration procedures in order to place people, public health and the environment over economic interests of the pesticide industry, its shareholders and the perceived needs of industrial agriculture and their well-paid lobbyists.

MDAR has posted a seriously challenged online review of glyphosate. It is incredibly outdated; their process for review, approval and registration is clearly out-of-step with current, independent scientific knowledge. Understanding pesticide impacts constantly evolves, especially regarding effects on non-target species, bodies of water and other environmental resources.

In MDAR’s post, their latest entry cites a “personal communication” with Bill Heydens some 32 years ago. Be aware that Monsanto executive William Heydens played a major role in “The Monsanto Papers,” including admitting to ghostwriting the introductory chapter of an “independent” expert panel report. Heydens appears to be the mastermind behind much of Monsanto’s scientific corruption in touting glyphosate’s “safety.”

Essentially, executives were more concerned about preventing follow-up studies than guaranteeing safety; they were focused on avoiding regulatory oversight. The 2021 Elsevier report concludes that Monsanto’s efforts to derail regulatory oversight would not have happened without their research misconduct to build a collection of seemingly independent journal publications and reports falsely indicating glyphosate’s safety.

Monsanto misused the scientific process in propagandist fashion to foster ignorance and doubt within the scientific community. Regulatory reform will be needed and lawmakers should also criminalize private-science misconduct in order to preserve the creation of knowledge and integrity of the scientific process.

Dr. Stephen C. Frantz is a research pathobiologist and resident of South Hadley.

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