The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has always been one of the most crucial government agencies, controlling the activities of firms and players whose activities, in some way or the other, could affect human health or the environment.
In a world where climate change has become more prominent in social discussion, the EPA’s role in policing firms has been even more important.
However, the Trump administration’s EPA, under the leadership of lobbyist and lawyer Scott E. Pruitt, has made some more controversial calls. The latest of these is its decision to declare glyphosate as a substance that poses no discernable risk to human health.
Glyphosate: Much Ado About Nothing?
Glyphosate is a prominent chemical compound that is used to kill broadleaf plants and grasses. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, the compound contains sodium salts, which can help to ripen fruits and control the growth of a plant.
It’s also been used by many as a weed killer. In 2015, it was identified by the World Health Organization as a probable carcinogen, and several companies that use it in their products have come under scrutiny for including it in their formulations.
In October 2018, Monsanto, an Agric company, based out of Missouri, that uses glyphosate in Roundup, its weed killer, was ordered by the Superior Court of California to pay $289 million in damages to Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper from San Francisco who claimed that the weed killer had given him non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Monsanto has also faced a class-action suit from over 800 plaintiffs accusing Roundup of affecting their health. The firm’s settlement package is set to cost between $10 billion and $12 billion.
Several other studies have been critical about glyphosate. Last year, a research paper from the University of Washington revealed that the compound could increase the risk of cancer by up to 41 percent. In it, researchers explained that they evaluated existing studies into the compound and concluded that it did significantly increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
“All of the meta-analyses conducted to date, including our own, consistently report the same key finding: exposure to GBHs (glyphosate-based herbicides) are associated with an increased risk of NHL,” the researchers explained.
Disagreements from Experts
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time that the EPA will be voicing out on the glyphosate issue. In 2017, the agency published a draft risk assessment, which claimed that the compound wasn’t likely to be carcinogenic to humans. Its stance was bolstered by corroborations from various international bodies, including the European Food Safety Authority.
However, given how many cases have been identified already, it stands to reason that the EPA will be more critical in its approach to the chemical compound. According to a Reuters report, the agency explained that it had come to the conclusion after examining the effects of glyphosate on humans. Several academics and experts have now voiced their dissent concerning its findings.
In its press release, Lori Ann Burd, the Director of Environmental Health at the Center for Biological Diversity, explained, “The Trump EPA’s assertion that glyphosate poses no risks to human health disregards independent science findings in favor of confidential industry research and industry profits. This administration’s troubling allegiance to Bayer/Monsanto and the pesticide industry doesn’t change the trove of peer-reviewed research by leading scientists finding troubling links between glyphosate and cancer.”
As stated earlier, many believe that the EPA is making the wrong call on this, and the agency’s track record gives cause for concern. Under Pruitt’s leadership, the EPA has taken a soft stance on climate change, with Pruitt himself claiming at some point that the Earth’s climate problem isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Administration policies have long been influenced by lobbying and special interests, and Pruitt’s EPA itself seems to have a soft handle on environmental issues. Many see this classification of glyphosate as the agency letting agricultural firms off the hook again.