So, pretty much all the things in life (*coffee*) that really matter.
Today, IARC announced to the world that it has reached the conclusion that “really hot beverages,” such as coffee and tea, are probably carcinogenic. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a special agency under the World Health Organization, is tasked with cancer research. The agency also determines which substances in our environment have the potential to cause cancer. In October, IARC also declared red meat to be a probable carcinogen and processed meats to be carcinogens.
Ironically, when IARC holds its 50th anniversary conference, there will be no less than 5 scheduled coffee breaks on the agenda.
Good to see they take these classifications very seriously.
The announcement comes shortly after the one year anniversary of IARC’s highly criticized decision to label glyphosate, the active ingredient in Round-Up, as a probable carcinogen. Since that time, many prominent scientific bodies have disagreed with IARC’s conclusion, including the European Food Safety Authority. Most recently, and most notably, the World Health Organization determined that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.
Unfortunately, the more we learn about how IARC handled the assessment of glyphosate, the more distasteful it becomes. It also starts to make sense why, according to so many others, IARC got it wrong.
For example, despite hundreds of studies showing that glyphosate does not cause cancer, IARC made its assessment based on a total of 8 studies. One of the studies considered was performed by the infamous Seralini, an anti-GMO activist who’s studies of tumors and rats have previously been revoked from scientific publications. Another study reviewed by IARC was performed by Canadian scientist Keith Solomon. Solomon is a professor emeritus at the University of Guelph and globally recognized authority on pesticides. Shortly after IARC’s decision on glyphosate, Solomon stated that the organization just got it “totally wrong.”
There’s also the suspicious involvement of Christopher Portier, a statistician employed by the Environmental Defense Fund. The EDF is a well-organized and funded organization opposed to modern agriculture. Portier was appointed chair of IARC’s Advisory Committee and, no coincidence, the committee then decided to take up a review of glyphosate. Portier had previously written about his dislike for glyphosate and, you guessed it, Monsanto. After IARC’s announcement, Portier took a road trip around Europe to convince policymakers of IARC’s findings and question the credibility of anyone that disagreed with him.
Bernhard Url, the executive director of the European Food Safety Association likened Portier and IARC’s approach to science as a new populist social media method. As mentioned above, EFSA has concluded that glyphosate is not a carcinogen, which produced quite a skirmish between EFSA and IARC. Url described IARC’s approach by stating:
For me this is the first sign of the Facebook age of science. You have a scientific assessment, you put it in Facebook and you count how many people like it. For us, this is no way forward. We produce a scientific opinion, we stand for it but we cannot take into account whether it will be liked or not.
As for me, I’ll take the more credible opinions of the other governmental agencies and world bodies that have stood against IARC’s classification. And I’ll also enjoy my “really hot beverage” of coffee this morning without carcinogenic worries.