Glyphosate – Need for a robust and credible scientific assessment of carcinogenicity

A letter signed by the Alliance and 46 environmental, health and cancer orgs as well as unions, scientists and doctors has been sent to the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Mr. Vytenis Andriukaitis. It calls on the Commission to ban glyphosate where the public and workes are most exposed, until a full scientific assessment has been completed.

The letter comes before the EU’s food safety authority (EFSA) publishes a key report on the health and environmental risks associated with the world’s most used herbicide glyphosate on the 12th of November. Based on the report, the European Commission will conclude whether glyphosate which the WHO recently classified as a probable cause of cancer  should still be used in the EU.

In addition to EFSA, the EU’s chemicals’ agency (ECHA) has also been tasked to review the health risks of glyphosate. But its report is unlikely to be released before 2017, by which time the EU will have already ruled on the use of the herbicide.

Following an earlier extension for its legal use by three and a half years, the EU’s approval of glyphosate runs out at the end of 2015. The Commission has proposed a further six-month extension to grant EFSA more time for its assessment.

In March 2015, the WHO’s Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogen”. A similar classification by the EU would mean it could no longer be used.

EFSA’s assessment and its recommendation to the Commission (to re-authorise or to ban) will be heavily influenced by a draft risk assessment report carried out by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). You can find a leak of the report on cancer risks here. This draft report admits there is evidence of harm, but nonetheless concludes that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. We dispute this conclusion, which puts BfR at odds with IARC, and criticise BfR’s reliance on unpublished studies submitted by glyphosate producers.

In the absence of scientific consensus that glyphosate is not harmful, the Commission has a responsibility to protect the public and workers from exposure to harm. As long as different scientific bodies come to different conclusions about the carcinogenic nature of glyphosate it is the obligation of the European Commission to invoke the precautionary principle. Almost 1.5 million citizens are calling on the EU’s decision makers to apply that principle to glyphosate use.

Monsanto’s Roundup is one of the most commonly known brands that contain glyphosate. You can find glyphosate products in any garden centre in Europe sold top an unsuspecting public.  They are widely used in farming, forestry, parks, public spaces and private gardens.

In the UK the TUC called for urgent action to prevent any workers coming into contact with glyphosate adding that it can also cause irritation and dermatitis and if swallowed may cause corrosion of the throat and can lead to kidney or liver failure. In May this year the GMB Union issued a Safety Matters briefing for workers on glyphosate urging employers to adapt the precautionary principle and substitute the herbicide  immediately while completing a COSHH assessment. The GMB stress this is a severe health risk for workers.

Glyphosate also ends up in our food, in 2014 PAN UK found that 60% of bread tested in the UK contained the most frequently used weedkiller, glyphosate. Worringly it can find its way into our bodies through menstrual and medical products. A recent Argentinian study shockingly discovered 85% of tampons and medical cotton gauze tested contained glyphosate residues.

The Alliance for Cancer Prevention supports all action to get rid of this toxic herbicide, bad for workers, bad for consumers and bad for our environment, why the delay?

Link to Greenpeace website.

To help our towns and cities become pesticide free please sign the petition from Pesticide Action Network UK.