Totally Bogus Attack on Glyphosate in Quaker Oats

Anti-GMO activist scaremongering against herbicide glyphosate almost makes Donald Trump look honest


Dreamstime: Rene Van Den Berg

The herbicide glyphosate (sold frequently as Roundup) is widely used for weed control in biotech crops designed to resist it. Controlling weeds using glyhosate offers tremendous environmental benefits, such as boosting yields, preventing soil erosion that comes from plowing down weeds, cutting greenhouse gas emissions from fuel use, and  reducing labor costs. But the unhinged and unscientific attack against genetically modified crops (GMOs) by activists means that glyphosate must be demonized. The hyper-precautionary International Agency for Research on Cancer obligingly concluded last year that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.

Interestingly, it now appears that the IARC was influenced by Christopher Portier who chaired the IARC committee that set the agenda for substances to be evaluated. Not disclosed at the time he was appointed was the fact that Portier is a long-time anti-pesticide campaigner who has worked as a "senior collaborating scientist" for the anti-pesticide activist group, the Environmental Defense Fund. He later served as as a "specialist guest" adviser the IARC committee that decided that glyphosate was likely carcinogenic. I am sure that Portier maintained strict objectivity in his scientific evaluation of the dangers posed by the pesticides.

At about the same time, the European Food Safety Authority reviewed the scientific evidence and found that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans as used. The EFSA also detailed its scientific disagreements with the IARC and offered to meet with representatives of the IARC to discuss their different assessments. The IARC declined the invitation.

Activists are now using the IARC conclusions to hammer glyphosate and alarm the public. Naturally the legal vultures that inhabit our dysfunctional tort liability system have pounced. The Richman Law Group paid a laboratory to test Quaker Oats to see if they might contain trace amounts of glyphosate. The Richman Law Group often goes after deep pocket corporations who make what the firm argues are colorable advertising claims.

As the New York Times reports, the laboratory hired by the law firm found "glyphosate at a level of 1.18 parts per million in a sample of Quaker Oats Quick 1-Minute. This is roughly 4 percent of the 30 parts per million that the Environmental Protection Agency allows in cereal grains."

The Times added: "Kim Richman, the lead lawyer of the firm representing the plaintiffs, said the amount of glyphosate was not the issue. 'The issue is that Quaker advertises these products as 100 percent natural, and glyphosate in any amount is not natural,' he said."

Never mind the bogus claims about glyphosate, research has often found real and quite natural carcinogens in cereals made using oats. In addition, scaring people away from oats might even backfire healthwise since there is some weak evidence that consuming products made with that grain protects against cancer and heart attacks.

Just as the lawsuit was announced, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published online its scientific report last Friday that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans. Oddly, the agency took down the report on Monday. The EPA told Reuters that its review was not yet finished although the news agency notes that the report was marked as the "'final Cancer Assessment Document.'" 'FINAL' was printed on each page of the report, which was dated Oct. 1, 2015." While the science may be final, the politics is evidently not.

When this EPA assessment is FINALLY published, it is likely to put the kibosh on these lawsuits. Of course, this won't stop activists from continuing to scaremonger.