In a letter seen by Reuters and sent on Thursday to the head of the
National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Representative Jason
Chaffetz questioned whether the WHO's International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC) was trying to "avoid public scrutiny" by
asking its experts not to disclose requested information.
IARC staff were not immediately available for comment. An NIH
spokeswoman could not confirm the receiving the letter, but said the
agency would respond if and when it arrived.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which
Chaffetz chairs, began looking into the NIH's links with IARC last
year after several lawmakers raised questions about why U.S.
taxpayers are funding an agency that often faces criticism for its
The letter marks the latest salvo in a battle between Congress, NIH
and IARC that was fueled by IARC's review of the weedkiller
IARC classifies glyphosate, a key ingredient of Monsanto Co's
herbicide Roundup, as "probably carcinogenic." That assessment puts
IARC at odds with many government regulators, including those in the
United States, Europe, Canada, Japan and New Zealand, who say it is
unlikely to pose a cancer risk to humans.
Last year, IARC advised academic experts on its glyphosate review
panel not to disclose documents they were asked to release under
United States freedom of information laws.
Chaffetz also sent a separate letter on Thursday to the National
Archives and Records Administration office, asking for clarification
of federal records law, specifically relating to information sent
between a foreign body and a U.S. government email account.
IARC is semi-autonomous part of the WHO based in Lyon, France. Its
assessments of whether such things as coffee, mobile phones,
processed meat and glyphosate cause cancer have caused particular
controversy in recent years.
IARC's critics say the agency is sometimes too quick to conclude
that substances might cause cancer, prompting unnecessary health
[to top of second column]
IARC, however, defends its methods as scientifically sound and says
its monographs - the name it gives its classifications of
carcinogens - are "widely respected for their scientific rigor,
standardized and transparent process and ... freedom from conflicts
Chaffetz originally wrote to NIH director Francis Collins in
September last year describing IARC as having "a record of
controversy, retractions, and inconsistencies" and asking why the
NIH, which has an annual budget of $33 billion, continues to fund
In Thursday's follow-up letter, Chaffetz noted that IARC had since
then told some of its working group members to not release documents
to the Congressional committee. Now, Chaffetz said, the committee
wanted access to all IARC employee communications related to public
records requests, and other documents.
In both letters, Chaffetz asks for a response by Jan. 24.
(Editing by P.J. Huffstutter and Matthew Lewis)
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.