GM Free Cymru

Decades of lax enforcement by the EPA and scientific fraud by Monsanto

Date Added to website 24th May 2014

[Comment from GM-Free Cymru; this review of "Poison Spring" is not entirely flattering -- but it documents the case of Cate Jenkins, who blew the whistle on Monsanto scientific fraud and on the falsification of evidence submitted to EPA relating to the medical effects of dioxin. The target here is the EPA itself, which has connived in fraud and data manipulation and has seen its key role as the facilitation of consents for chemicals being pushed by big corporations like Monsanto. So in that respect the EPA is culpable and deserves to be pilloried. But more important is what this case tells us about Monsanto, which since the 1990s has been involved in the systematic abuse and manipulation of scientific procedures, the complete abandonment of scientific ethics, and the blatant falsification of results, for its own commercial ends. we have seen evidence of this over and again -- so nothing surprises us any longer. No wonder Monsanto is considered to be the most evil corporation on the planet......]

Ex-EPA. official E.G. Vallianatos and environmental writer McKay Jenkins document EPA’s failure to enforce environmental laws regulating toxic chemicals, particularly the highly toxic dioxin.

By Alan Moores
Special to The Seattle Times
April 13, 2014

“Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA”

by E.G. Vallianatos with McKay Jenkins

Bloomsbury, 284 pp., $28

Many Americans are probably only remotely aware they might have been made vulnerable to a decades-long saturation of their environment by a showering of toxic chemicals on their food crops, with little apparent protection by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Former EPA staffer E.G. Vallianatos, with environmental writer McKay Jenkins, reveals the politics that have delivered us to this place.

Having spent most of his 25-year career (1979-2004) in the EPA’s Office of Pesticides Programs, Vallianatos saw firsthand not only the science that found toxicity in the pesticides Big Agriculture has been applying to crops, but how those discoveries played out within a highly politicized EPA over five presidential administrations.

Vallianatos (the book is written in his first-person voice) cites the case of Cate Jenkins, an EPA scientist who in the early 1990s blew the whistle on what she considered to be Monsanto’s fraudulent claim that exposure to dioxin — “the most toxic chemical ever known to man,” according to the EPA, and a substance Monsanto used in making a wood preservative — did not cause cancer in workers.

The EPA, according to Vallianatos, had relied on Monsanto’s own dioxin studies to determine dioxin’s danger to the community, and Jenkins claimed Monsanto had falsified its results by, among other things, excluding workers with cancer from its studies.

The EPA conducted an inconclusive criminal investigation of Monsanto, then apologized to the company for the accusations, along with relieving Jenkins of her official duties. Jenkins filed a harassment complaint with the Department of Labor, which reinstated her. The EPA appealed the ruling to a higher authority, which ruled again in Jenkins’ favor. The EPA appealed again, and that court also ruled in Jenkins’ favor.

It’s hard not to feel outrage at the combination of EPA cowardice and manufacturers’ disregard for the safety of the American public that Vallianatos lays out here. Still, “Poison Spring” sometimes fights itself.

First, it might have been more coherently presented. Vallianatos rails most at the Reagan administration’s neglect — if not outright hostility — toward the agency, citing a number of offenses, including slashing EPA’s budget. A timeline would have more graphically shown a cutting of the agency’s budget throughout Reagan’s presidency.

Second, Vallianatos’ footnotes are a little quirky, as when he cites a 2006 New York Times editorial as the source of his statement that smog and soot from America’s vehicles, factories and farms cause 20,000 deaths each year. Vallianatos should have used the primary source, which, according to the Times editorial, turned out to be the EPA..

Finally, though he shows how compromised the EPA has become in the face of overwhelming pressure from chemical manufacturers and politicians, Vallianatos says little about the public’s role in this mess. The EPA was created during the Nixon administration, which was simply responding to intense political pressure at the time to do something about environmental degradation.

Last fall, Washington state voters failed to approve an initiative that would have required the labeling of genetically modified foods, in the face of a “No” campaign funded by Monsanto, among other companies, that spent a record $22 million (for one side in a state initiative fight), according to The Seattle Times.

So if citizens cannot muster the energy and will needed to push their local, state or federal government to more effectively monitor the production of their food, should they expect more than what the EPA now gives them?