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A few more Oxbridge places for disadvantaged children is just tinkering | Frances Ryan

A thinktank’s suggestion for how to get more students from disadvantaged backgrounds into Oxford and Cambridge – open a new generation of colleges – is the sort of solution that unwittingly tells you much about the problem.

Inequality in Britain’s education system is so entrenched that, according to the Higher Education Policy Institute, the best way for elite institutions to include disadvantaged young people is not to change but to create separate buildings.

It’s little wonder that steps to redress the balance for marginalised pupils are less than useful. We’ve long been told that working-class, disabled and ethnic minority students can excel if they put in enough effort. The fetishisation of grammar schools – just given £50m-worth of new life by the government – is testament to that. Critics of more redistributive measures have long pointed to “minority success stories” to try to prove their point, as if with enough grit, talent and determination, no child need let poverty, race, or disability hold them back.

This individualism has always been simplistic, ignoring the multiple structural barriers that affect all our life chances, but in today’s climate, it looks outright delusional. Take what’s happening to disabled pupils. Cuts to education are happening across the board, but are deepening for children with special educational needs. According to the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, there is a £400m gap between what councils in England say they need for this kind of educational provision and what the government is providing. More than 4,000 children with special needs don’t even have a school place (up from 776 in 2010), dumped at home without a right to education.

Even if they are in school, it’s unlikely they’ll be getting the support they need. For example, figures obtained by the National Deaf Children’s Society through freedom of information requests this week reveal that over one-third of councils in England are planning to cut support for deaf children this year. That’s around £4m in itself. The charity says that support for deaf children in schools is now reaching “breaking point” – since 2014, one in 10 specialist teachers for the deaf has been cut, with test results promptly getting worse.

Back in the 1990s, I started secondary school barely a year after Labour gained power. Like most state mainstream schools then, mine was largely inaccessible for pupils like me who used a wheelchair. My class ended up being taught out of only three rooms for the entirety of year 7 while a lift was being installed, with more renovations coming over the years. By the time I was in sixth form, I could get to most parts of the school like anyone else – something often taken for granted but vital for not only a child’s learning, but social development. I dread to think what would have happened with today’s funding cuts.

Disabled students are already at an academic disadvantage. In the first study of its kind in the UK, recent research from the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics found that disabled children are more likely to enter secondary education with lower educational attainment than non-disabled pupils, and are less likely to achieve good grades at GCSE. But as worrying, the minority who do manage to get qualifications are still let down: more than a quarter of disabled young people do achieve five or more A*-C grades, but they are less likely to stay on to take A-levels, and less likely to go on to university, than young people without disabilities.

And this isn’t just about funding. Social factors including low expectations of people with disabilities, and experiences of bullying, were found by the researchers to be key barriers. Prejudice isn’t confined to disability, of course. Last year, the Oxford college St Hilda’s was set to introduce a “class liberation officer” because of abuse towards working-class students, the sort of toxic environment that damages learning and tells a certain group “this is not for you”. Beyond Oxbridge, research from the National Union of Students last month found that low-income students were routinely experiencing harassment or discrimination because of their class, as well as paying a “poverty premium”, often shelling out higher costs than their wealthier peers.

None of this is simple to solve, nor does the problem come down to one or even a handful of factors. Similarly, no matter what the headlines suggest, getting more disadvantaged pupils into Oxbridge is not the holy grail of equality. From early years education all the way to university, a variety of large-scale social and economic measures are needed – as well as smaller practical ones – to begin giving disadvantaged young people a fair shot across the board.

There are many existing schemes that do great work in helping BAME or low-income pupils with A-levels or the university application process. Last year, I was a volunteer mentor to a first-year student at IntoUniversity – a programme created in response to the high university drop-out rate of low-income students; I also took part in one of their careers workshops designed to give primary-school pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds inspiration for what they could grow up to be. But any social intervention must come along with cold hard cash from the state, whether it’s for keeping children’s centres open, reinstating teaching assistants to classrooms, or lowering tuition fees for young people daunted by debt.

Tinkering with Oxbridge admissions may make a good story, but let’s be under no illusion. Be it removing a teacher for a deaf child or the longstanding prejudice towards non-white, non-wealthy students, the assault on disadvantaged children is built into the fabric of this country – and is only getting worse. The very children who most need a leg-up are actually being knocked from all sides.

Frances Ryan writes the Guardian’s Hardworking Britain series

Action, not more reports, needed to tackle student mental health | Ketters

The Universities UK report Minding Our Future highlights what those of us who work with students have known for many years (Call for urgent action to improve mental health services for students, 11 May). Mental health services are not integrated, and they do not always follow the person if he or she relocates, assuming that services are available for younger people and that they are able to access them. 

Governments of all political persuasion express their commitment to reform, and their deep regret and sorrow when life is lost, or serious harm occurs. Such expressions are of little if any comfort to those in need of support and services. Nor do they provide any strength to families and friends who lose loved ones. At what point did we decide that support for vulnerable young people was not a priority? When did we decide that the politics of austerity and outsourcing were more important than their lives and wellbeing?

Please, no more reports telling us what we already know. As the fifth strongest economy in the world, the provision of well-funded, integrated and personalised mental health support services for all generations is achievable. Until we commit to such a policy, we will continue to read tragic stories of suicide and self-harm.
Professor John Williams
Professor of law, Aberystwyth University

Your report rightly draws attention to the enormous problem of providing appropriate support to students experiencing periods of mental distress. I ask myself: “What happened?” In 1999, when I worked in HE, the heads of university counselling services produced the report Degrees of Disturbance: the new agenda; the impact of increasing levels of psychological disturbance among students in higher education, which was taken very seriously by the Committee of Vice-chancellors and Principals (now Universities UK).

The report addressed the very same issues as Minding Our Future. Many institutions took this seriously. They introduced mental health awareness training for staff at all levels and recommended urgent expansion of counselling and support services. I was involved at the Open University in developing and delivering some of this training over the following few years. Last week’s report makes depressing reading. Things seemed to be improving at the beginning of the century. The deterioration in student support services must reflect the massive change in social priorities that has occurred, alongside huge financial austerity pressures on education, health and social services, under the Tory governments since 2010. There is an urgent need to halt the damage.
Chris Youle
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Action, not more reports, needed to tackle student mental health | Ketters

The Universities UK report Minding Our Future highlights what those of us who work with students have known for many years (Call for urgent action to improve mental health services for students, 11 May). Mental health services are not integrated, and they do not always follow the person if he or she relocates, assuming that services are available for younger people and that they are able to access them. 

Governments of all political persuasion express their commitment to reform, and their deep regret and sorrow when life is lost, or serious harm occurs. Such expressions are of little if any comfort to those in need of support and services. Nor do they provide any strength to families and friends who lose loved ones. At what point did we decide that support for vulnerable young people was not a priority? When did we decide that the politics of austerity and outsourcing were more important than their lives and wellbeing?

Please, no more reports telling us what we already know. As the fifth strongest economy in the world, the provision of well-funded, integrated and personalised mental health support services for all generations is achievable. Until we commit to such a policy, we will continue to read tragic stories of suicide and self-harm.
Professor John Williams
Professor of law, Aberystwyth University

Your report rightly draws attention to the enormous problem of providing appropriate support to students experiencing periods of mental distress. I ask myself: “What happened?” In 1999, when I worked in HE, the heads of university counselling services produced the report Degrees of Disturbance: the new agenda; the impact of increasing levels of psychological disturbance among students in higher education, which was taken very seriously by the Committee of Vice-chancellors and Principals (now Universities UK).

The report addressed the very same issues as Minding Our Future. Many institutions took this seriously. They introduced mental health awareness training for staff at all levels and recommended urgent expansion of counselling and support services. I was involved at the Open University in developing and delivering some of this training over the following few years. Last week’s report makes depressing reading. Things seemed to be improving at the beginning of the century. The deterioration in student support services must reflect the massive change in social priorities that has occurred, alongside huge financial austerity pressures on education, health and social services, under the Tory governments since 2010. There is an urgent need to halt the damage.
Chris Youle
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Action, not more reports, needed to tackle student mental health | Ketters

The Universities UK report Minding Our Future highlights what those of us who work with students have known for many years (Call for urgent action to improve mental health services for students, 11 May). Mental health services are not integrated, and they do not always follow the person if he or she relocates, assuming that services are available for younger people and that they are able to access them. 

Governments of all political persuasion express their commitment to reform, and their deep regret and sorrow when life is lost, or serious harm occurs. Such expressions are of little if any comfort to those in need of support and services. Nor do they provide any strength to families and friends who lose loved ones. At what point did we decide that support for vulnerable young people was not a priority? When did we decide that the politics of austerity and outsourcing were more important than their lives and wellbeing?

Please, no more reports telling us what we already know. As the fifth strongest economy in the world, the provision of well-funded, integrated and personalised mental health support services for all generations is achievable. Until we commit to such a policy, we will continue to read tragic stories of suicide and self-harm.
Professor John Williams
Professor of law, Aberystwyth University

Your report rightly draws attention to the enormous problem of providing appropriate support to students experiencing periods of mental distress. I ask myself: “What happened?” In 1999, when I worked in HE, the heads of university counselling services produced the report Degrees of Disturbance: the new agenda; the impact of increasing levels of psychological disturbance among students in higher education, which was taken very seriously by the Committee of Vice-chancellors and Principals (now Universities UK).

The report addressed the very same issues as Minding Our Future. Many institutions took this seriously. They introduced mental health awareness training for staff at all levels and recommended urgent expansion of counselling and support services. I was involved at the Open University in developing and delivering some of this training over the following few years. Last week’s report makes depressing reading. Things seemed to be improving at the beginning of the century. The deterioration in student support services must reflect the massive change in social priorities that has occurred, alongside huge financial austerity pressures on education, health and social services, under the Tory governments since 2010. There is an urgent need to halt the damage.
Chris Youle
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Action, not more reports, needed to tackle student mental health | Ketters

The Universities UK report Minding Our Future highlights what those of us who work with students have known for many years (Call for urgent action to improve mental health services for students, 11 May). Mental health services are not integrated, and they do not always follow the person if he or she relocates, assuming that services are available for younger people and that they are able to access them. 

Governments of all political persuasion express their commitment to reform, and their deep regret and sorrow when life is lost, or serious harm occurs. Such expressions are of little if any comfort to those in need of support and services. Nor do they provide any strength to families and friends who lose loved ones. At what point did we decide that support for vulnerable young people was not a priority? When did we decide that the politics of austerity and outsourcing were more important than their lives and wellbeing?

Please, no more reports telling us what we already know. As the fifth strongest economy in the world, the provision of well-funded, integrated and personalised mental health support services for all generations is achievable. Until we commit to such a policy, we will continue to read tragic stories of suicide and self-harm.
Professor John Williams
Professor of law, Aberystwyth University

Your report rightly draws attention to the enormous problem of providing appropriate support to students experiencing periods of mental distress. I ask myself: “What happened?” In 1999, when I worked in HE, the heads of university counselling services produced the report Degrees of Disturbance: the new agenda; the impact of increasing levels of psychological disturbance among students in higher education, which was taken very seriously by the Committee of Vice-chancellors and Principals (now Universities UK).

The report addressed the very same issues as Minding Our Future. Many institutions took this seriously. They introduced mental health awareness training for staff at all levels and recommended urgent expansion of counselling and support services. I was involved at the Open University in developing and delivering some of this training over the following few years. Last week’s report makes depressing reading. Things seemed to be improving at the beginning of the century. The deterioration in student support services must reflect the massive change in social priorities that has occurred, alongside huge financial austerity pressures on education, health and social services, under the Tory governments since 2010. There is an urgent need to halt the damage.
Chris Youle
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Action, not more reports, needed to tackle student mental health | Ketters

The Universities UK report Minding Our Future highlights what those of us who work with students have known for many years (Call for urgent action to improve mental health services for students, 11 May). Mental health services are not integrated, and they do not always follow the person if he or she relocates, assuming that services are available for younger people and that they are able to access them. 

Governments of all political persuasion express their commitment to reform, and their deep regret and sorrow when life is lost, or serious harm occurs. Such expressions are of little if any comfort to those in need of support and services. Nor do they provide any strength to families and friends who lose loved ones. At what point did we decide that support for vulnerable young people was not a priority? When did we decide that the politics of austerity and outsourcing were more important than their lives and wellbeing?

Please, no more reports telling us what we already know. As the fifth strongest economy in the world, the provision of well-funded, integrated and personalised mental health support services for all generations is achievable. Until we commit to such a policy, we will continue to read tragic stories of suicide and self-harm.
Professor John Williams
Professor of law, Aberystwyth University

Your report rightly draws attention to the enormous problem of providing appropriate support to students experiencing periods of mental distress. I ask myself: “What happened?” In 1999, when I worked in HE, the heads of university counselling services produced the report Degrees of Disturbance: the new agenda; the impact of increasing levels of psychological disturbance among students in higher education, which was taken very seriously by the Committee of Vice-chancellors and Principals (now Universities UK).

The report addressed the very same issues as Minding Our Future. Many institutions took this seriously. They introduced mental health awareness training for staff at all levels and recommended urgent expansion of counselling and support services. I was involved at the Open University in developing and delivering some of this training over the following few years. Last week’s report makes depressing reading. Things seemed to be improving at the beginning of the century. The deterioration in student support services must reflect the massive change in social priorities that has occurred, alongside huge financial austerity pressures on education, health and social services, under the Tory governments since 2010. There is an urgent need to halt the damage.
Chris Youle
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Action, not more reports, needed to tackle student mental health | Ketters

The Universities UK report Minding Our Future highlights what those of us who work with students have known for many years (Call for urgent action to improve mental health services for students, 11 May). Mental health services are not integrated, and they do not always follow the person if he or she relocates, assuming that services are available for younger people and that they are able to access them. 

Governments of all political persuasion express their commitment to reform, and their deep regret and sorrow when life is lost, or serious harm occurs. Such expressions are of little if any comfort to those in need of support and services. Nor do they provide any strength to families and friends who lose loved ones. At what point did we decide that support for vulnerable young people was not a priority? When did we decide that the politics of austerity and outsourcing were more important than their lives and wellbeing?

Please, no more reports telling us what we already know. As the fifth strongest economy in the world, the provision of well-funded, integrated and personalised mental health support services for all generations is achievable. Until we commit to such a policy, we will continue to read tragic stories of suicide and self-harm.
Professor John Williams
Professor of law, Aberystwyth University

Your report rightly draws attention to the enormous problem of providing appropriate support to students experiencing periods of mental distress. I ask myself: “What happened?” In 1999, when I worked in HE, the heads of university counselling services produced the report Degrees of Disturbance: the new agenda; the impact of increasing levels of psychological disturbance among students in higher education, which was taken very seriously by the Committee of Vice-chancellors and Principals (now Universities UK).

The report addressed the very same issues as Minding Our Future. Many institutions took this seriously. They introduced mental health awareness training for staff at all levels and recommended urgent expansion of counselling and support services. I was involved at the Open University in developing and delivering some of this training over the following few years. Last week’s report makes depressing reading. Things seemed to be improving at the beginning of the century. The deterioration in student support services must reflect the massive change in social priorities that has occurred, alongside huge financial austerity pressures on education, health and social services, under the Tory governments since 2010. There is an urgent need to halt the damage.
Chris Youle
Winchester

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Patients don’t see the same GP any more – and that has to change | Clare Gerada

I recently did a surgery in my south London general practice. There were 18 patients at 10-minute intervals, followed by paperwork, results, prescriptions and a home visit. Nothing unusual in that.

But what was unusual was who I saw. Take for example Joan, now in her mid-70s. She has many health problems, including cancer, diabetes and depression. I first met Joan 25 years ago when she attended with her husband. I diagnosed his cancer of the colon. I cared for him during his terminal illness, and was with him when he died at home 12 months later. Philippa also came to see me for a postnatal check, accompanied by her mother, Clara. Both were so proud to be bringing in the new baby. I smiled as I remembered Clara, coming to see me for problems with conceiving so many years ago. I helped find the cause and shared her joy when she found out she was pregnant. That pregnancy was Philippa.

We are fortunate to have had this experience. For 26 years I have worked in the same place. My consulting room is the same room, in the same building and with some of the same partners. Everything is familiar. Even the patients. I feel there is a special bond between patients I have cared for over this time and myself. I am their doctor, and they, in turn, are my patients. Joan, Philippa and Clara and I can look back at our shared experiences, of me bearing witness to their joyful and painful moments, and remember the ghosts of lost family members.

This continuity of care is valued by both patients and doctor. It allows GPs to build a rich tapestry of their patients’ lives, woven using the strands of contacts we have had together over years, within the context of their families and community. It allows us to deliver truly holistic care, drawing on what we know about our patients’ physical, psychological and social past. Consultations are easier and more productive.

Continuity of care is the single most important factor in delivering safe, cost-effective, and high quality care, with fewer errors. It results in cost savings in investigation, prescribing and hospital referrals and admissions.

But a new study out this week confirms that continuity of care is largely disappearing. It has become a victim of the modern health service. There are many reasons for this. The pressure to offer increased access, the loss of personalised GP lists, the multiplicity of different providers (including new online GP services), the increased workload facing an overstretched workforce, and growing numbers of healthcare professionals working less than full time have all contributed.

Of course timely access to care matters, but it should not come at the expense of continuity of care. Continuity of care does not necessarily mean always having to see your GP face-to-face – quite the contrary. Remote care over telephone, text, or e-consultations is safer where a trusting relationship has been established between doctor and patient.

GPs able to provide continuity of care to their patients and their communities should be at the very heart of the NHS. At a time where an ageing population means growing numbers of our patients are living with more long-term conditions, it is vital we find a way of redressing the loss of personalised, coordinated care. With enough GPs, we might be able to reverse the trend towards the quick fix – anyone, anytime.

Dr Clare Gerada is medical director of the Practitioner Health Programme and a former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners

Weedkiller products more toxic than their active ingredient, tests show

US government researchers have uncovered evidence that some popular weedkilling products, like Monsanto’s widely-used Roundup, are potentially more toxic to human cells than their active ingredient is by itself.

These “formulated” weedkillers are commonly used in agriculture, leaving residues in food and water, as well as public spaces such as golf courses, parks and children’s playgrounds.

The tests are part of the US National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) first-ever examination of herbicide formulations made with the active ingredient glyphosate, but that also include other chemicals. While regulators have previously required extensive testing of glyphosate in isolation, government scientists have not fully examined the toxicity of the more complex products sold to consumers, farmers and others.

Monsanto introduced its glyphosate-based Roundup brand in 1974. But it is only now, after more than 40 years of widespread use, that the government is investigating the toxicity of “glyphosate-based herbicides” on human cells.

The NTP tests were requested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015 classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. The IARC also highlighted concerns about formulations which combine glyphosate with other ingredients to enhance weed killing effectiveness. Monsanto and rivals sell hundreds of these products around the world in a market valued at roughly $ 9bn.

Mike DeVito, acting chief of the National Toxicology Program Laboratory, told the Guardian the agency’s work is ongoing but its early findings are clear on one key point. “We see the formulations are much more toxic. The formulations were killing the cells. The glyphosate really didn’t do it,” DeVito said.

A summary of the NTP work stated that glyphosate formulations decreased human cell “viability”, disrupting cell membranes. Cell viability was “significantly altered” by the formulations, it stated.

DeVito said the NTP first-phase results do not mean the formulations are causing cancer or any other disease. While the work does show enhanced toxicity from the formulations, and show they kill human cells, the NTP appears to contradict an IARC finding that glyphosate and/or its formulations induce oxidative stress, one potential pathway toward cancer. The government still must do other testing, including examining any toxic impact on a cell’s genetic material, to help add to the understanding of risks, according to DeVito.

The NTP work informs a global debate over whether or not these glyphosate-based weedkilling chemical combinations are endangering people who are exposed. More than 4,000 people are currently suing Monsanto alleging they developed cancer from using Roundup, and several European countries are moving to limit the use of these herbicides.

“This testing is important, because the EPA has only been looking at the active ingredient. But it’s the formulations that people are exposed to on their lawns and gardens, where they play and in their food,” said Jennifer Sass, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

One problem government scientists have run into is corporate secrecy about the ingredients mixed with glyphosate in their products. Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests show uncertainty within the EPA over Roundup formulations and how those formulations have changed over the last three decades.

That confusion has continued with the NTP testing.

“We don’t know what the formulation is. That is confidential business information,” DeVito said. NTP scientists sourced some samples from store shelves, picking up products the EPA told them were the top sellers, he said.

It is not clear how much Monsanto itself knows about the toxicity of the full formulations it sells. But internal company emails dating back 16 years, which emerged in a court case last year, offer a glimpse into the company’s view. In one 2003 internal company email, a Monsanto scientist stated: “You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement. The testing on the formulations are not anywhere near the level of the active ingredient.” Another internal email, written in 2010, said: “With regards to the carcinogenicity of our formulations we don’t have such testing on them directly.” And an internal Monsanto email from 2002 stated: “Glyphosate is OK but the formulated product … does the damage.”

Monsanto did not respond to a request for comment. But in a 43-page report, the company says the safety of its herbicides is supported by “one of the most extensive worldwide human health and environmental databases ever compiled for a pesticide product”.

Weedkiller products more toxic than their active ingredient, tests show

US government researchers have uncovered evidence that some popular weedkilling products, like Monsanto’s widely-used Roundup, are potentially more toxic to human cells than their active ingredient is by itself.

These “formulated” weedkillers are commonly used in agriculture, leaving residues in food and water, as well as public spaces such as golf courses, parks and children’s playgrounds.

The tests are part of the US National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) first-ever examination of herbicide formulations made with the active ingredient glyphosate, but that also include other chemicals. While regulators have previously required extensive testing of glyphosate in isolation, government scientists have not fully examined the toxicity of the more complex products sold to consumers, farmers and others.

Monsanto introduced its glyphosate-based Roundup brand in 1974. But it is only now, after more than 40 years of widespread use, that the government is investigating the toxicity of “glyphosate-based herbicides” on human cells.

The NTP tests were requested by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in 2015 classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. The IARC also highlighted concerns about formulations which combine glyphosate with other ingredients to enhance weed killing effectiveness. Monsanto and rivals sell hundreds of these products around the world in a market valued at roughly $ 9bn.

Mike DeVito, acting chief of the National Toxicology Program Laboratory, told the Guardian the agency’s work is ongoing but its early findings are clear on one key point. “We see the formulations are much more toxic. The formulations were killing the cells. The glyphosate really didn’t do it,” DeVito said.

A summary of the NTP work stated that glyphosate formulations decreased human cell “viability”, disrupting cell membranes. Cell viability was “significantly altered” by the formulations, it stated.

DeVito said the NTP first-phase results do not mean the formulations are causing cancer or any other disease. While the work does show enhanced toxicity from the formulations, and show they kill human cells, the NTP appears to contradict an IARC finding that glyphosate and/or its formulations induce oxidative stress, one potential pathway toward cancer. The government still must do other testing, including examining any toxic impact on a cell’s genetic material, to help add to the understanding of risks, according to DeVito.

The NTP work informs a global debate over whether or not these glyphosate-based weedkilling chemical combinations are endangering people who are exposed. More than 4,000 people are currently suing Monsanto alleging they developed cancer from using Roundup, and several European countries are moving to limit the use of these herbicides.

“This testing is important, because the EPA has only been looking at the active ingredient. But it’s the formulations that people are exposed to on their lawns and gardens, where they play and in their food,” said Jennifer Sass, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

One problem government scientists have run into is corporate secrecy about the ingredients mixed with glyphosate in their products. Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests show uncertainty within the EPA over Roundup formulations and how those formulations have changed over the last three decades.

That confusion has continued with the NTP testing.

“We don’t know what the formulation is. That is confidential business information,” DeVito said. NTP scientists sourced some samples from store shelves, picking up products the EPA told them were the top sellers, he said.

It is not clear how much Monsanto itself knows about the toxicity of the full formulations it sells. But internal company emails dating back 16 years, which emerged in a court case last year, offer a glimpse into the company’s view. In one 2003 internal company email, a Monsanto scientist stated: “You cannot say that Roundup is not a carcinogen … we have not done the necessary testing on the formulation to make that statement. The testing on the formulations are not anywhere near the level of the active ingredient.” Another internal email, written in 2010, said: “With regards to the carcinogenicity of our formulations we don’t have such testing on them directly.” And an internal Monsanto email from 2002 stated: “Glyphosate is OK but the formulated product … does the damage.”

Monsanto did not respond to a request for comment. But in a 43-page report, the company says the safety of its herbicides is supported by “one of the most extensive worldwide human health and environmental databases ever compiled for a pesticide product”.