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15 June 2021, Brussels

Today four EU member states (France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden) released a statement which concluded that glyphosate does not pose risks for human health. HEAL is concerned at such a conclusion, which contradicts scientific evidence of the association between exposure to the popular pesticide and the development of cancer. Today’s announcement represents the first step in the new safety assessment of glyphosate, the current market approval of which will expire in December 2022 [1].

“The International Agency for Research on Cancer already concluded that exposure to glyphosate is linked to cancer in 2015. Today’s announcement on the safety of glyphosate is a major step backwards and it highlights remaining questions about the objectivity and independence of Europe’s safety assessment of pesticides,” says Dr Angeliki Lyssimachou, Senior Science Policy Officer at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

Glyphosate is the most widely-used pesticide in the world, in spite of its well-documented negative health impacts. Exposure to glyphosate-based herbicides has been linked to certain types of cancer as well as to adverse effects on the development and hormonal system, among others [2].

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate “probably causes cancer” [3]. Yet in 2017, representatives of European governments reauthorised the substance on the European market until December 2022. Scientists and civil society groups alike criticised this decision for lacking transparency, scientific objectivity, and for being predominantly based on industry-sponsored studies at the expense of findings from academic independent literature [4].

These concerns were reinforced after internal documents and emails known as “the Monsanto papers ”, obtained during US litigation cases against agri giant Monsanto, came to light. These documents revealed that the company was ghostwriting scientific literature to assert glyphosate’s safety, run campaigns to discredit academic scientists and hide concerns connecting glyphosate to cancer [5].  

As the EU assessment of glyphosate is now passing to the next stage in the process, independent scientists from the Ramazzini Institute are bringing together the largest and most comprehensive toxicological study ever undertaken on a pesticide. The first results of the “Global Glyphosate Study” will be presented during a special webinar organised by HEAL in collaboration with the Ramazzini Institute on Monday 28th June [6].

HEAL emphasises the crucial importance of independent studies in the safety assessment procedure. “We call on European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) to incorporate all data from independent studies into their assessments and scrutinise all industry studies for potential scientific misconducts,” concludes Dr Lyssimachou.

Contact:

Dr Angeliki Lyssimachou, Senior Science Policy Officer at HEAL, angeliki@env-health.org

Notes to editor:

  1. https://ec.europa.eu/food/system/files/2021-06/pesticides_aas_agg_report_202106.pdf

https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/news/glyphosate-eu-regulators-begin-review-renewal-assessments 

Four EU Member States – France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden – are acting jointly as “rapporteurs”. This group is known as the Assessment Group of Glyphosate (AGG). AGG submits today a draft renewal assessment report (DRAR) to EFSA and a Harmonised classification and labelling report to EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) with proposed assessment conclusions on the health and environmental risks of glyphosate. https://ec.europa.eu/food/plants/pesticides/approval-active-substances/renewal-approval/glyphosate/assessment-group_en

Overall, the AGG concludes that glyphosate meets the approval criteria for human health as laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 and its amendments for the approval as an active substance to be used in plant protection products. More specifically, AGG proposes that classification of glyphosate is not justified for the following human health hazards:

    • germ cell mutagenicity, genotoxic or mutagenic
    • with regard to carcinogenicity 
    • as toxic for reproduction
    • for ‘specific target organ’ toxicity 
    • as endocrine disruptor
  1.  See for example: 
  1.  In March 2015, IARC classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” https://www.iarc.who.int/featured-news/media-centre-iarc-news-glyphosate/
  2.  Ahead of the 2017 EU renewal of glyphosate, a European Citizens Initiative co-initiated by HEAL was signed by over 1 million people calling to ban the pesticide as it is linked to human cancer. It also called to improve the independence of pesticide authorization procedure and set pesticide reduction targets to move towards a pesticide-free agriculture. https://stopglyphosate.org/en/

Portier CJ, Armstrong BK, et al. 2016. Differences in the carcinogenic evaluation of glyphosate between the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). J Epidemiol Community Health. 70(8):741-5. doi: 10.1136/jech-2015-207005. 

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

  1.  US Right to Know: https://usrtk.org/monsanto-papers/

Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman (law firms representing US citizens in lawsuits against Monsanto): https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/toxic-tort-law/monsanto-roundup-lawsuit/monsanto-secret-documents/ 

  1.  Join us Monday 28th June for a special webinar organised by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) in collaboration with the Ramazzini Institute, where lead scientists will present the ongoing Global Glyphosate Study, the largest and most comprehensive toxicological study ever undertaken on a pesticide. https://www.env-health.org/webinar-the-global-glyphosate-study-the-most-comprehensive-study-on-worlds-most-used-pesticide-ever/