The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) has begun an inquiry using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to educate the public and policymakers on what are increasing, and increasingly expensive, questions surrounding what appears to be an activist, loosely affiliated arm of the World Health Organization (WHO).

That arm is the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a French-based international body that has also come under congressional scrutiny for its widely publicized studies claiming that everything — and I mean everything, from bacon to pickles to working the night shift — causes cancer.  For this, U.S. taxpayers have shelled out to IARC hundreds of millions of dollars, including $39 million to its controversial Monograph program since 1992 (IARC publishes “Monographs” to issue its ritual declaration of carcinogenicity) .

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Indeed, IARC has concluded just once, out of 989 inquiries, that something is not a carcinogen.  Some critics suggest that IARC’s hazard advisories are geared towards generating headlines, and not advancements in public health research.  The process certainly includes its share of activists, for whom that describes a way of life.  Headlines in turn create public fear and confusion, generate taxpayer funding, and advance agendas.

But scientific experts and academic communities have widely criticized and dismissed many of IARC’s findings. Recent scrutiny relates to IARC’s Monograph on glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in the world. 

IARC labeled this herbicide as “probably carcinogenic” even though regulatory bodies around the world consistently rate glyphosate as safe. This was odd given even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly had found that glyphosate does not pose a cancer hazard.  EPA’s most recent determination — made after IARC’s move applauded by the international environmental advocacy industry — was issued just this month.

EPA had first, courted controversy, posting then quickly taking offline its conclusion this Spring. E&E Legal is interested in what input IARC and activists have had on EPA, and our federal agencies' relationship with IARC.

According to IARC, three EPA scientists – Mathew Martin, Peter Egeghy, and Catherine Eiden — and one scientist from the National Institute of Environmental Sciences (NIEHS), Gloria Jahnke, all helped write the controversial glyphosate monograph.  Other federal employees were involved and yet agencies are withholding records of their involvement as really belonging to someone other than the taxpayer who paid for them.

Given the massive public money involved, and potential policy and food-supply implications, lawmakers on Capitol Hill are now investigating all of this.  House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzFormer chairman appears at House Oversight contempt debate Former chairman appears at House Oversight contempt debate Republicans spend more than million at Trump properties MORE's investigation compliments inquiries by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Chairman Robert AderholtRobert Brown AderholtHouse advances B agriculture bill House advances B agriculture bill Dems advance bill defying Trump State Department cuts MORE’s inquiry.

In addition, to these IARC-specific investigations, House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith and the bipartisan leaders of the House Agriculture Committee are also conducting oversight into EPA’s actions that relate to glyphosate, long a target of the international environmental movement. They are concerned that relationships with IARC may have interfered with routine scientific inquiry at the agency, blurring the lines between unbiased scientific analysis and political outcomes.

E&E Legal hopes that, in addition to investigating the vast number of U.S. taxpayer underwriting of IARC, the Committees also investigate IARC’s efforts with the assistance of taxpayer-funded agencies to defeat our transparency laws.  As part of its own investigation, E&E Legal has been told by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that records held on government computers, developed by government employees, on government time, are somehow not subject to U.S. transparency laws, because in the agency’s eyes, they belong instead to IARC! 

To support their defiance HHS cites IARC’s requirement that all scientists must agree to confidentiality before participating. Possibly IARC and these agencies are not familiar with our own requirements for receiving taxpayer money.

NEIHS went so far as to say that they had no records to turn over because “IARC is the sole owner of all such materials” and that Jahnke was not a “representative” of NIEHS when she participated.  Maybe NIEHS’s lawyers forgot to tell that to Jahnke, as she is identified on IARC’s website as representing NIEHS for the purpose of Monograph 112. 

E&E Legal has received similar treatment by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in response to a FOIA request for its staff’s relevant emails.

While E&E Legal is challenging these assertions in court, Congress should take a closer look at the relationship that U.S. government agencies have with the IARC and determine for itself whether it is appropriate for the government to fund and staff an organization that doesn’t believe in the same principles of transparency as we value, and require.

David W. Schnare, Esq., PhD is General Counsel of the Energy & Environment Legal Institute.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.