In order to save glyphosate, the Monsanto corporation has undertaken an effort to destroy the United Nations’ cancer agency by any means possible. Le Monde started the Monsanto papers, resulting in a dozen investigative articles exploring the many strategies used by Monsanto to interfere with science, influence the regulatory process and orchestrate PR campaigns to defend their products.

By Stéphane Horel and Stéphane Foucart

This article was published in cooperation with European Press Prize.

They had promised it was “safer than table salt” – but that was in the advertisements. It is the most widely used herbicide in the world. It is the main ingredient in their flagship product, Roundup, the bedrock on which their firm has built its economic model, its wealth and its reputation. A product which has been on the market for more than 40 years and became a best-seller with the development of genetically-modified seeds called “Roundup Ready.” It is this product, glyphosate, that could in fact be carcinogenic. On March 20, 2015, Monsanto took a major hit. On that day, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declared glyphosate to be genotoxic (it causes DNA damage), carcinogenic for animals, and a “probable carcinogen” for humans. The jury was a group of 17 seasoned experts representing 11 different nationalities who were brought together by this official UN agency, which is responsible for establishing an inventory of carcinogenic substances and whose scientific opinions on the matter have been authoritative for half a century. There was therefore no doubt that this would also be the destiny of their conclusions on glyphosate, published in the form of a report called “Monograph 112.”