Chris Portier is an activist researcher with deep ties to radical environmentalist groups and the shameless attorneys who work for them. As an academic secretly paid to dispute sound science and give intellectual cover to unjustified lawsuits, Portier is perhaps the all-time best example of a denier for hire.
IARC’s Glyphosate Monograph: An Activist Escapade for the Ages
In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a monograph declaring that the herbicide glyphosate was “a probable carcinogen,” much to the delight of anti-chemical activists. The monograph was panned by experts for misstating the conclusions of the research it discussed and ignoring studies that contradict IARC’s conclusion.
At the time of its publication, the media reported on the monograph favorably to the public, giving activists a platform to defend IARC’s report and ignoring serious conflicts of interest on the panel that produced the document. Of particular concern is that Portier, the “invited specialist” on the panel, is no specialist at all and was employed by the environmentalist lobby.
Portier’s History as a Denier for Hire
Before serving on IARC’s glyphosate panel, Portier worked for years as a consultant to the Environmental Defense Fund, (EDF) a powerful lobbying group first established to run anti-pesticide campaigns. Just as significant, in 2014, Portier wrote a defense of Gilles-Éric Séralini’s retracted study which claimed that glyphosate caused cancer in rats.
Most egregious of all, however, is that Portier signed a contract to be a litigation consultant for two law firms that were preparing to sue Monsanto on behalf of U.S. Right to Know, an organic industry front group. This agreement was struck the same week IARC released their findings on glyphosate, according to Portier’s deposition for the case. (pg 75) Portier was paid $450 per hour to consult the attorneys as they prepared for trial. He was prohibited from declaring this financial relationship and even denied that he had been paid for his work on glyphosate.
The IARC knew about Portier’s relationship with EDF at least a year before the agency published their glyphosate monograph, because in 2014 he helped them select their research priorities for the coming years. Despite these obvious conflicts of interest, Portier was allowed to serve on IARC’s panel and then defend their glyphosate report against the waves of criticism it received once it was published. (pg 66-69)
Portier’s Shocking Lack of Expertise
In the preceding years, Portier had conducted exactly zero research on the controversial herbicide. A statistician by training, he had studied the carcinogenicity of a variety of chemicals throughout his career, but never glyphosate. As he stated in his deposition, “Prior to being appointed to working group 112, I had not looked at any of the scientific evidence on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.” (p. 11)
There is ample evidence to indicate that Portier’s selection as IARC’s glyphosate specialist was political, because the agency has a soft spot for anti-corporate environmentalists, and Portier is a textbook example of such an activist, given his affiliations. Portier’s selection is all the more egregious because there are plenty of actual experts who weighed in on glyphosate’s toxicity years before IARC published their monograph, and then refuted it following the document’s publication.