Earlier this year, for three months, Richard Grenell was Director of National Intelligence, the top U.S. intelligence official. Prior to heading DNI, Grenell worked in the U.S. State Department, including serving as U.S. ambassador to Germany, from 2018-2020. (Grenell was nominated ambassador to Germany by President Donald Trump in September 2017.)
Grenell is a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL). NHL is the same type of cancer that tens of thousands of Roundup Weed Killer users claim to have developed as a result of using the popular herbicide for many years.
Roundup, developed by the Monsanto Corporation, was acquired by Bayer AG, a pharmaceutical giant headquartered in Germany.
In an article he wrote for The Hill, one of the top political news sites in the U.S., Grenell says that he has “taken a personal interest in this case. [W]hen I served as U.S. ambassador to Germany from 2018 to 2020, I was proud to reiterate the United States’s support of Bayer’s facts-based position regarding the use of glyphosate.
Grenell points to the U.S. EPA’s position that glyphosate, the chemical, active ingredient in Roundup, is “unlikely to be a human carcinogen.”
The EPA’s findings, according to Live Science, is based on several studies, including a large study of agriculture workers published in 2017 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The study found no link between glyphosate and cancer.
Grenell describes the EPA’s labeling of glyphosate, “[S]cience-based public policymaking at its best: A decision on the safety of food and agricultural products was made with data and science — not emotion or political activism.”
The possibility that Bayer will have to pay $10 billion to $11 billion to settle current and future Roundup settlements, Grenell suggests, is a threat to democracy.
Grenell asks in his article why the judge overseeing the bulk of the 125,000 Roundup lawsuits, “[W]ithout citing any evidence to the contrary, decide to overturn this fact-based decision from the U.S. government? Because of politics,” Grenell answers.
“[The judge’s] ruling sets a harmful precedent. His opinions are akin to the kind of system we see in China, where facts are routinely ignored so that powerful patrons of a political party can benefit,” adds Grenell. (Who is, of course, implying the Democratic Party.)
But is the EPA’s findings really based on sound evidence? Live Science references a 2019 study in Mutation Research/Reviews in Mutation Research. The research examined data from several studies on glyphosate’s potential carcinogenic effects. Participants in one such study included a large sample of farmworkers in the United States. The review’s findings: workers exposed to the highest amounts of herbicides with glyphosate had a 41% greater risk of developing NHL.
Live Science interviewed the study’s lead author, University of California, Berkeley toxicologist, Luoping Zhang. Zhang told Live Science the figure is likely higher. “I’m convinced that [this number] is still an underestimate.” The reason why Zhang believes the percentage of people who develop NHL after being exposed to high amounts of glyphosate is higher is because the data was only collected through 2010; glyphosate use has increased since then.
Furthermore, Zhang told Live Science that many years could pass between a person’s exposure to glyphosate before NHL is diagnosed.
Another study from last year also contradicts EPA findings that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans. Live Science points to another study from last year, this one published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. This research compiled data on farmworkers in the U.S., France and Norway. Exposure to glyphosate was associated with some types of NHL, the study found.
The article in Live Science concedes that more research with human subjects is needed before glyphosate “could be definitively linked to NHL or any other cancer.”
Is The Pot Calling The Kettle Black?
However, based on this preliminary research, Grenell’s assertion that district court judges are increasingly proving that they cannot be trusted to protect the integrity of evidence-based rulings, may seem equally as politically biased.
Grenell’s past role as U.S. Ambassador to Germany was mired in political controversy. Historically, Ambassadors have served in a non-partisan capacity; they are expected to remain politically-neutral in the countries they are serving, says an article in The Independent (U.K.).
But within weeks of serving as Ambassador, Grenell stated he wanted to empower other conservatives in Europe, a statement unbecoming of a top diplomat. One German politician quoted in the Independent article suggested to think of it this way: “If the German ambassador in Washington would say that he is there to strengthen the Democrats, he would be expelled straight away.”
Grenell believes that district judge’s politically-motivated decisions will increasingly result in getting the Department of Justice involved. “That is not a situation that a healthy democracy with the rule of law should want to see. Nor will it bode well for the ability of the U.S. economy to attract foreign direct investment, on which Americans rely heavily for job creation,” he writes in The Hill.
Perhaps it’s the latter part of this quote that’s really at the center of Grenell’s criticism with Roundup litigation. In the guise of standing behind science based on EPA findings, Grenell may be more concerned about Bayer’s financial status and return on investment for shareholders than he is with for the wellbeing of a sizable segment of the American citizenry that has been egregiously harmed by the world’s most abundant herbicide.
It’s true more evidence is needed to establish a causal link between glyphosate exposure and cancer. And it’s possible that Roundup plaintiff’s cancers developed because of other factors.
However, when one of the world’s leading cancer research institutes–The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)–declares glyphosate probably carcinogenic to humans (as it did in 2015), based on limited evidence in humans from real-world exposures and sufficient evidence in experimental animals, and ignoring the other data from the aforementioned studies while accusing the judge of overseeing Roundup litigation of political bias is the pot calling the kettle black.
Playing The Emotion Card
Grenell can’t see the forest for the trees. Writing in The Hill, Grenell says, “The lawyers representing customers who argue, against the evidence, that glyphosate is carcinogenic to humans are making off handsomely; they can ignore science, play on emotion, and count their cash.”
Let’s focus for a moment on emotion. In the very next paragraph, Grenell writes, “As a cancer survivor, I cannot stand to see the endless advertisements running on cable news trolling other survivors of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to join their class-action lawsuit. It is not only unscientific, it is offensive and immoral.”
Who’s playing on emotion now?