Conflict in the EU over the Safety of Glyphosate


Dear Friends and Colleagues 

Conflict in the EU over the Safety of Glyphosate 

Glyphosate is a highly popular herbicide manufactured by Monsanto. It is applied to more than 150 food and non-food crops and is used in the extensive cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops made resistant to it (called Roundup Ready crops).  

In March 2015, the International Agency for Research against Cancer (IARC), under the World Health Organization (WHO), had declared that glyphosate was a ‘probable human carcinogen’. This classification was based on an assessment of peer-reviewed toxicologic and epidemiologic literature undertaken over a year by a working group of 17 independent expert scientists. The IARC review linked glyphosate to dose-related increases in malignant tumors in experimental animals and to an increased incidence of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in exposed humans. 

In November 2015, however, the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) declared that glyphosate “is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans”. This conclusion was based on a report by Germany’s national risk assessment agency (BfR), which also suggested that the legally permissible exposure levels of European consumers to glyphosate be increased by 66 percent.  

An article by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) compares both studies and finds that the IARC process was transparent, stuck to conventional scientific methodology and looked at glyphosate-containing herbicides (as glyphosate is never used alone in the real world), whereas the EFSA route was based on a ‘peer review’ by anonymous EFSA and national public officials relying on undisclosed industry-sponsored studies that looked at glyphosate alone. The article concludes that the EU’s pesticides risk assessment system badly needs reform.  

An open letter signed by 96 scientists including scientists specializing in cancer, epidemiology and public health at major universities and cancer research institutes around the world, was sent to the European Commission and EFSA on 30 November 2015 urging them to “disregard the flawed EFSA finding on glyphosate… and to call for a transparent, open and credible review of the scientific literature”. The scientists reasoned that “the arguments promoted by the BfR to negate the human, animal and mechanistic evidence are fundamentally and scientifically flawed and should be rejected” and objected to “the almost non-existent weight given to studies from the literature by the BfR and the strong reliance on non-publicly available data in a limited set of assays that define the minimum data necessary for the approval of a pesticide”.  

The European Commission will now have to decide on whether or not glyphosate will be re-authorized in the EU and under what conditions.  

The CEO article can be found at and the scientists’ letter at   

With best wishes, 

Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
10400 Penang

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