Monsanto Co. was accused in court documents of ghostwriting scientific literature that led a U.S. regulator to conclude a key chemical in its Roundup weed killer shouldn’t be classified as carcinogenic.
Lawyers suing the company on behalf of farmers and others, who claim exposure to glyphosate caused their non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, alleged in a court filing which was partially blacked out until Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency “may be unaware of Monsanto’s deceptive authorship practice.”
The filing was made public by a federal judge in San Francisco handling the litigation. The judge said last month he’s inclined to require a retired EPA official to submit to questioning by plaintiffs’ lawyers who contend he had a “ highly suspicious ” relationship with Monsanto. The former official oversaw a committee that found insufficient evidence to conclude glyphosate causes cancer and left his job last year after his report was leaked to the press.
The plaintiff lawyers said in the filing that Monsanto’s toxicology manager and his boss were ghost writers for two of the reports, including one from 2000, that the EPA committee relied on to reach its conclusion.
Among the documents unsealed Tuesday was a February 2015 internal e-mail exchange at the company about how to contain costs for a research paper. The plaintiff lawyers cited it to support their claim that the EPA report is unreliable, unlike a report by an international agency that classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen.
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“A less expensive/more palatable approach” is to rely on experts only for some areas of contention, while “we ghost-write the Exposure Tox & Genetox sections,” one Monsanto employee wrote to another.
The names of outside scientists could be listed on the publication, “but we would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak,” according to the e-mail, which goes to on say that’s how Monsanto handled the 2000 study.
A company spokeswoman had no immediate response to a request for comment on the court filings.
The case is In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2741, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).