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article imageEuropean study: Glyphosate 'unlikely to cause cancer in humans'

By Karen Graham     Nov 13, 2015 in Health
The European Food and Safety Authority (EFSA) has determined the herbicide known as glyphosate, found in Monsanto's Roundup and other similar products, is "unlikely to cause cancer in humans."
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced on Thursday that "glyphosate is unlikely to pose a cancer hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential."
The ruling removes barriers to the re-licensing of glyphosate, despite the conclusion published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) on March 20 this year that found glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic to humans."
“Glyphosate is not proposed to be classified as carcinogenic under the EU regulation for classification, labeling and packaging of chemical substances,” EFSA says. “In particular, all the Member State experts but one agreed that neither the epidemiological data (i.e., on humans) nor the evidence from animal studies demonstrated causality between exposure to glyphosate and the development of cancer in humans.”
The EFSA's assessment will be used when the European Commission decides whether to keep glyphosate on the EU's list of approved active substances, although the EFSA has set an glyphosate exposure threshold limit for humans of 0.5mg per kg of body weight for the first time, reports the Guardian.
The big difference in the studies challenged
The EFSA pointed out in its announcement that the IARC based its studies on both glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations, whereas the EU assessment only looked at glyphosate in its studies. The EFSA says it will be up to member states to evaluate "each plant protection product that is marketed in their territories."
However, the Guardian is reporting that a "row broke out" over the assessment's scientific basis because it relied on six "industry-funded studies" that have not been published in their entirety. Richard Garnett, the task force’s chair, has also worked as Monsanto’s lead officer for crop protection regulatory affairs since 2003. Coincidence?
David Carpintero, a Monsanto spokesman, said the company had a “special role” in the group as the "first point of contact" with regulatory authorities. “We have a strong interest,” he told the Guardian. “We are a leading company in this product.” Carpintero volunteered that funding was equally shared with other alliance members, including Syngenta, Dow and Barclays Chemicals.
Addressing the difference in the studies, EFSA says the WHO studies were based on “glyphosate-based” compounds, rather than the actual ingredient, glyphosate. But many scientists point out that the consumer is unlikely to come into contact with the pure form of glyphosate.
Environmentalists cite the IARC studies that focused on glyphosate alone, and its cancer-causing effects on mice. Franziska Achterberg, Greenpeace EU’s food and policy director said: “As far as cancer associations are concerned, EFSA just dismissed seven positive animal studies showing an increase in cancerous tumors. EFSA's safety assurances on glyphosate raise serious questions about its scientific independence.”
Even though the EFSA assessment is being welcomed by farmer's groups, the industry-funded studies raise some serious questions over the veracity of the research. Monsanto has been plagued with glyphosate lawsuits too numerous to count this past year, forcing the agro-giant to layoff 2,600 workers.
More about Glyphosate, Efsa, unlikely to cause cancer, relicensing of glyphosate, iarc
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