Direct parallels can be drawn between how the NRA and other industries influence public health. Monsanto is a behemoth in the agricultural and chemical industry. It has invested extensive sums of money into genetically modified crops. It manufactures and sells Roundup© a glyphosate-based pesticide that its genetically modified crops are designed to work in conjunction with. A scientific body of the United Nations devoted to cancer research and the classification of carcinogens, known as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), studied glyphosate and identified the chemical to be a “Probable Human Carcinogen” based on evidence linking the chemical to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Industry funded consulting firms have for years been paid tens of millions of dollars publishing articles that seek to call into doubt well established risks of products and chemical agents to workers and consumers.
What followed the IARC’s determination has been an unprecedented attack on the IARC levied by Monsanto and those aligned with it. One of the primary avenues for attacking the IARC has come through attempts to stop funding of the Monograph Group provided by the United States Government’s National Institutes of Health.
On February 6, 2018 Lamar Smith, Chairman and Frank Lucas, Vice-Chairman of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space & Technology, held a hearing that is best described as a proxy for the industry’s efforts to weaken the IARC by pulling funding provided by the United States Government. As pointed out by a Minority Staff Report from the same Committee, “Many of the criticisms contained in the Committee’s letters regarding IARC mimic criticisms that the chemical industry has leveled on the IARC process”.
It may not then come as a surprise to learn that Vice Chairman Rep. Lucas received $10,000 from Monsanto in each of the 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 election cycles and $2,500 from Monsanto in the 2018 election cycle plus an additional almost $30,000 from CropLife America, a trade organization that Monsanto is a member of. Ironically, the committee’s opening statements to the hearing called into question the IARC’s transparency, but the committee failed to note that it’s Vice-Chairman received approximately $72,500 since the 2010 election cycle from Monsanto and its trade association CropLife America.
In what other ways may the public’s health be affected by the administration’s stance towards science and alignment with industry? There may be a limitation of the EPA’s review of well established carcinogens such as asbestos as part of proposed changes to the Toxic Substances Control Act.
All forms of asbestos have for decades been known to be a human carcinogen and recognized by independent and governmental scientific bodies as such. Chrysotile asbestos is no longer mined in the United States and raw Chrysotile is imported solely for use in the Chlor-Alkali industry. However, numerous asbestos containing materials can still be encountered due to their prolific use in various industries. Relaxing regulation of and protections against asbestos and similar carcinogenic agents will needlessly place workers and the public at risk.
Unfortunately, the resources available to workers and consumers to protect their health and safety through scientific research are dwarfed by the industries’ ability to use its financial might to sway the science in its favor. Scientific bodies of our governments and international agencies are among the few bodies capable of providing independent research and meaningful regulation. We should remain vigilant and speak out when they come under the influence of those that would profit at the expense of the public’s health.