In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a monograph concluding that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Bayer’s herbicide Roundup, is a “probable carcinogen.” The agency’s evaluation of the weed killer was mired in controversy after evidence surfaced suggesting that IARC ignored research that didn’t support a glyphosate-cancer link. Documents released during lawsuits against Bayer also indicated that several scientists involved in the IARC review were hired as litigation consultants after the agency came back with its “probably carcinogenic” finding on glyphosate.
Science communications specialist David Zaruk has become the foremost authority on these questionable developments at IARC, publishing roughly 25 reports in the last several years on the agency’s internal workings. Most notable among Zaruk’s findings is that IARC has engaged in so-called “activist science,” in which researchers start with a politically or ideologically motivated conclusion and gather evidence to support it.
This practice upends the scientific method, which dictates that conclusions be tested against the evidence, and undermines the public’s trust in scientists and regulators who have found that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer, based on hundreds of independent studies conducted by researchers all over the world.
On this episode of Talking Biotch, Zaruk joins plant geneticist and host Kevin Folta to discuss the controversy surrounding IARC and how the agency has impacted the scientific and political debate over glyphosate.
David Zaruk has been an EU risk and science communications specialist since 2000, active in EU policy events from REACH and SCALE to the Pesticides Directive, from Science in Society questions to the use of the Precautionary Principle. Follow him on Twitter @zaruk
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