EPA administrator defends agency’s review of glyphosate

Q: Well it actually says “final report”, not “memo” on the page, which indicates to me this is final, it’s done. But you can understand the concern we have here. It’s a final report, but maybe it didn’t turn out the way you anticipated it would, so now we need to study it a little bit more.

When is a final report not final? When it’s a politically-sensitive document that hasn’t been given an official vetting by the environmental activists who seem to be running the Environmental Protection Agency.

That’s the gist of a response by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to a question about the agency’s handling of a report on glyphosate by its Cancer Assessment Review Committee at a House Science Committee hearing Thursday (June 22).

Someone at EPA posted an 87-page report by the CARC that found the herbicide was “not likely to be carcinogenic” on its website in late April. Although the document was labeled “Final Report,” McCarthy took great pains to tell the House Science Committee members the report was not the agency’s final word.

During the hearing, Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., questioned McCarthy on why the CARC report was posted and then taken off the EPA website on May 2. He also asked about EPA employees’ participation in an International Agency for Research on Cancer conference in France.

Among Loudermilk’s questions: Why Jess Rowland, an EPA employee who chaired the agency’s CARC, retired a few days after the Committee’s report was withdrawn from the website?

Q: Have you investigated whether or not these circumstances are linked? It’s just interesting that right after this report comes out that is contrary to what the international (IARC) agency has determined…and I have the report here if we can bring it up, it is stamped as a “final report”.

A: It is a final memo.

Q: Well it actually says “final report”, not “memo” on the page, which indicates to me this is final, it’s done. But you can understand the concern we have here. It’s a final report, but maybe it didn’t turn out the way you anticipated it would, so now we need to study it a little bit more.

A: I know that the mistake that was made by the contractor to post this has caused all kinds of conspiracy theories to erupt. But there is nothing that is unusual about the process we are following with this, and we’ll do it on the basis of the science. And I don’t want you to think that anyone, including me, is prejudging what our scientists say about this.

McCarthy and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., also discussed the participation by EPA employees in the IARC conference in Lyon, France. The IARC subsequently issued a report saying glyphosate was a likely carcinogen, a report that has been criticized for failing to include all the evidence on the herbicide.

McCarthy seemed to be saying none of the EPA employees who attended the IARC conference took an active part in the IARC’s review of glyphosate. Lucas and Loudermilk presented slides of emails appearing to show the level of involvement was much more significant.

“Can we bring up a slide?,” said Loudermilk. “In this email, obviously Matt (Martin, EPA employee) is responding to Frank (Le Curieux), who is part of the IARC, and if you notice on the first line of the original email, it says first, may I repeat, ‘It was a real pleasure to meet and with you for IARC monograph volume 112,’ which is the subject that we’re talking about.

“And, of course, the subject of the email is ‘DZN and GLY’, which is indicating that glyphosate is what they’re talking about. If Mr. Martin was not involved in glyphosate review, why is he on the email chain with the team that was working on that?”

“I can go back and look, but I have asked a number of times and my understanding is that none of these individuals were there in the EPA capacity to participate in the issue of carcinogenicity,” said McCarthy. “Clearly, we have an understanding of glyphosate and the other pesticides that were being looked at.”

A few moments later, McCarthy said: “Could I just clarify on Mr. Martin? He was apparently involved in the review for glyphosate but he didn’t participate in the issues relative to its carcinogenicity. So I just wanted to make that clear, that was an entirely separate part of the conference.”

During the exchange between Congressman Lucas and McCarthy, Lucas asked the administrator that if the EPA’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee report was not the agency’s last word on glyphosate when might the agency release its findings?

“We expect to have something on that possibly this fall,” the administrator said. That could mean it would take EPA another 12 months to complete its review of a report that was marked “final” last Oct. 1.

For more information on the Environmental Protection Agency, visit www.epa.gov.

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