Popular weed killer at center of federal lawsuit

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – There’s a popular weed killer you may have in your garage that some are arguing can give you cancer.

Newly released emails obtained by CBS North Carolina show the company who makes this product may have used questionable tactics to defend it.

You can find Roundup in just about any store and you can also find it in the middle of a federal lawsuit.

A group of people say the product gave them cancer.

For several years, scientists have been arguing whether the weed killer’s main ingredient, Glyphosate, can cause cancer.

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In 2015, a division of the World Health Organization said it “probably” does.

But later the EPA said it was “not likely”.

Monsanto, the company who makes Roundup, has defended the safety of its product every step of the way.

But that lawsuit has now exposed company emails that attorneys say show Monsanto tried to sway news and research articles about the glyphosate’s safety.

Things like pulling strings with friends at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and asking scientist to author articles that Monsanto put together.

“As you heard from two Monsanto scientists, glyphosate does not cause cancer in humans or in animals,” said one company executive during a hearing in California.

It’s a claim the company shouts from the rooftops, but the emails also show it’s a claim that’s been questioned by their own.

One email shows a Monsanto executive saying what he heard from studies is that “Glyphosate is OK but the formulated product (and thus the surfactant) does the damage.”

Another email from a toxicologist says the company “cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen…we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement.”

One employee wrote that if someone did ask to test Roundup, he’d have serious concern.

Roundup is not the only product Monsanto is battling over, since many farmers use glyphosate on their produce.

Monsanto is now going after the law firm who released the emails saying they were confidential.

A corporate engagement official at Monsanto sent a response to the lawsuit to CBS North Carolina Thursday afternoon

The legal and regulatory system for testing and evaluating our products is robust, independent and effective. To be clear: The underlying science behind glyphosate is not at question. These documents pertain to certain Monsanto communication and advocacy activities. It is our responsibility and our policy to review new science that may indicate any unreasonable adverse effects of our products. Likewise, the EPA is obligated to assess any new science that may question the safety of a pesticide. Just like any other regulated company, Monsanto is legally obligated to communicate with regulators and respond to questions about our products.

Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicides have a long history of safe use and have been studied in real-world application, including the largest study ever of the actual use of pesticides by farmers.

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