Monsanto, accustomed to lobbying its way to favorable treatment by governments the world over, pushed the EU Parliament too far. Banning lobbyists is a rare move, but one the EU turned to after Monsanto decided to play hardball and no-show a key regulatory hearing.
Agrochemical giant Monsanto’s fight to renew the chemical license for its most popular herbicide, glyphosate (aka “Roundup”), was dealt a major blow this past Thursday when the European Parliament officially banned lobbyists representing the interests of the corporation. The move came after the controversial corporation and its lobbyists refused to attend a parliamentary hearing regarding allegations that Monsanto had sought to unduly influence studies examining glyphosate’s safety.
As a result of the ban, Monsanto officials and those on the company’s payroll will be unable to meet with members of the EU Parliament (MEPs), attend parliamentary committee meetings, or use digital resources available in Brussels or Strasbourg. During fiscal year 2016, Monsanto spent between €300,000 to €400,000 (c. $354,000 to $471,000) on lobbying efforts at the EU Parliament. Given parliament’s looming decision regarding the renewal of glyphosate’s license, it is likely that such spending has been greater over the past year.
However, the amount of money spent by Monsanto on lobbying the EU Parliament is minuscule compared to its domestic lobbying efforts. Since January, Monsanto has spent well over $2 million dollars to lobby the U.S. Congress.
“Those who ignore the rules of democracy also lose their rights as a lobbyist in the European Parliament,” Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts told The Guardian. “U.S. corporations must also accept the democratic control function of the parliament. Monsanto cannot escape this.”
Monsanto had previously come under fire when it was revealed that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had deemed glyphosate safe, despite substantial evidence to the contrary, after a U.S. official with strong ties to the company had intervened. EFSA was later found to have based its decision on a report that copied and pasted dozens of pages from Monsanto-funded studies. These revelations, in particular, prompted the hearing that Monsanto and its lobbyists refused to attend.
Monsanto had justified its refusal to attend the parliamentary session, scheduled for October 11, in a letter that bemoaned the “politicization of the EU procedure on the renewal of glyphosate,” arguing that the process had been “hijacked by populism.” “The joint hearing could be viewed as the latest attempt by those opposed to modern agricultural practices to influence and frustrate the EU scientific and regulatory process to suit their own agenda,” it stated.
The company responded similarly when an expert panel from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labeled glyphosate as a likely carcinogen in 2015. Scott Partridge, Monsanto’s vice president of strategy, argued that the expert panel’s findings were “corrupted apparently with individuals who have an agenda” and called for an investigation into the agency’s internal processes and leadership.
However, IARC’s study was hardly the first to link glyphosate to cancer. Indeed, Monsanto itself has been aware of the link between its most popular herbicide and the increased incidence of cancer in mammals (e.g., humans) for over 36 years.
Other studies in recent years have further explored the relationship between glyphosate and cancer, finding direct connections between glyphosate exposure and incidence of the disease. Glyphosate exposure has also been linked to other diseases and chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, autism and Alzheimer’s. As MintPress News has previously reported, the vast majority of studies that have concluded glyphosate poses no human health risk have been funded by Monsanto or one of its affiliates.
Top photo: Jeff Robertson/Associated Press