by Lorraine Chow
Glyphosate applied to a North Yorkshire field.
Chafer Machinery / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
The European Union's license extension of the world's most popular
weedkiller, glyphosate, was based on a review that heavily
plagiarized industry studies, according to a report (Detailed
Expert Report on Plagiarism and superordinated Copy Paste in the
Renewal Assessment Report on Glyphosate) commissioned by
European parliamentarians (MEPs).
The new analysis released Tuesday compares whether a risk assessment
of the controversial herbicide was actually authored by scientists
representing Germany's Federal Institute for Risk Assessment
or by the European Glyphosate Task Force (GTF),
an industry group that includes
Monsanto, the manufacturer of
glyphosate-based Roundup, in its
discovered exclusively in the chapters dealing with the
assessment of published studies on health risks related to
glyphosate," according to the report by plagiarism researcher
Stefan Weber and biochemist Helmut Burtscher-Schaden.
"In these chapters,
50.1 percent of the content was identified as plagiarism."
In one of their most
"remarkable findings," the report's authors determined that even
BfR's assessment methods were directly lifted from GTF text.
"The BfR had thus
copied Monsanto's explanation of Monsanto's approach in
evaluating the published literature, yet had presented it as the
approach of the authority.
This is a striking
example of deception regarding true authorship," the report
The BfR and the
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
rejected the World Health Organization's International Agency for
Research on Cancer's March 2015 classification of glyphosate as a
The EFSA based its
conclusion on the BfR's stance. Critics have previously accused both
agencies of its close ties to the industry.
Stefan Weber pointed out to POLITICO that BfR's plagiarizing
also means that dozens of studies dismissed by the Glyphosate
Task Force were similarly disregarded by European food safety
"It is very
concerning under the hypothesis that all these studies ignored
are simply considered as not reliable," he said.
MEPs from the Greens,
Socialists & Democrats and European United Left-Nordic Green
Left parties commissioned the new report not long after The
Guardian revealed that the BfR's glyphosate safety assessment
copy-and-pasted large sections of text from a study conducted by
"It is extremely
worrying to see that up to 50 percent of some chapters of the
German regulator's assessment were actually written by
Monsanto," Greens/EFA MEP Bart Staes said in press release.
"Just as tobacco companies can no longer talk about the health
benefits of smoking, the chemical industry shouldn't be able to
write its own authorization for its own potentially harmful
products," he added.
The report was released
just before a parliamentary vote on greater transparency and
independent scrutiny surrounding the authorization procedure for
pesticides, The Guardian noted.
The authors concluded that,
"BfR's practice of
copy paste and plagiarism is at odds with an independent,
objective, and transparent assessment of the risks, and that
this practice influenced the authority's conclusions on
"In addition," they said, "the study authors found clear
evidence of BfR's deliberate pretense of an independent
assessment, whereas in reality the authority was only echoing
the industry applicants' assessment."
The BfR rejected the
"In Europe, it was
customary and recognized in evaluation procedures for plant
protection products that, following critical evaluation,
assessment authorities would also integrate relevant passages of
documents submitted by applicants into their assessment reports
as long as these were up to standard," the agency stated in a
"For the overall
assessment of the scientific work of the authorities,
quantitative percentages of the share of the official work are
not relevant," it added.