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Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.

Court Documents Raise Questions Of Ingredient Used In Roundup

Grant Gerlock
Harvest Public Media/File photo
Roundup, the Monsanto brand name pesticide built on the chemical glyphosate, is used on farm fields and on lawns and gardens.

After court documents unsealed Tuesday raised questions about its research methods, chemical giant Monsanto says it did not ghostwrite a 2000 study on the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in its flagship pesticide Roundup.

As the New York Times reported, the unsealed records suggest that Monsanto had contributed to research attributed to academics and that a senior official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had worked to stall a review of Roundup’s main ingredient by U.S. regulators.

The documents are part of a lawsuit brought by people alleging they have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result of glyphosate exposure.

“The plaintiffs have submitted isolated documents that are taken out of context,” Monsanto spokeswoman Christi Dixon wrote in an email to Harvest Public Media. “Plucking a single email out of context doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. EPA and regulators around the world, as well as a branch of the World Health Organization that analyzed pesticide residues, have concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans.”

The safety of glyphosate is not settled, as Harvest Public Media reported in October. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. But the EPA, as part of a scheduled review of the chemical, examined dozens of glyphosate studies and decided that it is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans at the doses relevant to human health.”

The court documents also say that an EPA official in 2015 suggested he would work against the EPA’s review of glyphosate. Jess Rowland has since left the EPA’s pesticide division.

The EPA did not immediately respond to request for comment.