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A review of the EU assessment report from the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) on the toxicity of the popular pesticide glyphosate confirms that the evaluation is still mostly based on studies and arguments provided by the chemical industry and does not take into consideration all available scientific evidence [1]. 

The assessment report, which details how EU institutions and member states plan to evaluate the toxicity of glyphosate, was published in the framework of the two public consultations launched by the EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) and the EU Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that closed last Monday. The market license of glyphosate expires on 15 December 2022.

Following the submission of no less than 53 comments, HEAL expresses its disappointment with the assessment as it does not reflect the evidence from independent scientific studies. For example, the document does not report how glyphosate can cause DNA damage, nor does it account for the evidence exposing scientific misconduct committed by companies in the interpretation of the results of cancer and epidemiology studies [2]. HEAL also provided comments in relation to the reported impacts of glyphosate on female and male reproduction and endocrine disruption.

In fact, HEAL’s analysis identifies exactly the same systematic errors as those made in the previous renewal process of the pesticide: health impacts reported in public scientific literature were discredited or underrated, and those detected in industry studies were repeatedly considered to be irrelevant, without scientific justification [3].

In an open letter sent to EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides last month, 41 health and environment groups from across Europe already expressed their concerns about the use of unreliable industry studies in the current renewal assessment of glyphosate [4]. In her response, the EU Commissioner maintains that the ongoing assessment of glyphosate takes into consideration all available scientific evidence from peer-reviewed independent literature [5]. However, HEAL’s analysis of the current assessment report puts question marks next to this statement. 

Angeliki Lyssimachou, HEAL’s Senior Science Policy Officer, explains: “The EU Health Commissioner insists that the assessment is not solely based on industry sponsored studies and includes all relevant available peer-reviewed open literature. However, this is not the case. Scientific evidence from independent literature reporting adverse effects caused by glyphosate, or errors in the assessment procedure, are too often considered irrelevant or unreliable for the assessment.”   

HEAL calls on the institutions and member states in charge of the EU assessment of the toxicity of glyphosate to scrutinize objectively all the available scientific evidence and endorse the independent literature findings in the assessment, which clearly show the potential of glyphosate to cause cancer and that it is dangerous for human health.

Contact: 

Angeliki Lyssimachou, Senior Science Policy Officer at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), angeliki@env-health.org 

Notes to editor: 

[1] HEAL has reviewed the current assessment report and provided its analysis to the ECHA and EFSA consultations that ended at midnight on Monday 22nd November, and has raised concerns that the assessment is driven by the studies and arguments provided solely by the industry. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/glyphosate-efsa-and-echa-launch-consultations.

Submissions to the consultations are expected to be made public on the ECHA and EFSA portals within the next few days. For a copy of HEAL’s submission, please contact Angeliki Lyssimachou at angeliki@env-health.org

[2] See for example:

  • Portier, C.J. A comprehensive analysis of the animal carcinogenicity data for glyphosate from chronic exposure rodent carcinogenicity studies. Environ Health 19, 18 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-020-00574-1
  • Clausing P, Robinson C, Burtscher-Schaden H. Pesticides and public health: an analysis of the regulatory approach to assessing the carcinogenicity of glyphosate in the European Union. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2018;72(8):668-672. doi:10.1136/jech-2017-209776
  • Weisenburger DD. A Review and Update with Perspective of Evidence that the Herbicide Glyphosate (Roundup) is a Cause of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Clin Lymphoma Myeloma Leuk. 2021 Sep;21(9):621-630. doi:10.1016/j.clml.2021.04.009.

[3] Robinson C, Portier C… Lyssimachou A., 2020. Achieving a High Level of Protection from Pesticides in Europe: Problems with the Current Risk Assessment Procedure and Solutions. European Journal of Risk Regulation. 11(3), 450-480. doi:10.1017/err.2020.18

[4] In an open letter from 13 October 2021, 41 civil society organisations urge EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides to guarantee that the ongoing assessment of glyphosate is based on updated independent scientific evidence and remains free from vested interests. https://www.env-health.org/glyphosate-41-health-and-environment-groups-urge-eu-commission-to-put-an-end-to-use-of-unreliable-industry-studies/

[5] EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides’ reply to a letter sent by HEAL on behalf of 40 health and environment groups, dated 15 November 2021: https://www.env-health.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Registered-letter_reply-to-13Oct-letter.pdf