WB01343_.gif (599 bytes)  Pesticide and Environmental Update

Bad Chemistry at EPA.


AN INTERNAL U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) memorandum charges that an EPA investigation into allegations that Monsanto falsified scientific studies on the carcinogenicity of dioxin was itself fraudulent. The memo, written by EPA employee William Sanjour, examined a criminal investigation that resulted from court cases of Vietnam War veterans who were sprayed with Agent Orange, a ("registered") defoliant containing small amounts of dioxin, while serving in Vietnam and who later contracted cancer. The veterans were attempting to obtain compensation from Monsanto and other chemical companies which produced Agent Orange.

The veterans' case was largely thwarted in 1984 because of a lack of scientific evidence and Monsanto-sponsored studies which showed no increase in cancer among human subjects exposed to dioxin (studies that were later contradicted by EPA studies of the carcinogenicity of dioxin to humans).

But in February 1990, EPA chemist Dr. Cate Jenkins wrote to the EPA Science Advisory Board that there was evidence that the Monsanto studies were fraudulent and that, had they been done properly, they would have shown the connection between dioxin and cancer in humans. This led to a criminal investigation in August 1990 of Monsanto.

But, according to Sanjour, instead of investigating Monsanto, the EPA "investigated and illegally harassed the whistle blower, Cate Jenkins. " The memo states that, within days of the initiation of the investigation, Jenkins' " job duties were withdrawn without warning.

She was not given any assignments from August 30, 1990 until she was reassigned on April 8, 1992 to a job which was primarily administrative or clerical." Jenkins, who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry, filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, which reinstated her, but not until after two appeals by the EPA (the most recent by current EPA Chief Administrator Carol Browner).

The Monsanto investigation was quietly halted in August 1992 without determining if the studies were fraudulent or not. "However," wrote Sanjour, "the investigation itself and the basis for closing the investigation were fraudulent."

"Did Monsanto manipulate their studies in order to play down the danger of dioxin so as to reduce their liability to the Vietnam veterans?" the memo asks. "Are top EPA officials more concerned with protecting their employment prospects with the industries they regulate than in protecting human health and the environment? And, are EPA law enforcement officials being used as an internal KGB to silence dissent?"

Monsanto "denies globally the implications in the memo," states Monsanto's Director of Environmental Communications Gary Barton. He alleges that the memo contained "misstatements and innuendo" about the company and maintains that Monsanto "never manipulated any scientific studies [and] cooperated fully" with the EPA.

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment on the memo.