American taxpayers fund an international agency that puts out junk science, scaring consumers and leading to costly jury decisions and unnecessary product bans, a new Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) report documents.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an influential but secretive research group, funded by world governments and housed within the World Health Organization. Unfortunately, the agency is failing in its mission to give policymakers and consumers information about chemicals that pose a cancer risk, the report explains.
The agency focuses on determining if a chemical or activity poses a “hazard,” but that should be just the first step in risk assessment. The next steps should consider dose and exposure and whether actual human exposures are significant enough to matter.
“IARC’s hazard-based approach results in nonsensical cancer classifications, placing plutonium and smoking in the same carcinogenic category as salty fish and processed meats,” said Angela Logomasini, CEI senior fellow and author of the report. “Worse, the organization has become tainted by political influences and conflicts of interest.”
The report points to the agency’s 2015 classification of the weed killer glyphosate as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ as an egregious example of all that’s wrong with the agency. Its classification of glyphosate is contradicted by numerous governmental and other scientific reviews around the world that determined the chemical is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. That improper classification led a California jury to use it as a basis for a $289 million award this year and spawned thousands of other copycat lawsuits. Governments around the world may follow up with bans.
Americans affected by such false, politically-driven findings are farmers and consumers, the report explains. Farmers will lose access to a cost-effective, useful weed killer, with few viable alternatives. That will drive up the cost of bringing agricultural goods to market, which means consumers will ultimately pay more for food.
Another big problem is that the IARC operates in secret, without any binding scientific guidelines. Working group members are not even required to determine whether exposure to a chemical is sufficient to pose actual risks.
That’s why the report urges Congress to pull the plug: stop funding the agency and instead rely on this country’s already well-performing system for evaluating chemical risk, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The House in February this year held a hearing raising similar concerns.