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EU whitewash on cancer risk from world's most used weedkiller

12 November 2015
by greenpeace -- last modified 12 November 2015

Overreliance on unpublished industry studies leads EU food agency to recommend glyphosate approval


A report released on 12 November by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) could pave the way for EU re-approval of the world's most used weedkiller – glyphosate – which has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The report heavily relies on unpublished studies commissioned by glyphosate producers and dismisses published peer-reviewed evidence that glyphosate causes cancer, said Greenpeace.

Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: "EFSA's safety assurances on glyphosate raise serious questions about its scientific independence. Much of its report is taken directly from unpublished studies commissioned by glyphosate producers. The evidence of harm is irrefutable but EFSA has defied the world's most authoritative cancer agency in order to please corporations like Monsanto."

In the coming months, the European Commission will recommend whether glyphosate should still be used in the EU after its current approval runs out on 30 June 2016. An EU technical committee is expected to examine the Commission's recommendation in early 2016.

In March, the WHO's agency for research on cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

Under EU law, a "presumed" link to cancer means a pesticide cannot be used, unless human exposure can be shown to be "negligible". Glyphosate is so widely used that human exposure is unavoidable. It is commonly found in the air, in water, in city parks, on farmland and in food, such as bread.

Health risks associated with the use of glyphosate, including the link to cancer, will also be investigated by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). However, ECHA is not expected to release its report until 2017.

Achterberg added: "The dispute between scientists is not over, and what's more, the EU's chemicals agency could take a different view from EFSA. It makes no sense to give glyphosate another ten-year licence until that process is over. After its failure to protect the health of Europeans from car emissions, the Commission should not repeat the same mistake on pesticides."

Environmental and health organisations have called for a ban of all uses of glyphosate where people and workers are most exposed. They have urged the Commission to take full account of the WHO's warning, and to base its decision on the advice of both EU agencies.

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.

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