EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testifies during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on Capitol Hill

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testifies during a House Agriculture Committee hearing on Capitol Hill.

EPA postpones glyphosate SAP panel in face of industry criticism

A few days before the hearing, EPA issued a notice saying it was postponing the meetings “due to recent changes in the availability of experts for the peer review panel.” The agency declined to elaborate, but in later statements said one of the SAP members had voluntarily withdrawn from participation.

The Environmental Protection Agency postponed the Scientific Advisory Panel scheduled to review its position on glyphosate after CropLife America accused one of the SAP members of being biased against the use of pesticides.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel was scheduled to meet in Arlington, Va., this week (Oct. 18-21) for hearings to review EPA’s findings glyphosate is “probably not carcinogenic to humans.”

A few days before the hearing, EPA issued a notice saying it was postponing the meetings “due to recent changes in the availability of experts for the peer review panel.” The agency declined to elaborate, but in later statements said one of the SAP members had voluntarily withdrawn from participation.

Crop Life America, the organization representing the nation’s pesticide manufacturers, had said one of the panel members, Dr. Peter Infante, demonstrated repeated bias in statements about pesticides and pesticide studies and cited a ruling in which a federal district court disqualified his testimony.

“EPA is legally obligated to exclude scientists from the SAP whose conflicts of interest or established biases preclude their ability to contribute impartially to the panel’s final report,” CropLife officials said. “CLA therefore respectfully opposes the selection of Dr. Peter Infante, whose patent biases should disqualify him from service on the SAP.

“CLA also asks EPA to take note of certain information regarding Dr. Kenneth Portier and confirm his ability to participate without any pre-formed conclusions, although it does not seek his disqualification.”

Pattern of biased analysis

In a letter to EPA, CropLife said federal courts have concluded that Dr. Infante, a former scientist with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “has engaged in a pattern of biased, results-oriented analysis that disqualified consideration of his opinions.

“Of particular note is a decision of the Eastern District of Louisiana, which struck his testimony in a thoughtful and comprehensive opinion in Burst v. Shell Oil Co,” it said. “In her ruling, the judge in the case said Dr. Infante’s analysis suggested a methodology driven by an attempt to achieve a particular result.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the CropLife America letter and the decision of a SAP member to voluntarily leave the panel were unrelated. The agency has not identified which panel member withdrew.

The postponement marked another odd development in a story that has had a number of twists and turns since the International Agency for Research on Cancer issued a monograph in March of 2015 that said glyphosate “probably was carcinogenic to humans.”

More than a year later, EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee posted a report on one of the EPA websites concluding glyphosate was “likely not to be carcinogenic. The report was removed later that day.

McCarthy later testified at a House Science Committee hearing the report was taken down because it was unfinished even though it was marked “final.”

New report released

Recently, the agency released another report that said glyphosate is probably not carcinogenic, a finding that mirrors those of other governmental agencies, including the European Food Safety Authority.

In its comments to EPA, CropLife America said the Federal Advisor Committee Act “imposes strict conflict of interest requirements on the FIFRA SAP selection process. As explained in greater detail in CLA’s Conflicts Letter, EPA must ensure that the FIFRA SAP acts ‘in the public interest,’ and does not contain members with inappropriate special interests.”

Dr. Infante, CropLife said, is a member of Collegium Ramazzini, an organization which has taken radical anti-pesticide positions, such as calling for a prohibition on all pesticide use in all public areas, including residential areas and recreation grounds, even when regulatory agencies have concluded such uses were safe.

It said he has also repeatedly testified—exclusively for plaintiffs—in chemical exposure cases against Monsanto Company, the original registrant of glyphosate, and its affiliated entities.

“The glyphosate SAP is certain to consider industry-sponsored studies as part of its proceedings and there is no reason to believe that Dr. Infante will consider such studies as anything other than ‘prostituted science’ and ‘worthless,’ as he has in the past,” CropLife officials said.

Although he has not previously testified against or otherwise expressed the patent bias against pesticide manufacturers or the science upon which they and/or regulatory bodies rely, CropLife officials said Dr. Portier has expressed opinions about glyphosate that suggest he may already have pre-formed conclusions as to glyphosate’s safety.

“For example, Dr. Portier has stated that “glyphosate needs to go on the California Prop. 65 database” of chemicals that may cause cancer or have reproductive toxicity. Dr. Portier has also urged “manufacturers to come up with alternative products” to glyphosate because, in his view, ‘We don’t like to see man-made carcinogens freely circulating in the environment.’”

For more information, visit http://www.croplifeamerica.org/

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