You may have read that glyphosate was recently classed as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ by a committee of the World Health Organisation (WHO) called the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). This, and the many responses to the report, have been sporadically appearing in the media since the original article was published in March.
A key comment on the IARC conclusion is that
- Members of both the EU and US glyphosate taskforces and many independent experts disagree with this classification for several reasons: there is no new research or data that was used; the most relevant, scientific data was excluded from review; the conclusion is not supported by scientific data; and there is no link between glyphosate and an increase in cancer when the full data set is included in a rigorous review.
- Additionally it should be noted that IARC’s classification does not establish a link between glyphosate and an increase in cancer. IARC’s review is limited and the process is designed to result in ‘Possible’ and ‘Probable’ classifications. IARC’s assessment of glyphosate is similar to their contested assessment of other everyday items such as coffee, mobile phones, pickled vegetables and occupations including hairdresser and chip shop worker.
It is important to note that glyphosate-based herbicides are among the most thoroughly tested and evaluated herbicide products on the market. Numerous health assessments conducted by public authorities over the past 40 years have consistently concluded that glyphosate does not pose an unacceptable risk to human health.
As recently as last year, the German government, acting as Rapporteur Member State for the EU’s renewal of approval for glyphosate, found that in epidemiological studies in humans there was no evidence of carcinogenicity and there were no effects on fertility , reproduction and development of neurotoxicity that might be attributed to glyphosate.
Claims that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic also contradict conclusions reached by the IARC’s own parent body the WHO, which found that ‘glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans’.
Pesticides are amongst the most heavily regulated products in Europe, it currently takes around ten years, costing over £150m, to bring an active ingredient to market. This regulatory process, involving rigorous scrutiny by independent scientific experts, ensures pesticides are safe for consumer health, the people who use them and for the environment.