Regulators in the the US and Europe have been accused in turn of colluding with or capitulating to the global agrochemical lobby as it seeks to keep a cancer-linked herbicide on the market.
Global food and farming union IUF slammed a 15 March 2017 ruling by the European Chemicals Safety Agency (ECHA) that the toxic herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is not carcinogenic.
The conclusion of ECHA’s risk assessment committee – which goes against the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) March 2015 expert assessment that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans” – is based largely on unpublished industry reports.
But IUF says ‘substantial evidence’ from independent researchers was disregarded by ECHA in a ‘weight of evidence’ approach which prioritises ‘risk’ over hazard elimination.
The ECHA report was issued two days after internal Monsanto documents released by a United States court documented the company’s consistent efforts to produce glyphosate-friendly studies and squash independent reviews by government regulatory bodies.
The court released the documents, which reveal the extent of collusion between Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency, in response to a lawsuit brought by agricultural workers linking glyphosate exposure to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer.
The European Commission must issue a final decision on glyphosate reauthorisation by the end of 2017.
According to IUF: “In Europe, the fight over glyphosate, and the wider struggle to rescue the food system from its addiction to toxic pesticides and destructive production methods, has come full circle to where it was one year ago.”
The global union added: “Public authorities have once more demonstrated the extent of their capture by the industry they are charged with regulating, while new evidence for banning glyphosate continues to accumulate. Sustained public pressure is needed now more than ever to take our food system off the pesticide treadmill.”
IARC said its evaluation of glyphosate is not affected by the ECHA review, and the ‘probable human carcinogen’ designation will remain.
A 23 March 2017 paper in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health is highly critical of the science used to justify glyphosate’s approval and called for a ‘urgent’ review. “It is incongruous that safety assessments of the most widely used herbicide on the planet rely largely on fewer than 300 unpublished, non-peer reviewed studies while excluding the vast modern literature on glyphosate effects,” it noted.
“After a review of all evaluations, we conclude that the current safety standards are outdated and may fail to protect public health and the environment.”
- Laura N Vandenberg and others. Is it time to reassess current safety standards for glyphosate-based herbicides?, Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, published Online First: 20 March 2017. JECH news release.
- European Citizens’ Initiative petition seeking a ban on glyphosate.