The EU Is on Course to Reauthorize Use of Glyphosate

The European Union appears to be on its way to reauthorizing the use of glyphosate. The controversial herbicide, while used on farms around the world, has been linked to certain cancers.

Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Round Up. United States and European regulatory guidelines deem the chemical safe, and it has become a staple for many farmers globally. Glyphosate remains controversial because of a significant body research suggesting that, under some conditions, exposure to the herbicide can raise the risk of cancer. Glysophate has also been linked to insect die-offs.

For these reasons, activists have urged the European Union to hold off on extending glyphosate authorization. But now press reports say that the EU is poised to do just that–for another 15 years.

The Guardian reports:

A draft implementing law seen by the Guardian says the commission has decided it is appropriate to renew the licence for glyphosate after a lengthy review, which sparked a scientific storm.

[...]

The paper does propose some restrictions on the use of glyphosate. National authorities should enforce risk-mitigation measures such as protective clothing for crop sprayers, and ensure the glyphosate used in herbicides they may authorise is the same variety as was tested by Efsa.

The Reuters news agency also corroborates that closed door meetings on Monday and Tuesday of next week will likely see approval of the European Commission’s proposal to keep glyphosate in use across the EU.

Is Glyphosate Harmful? The Debate Rages

In November of 2015, the EU’s European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released a determination that glyphosate “is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential.”

While the farming industry welcomed this statement, it put the European Food Safety Authority in direct conflict with the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The IARC evaluated research from the United States, Canada and Sweden and decided to list glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” in March of 2015. This means that there is some limited evidence in human studies that glyphosate exposure raises the risk of cancer–specifically, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Animal studies have also showed higher rates of cancerous growths in animals exposed to the active ingredient. Most research appears to focus on glyphosate’s interaction with our endocrine system.

However, the EFSA seemed to ignore those concerns in its determination, citing other research that there was no statistically significant rise in cancer risk. Scientists, including several members of the IARC panel, raised their doubts and wrote an open letter to the EFSA following its determination. They argued that the evidence the group had used, including six industry-funded and partially unpublished studies, was not credible or as thorough as the IARC’s investigation. You can read the full letter here.

How Likely is the Public to Come in Contact with Glyphosate?

It’s important to try to find some context for these concerns.

Direct and consistent exposure is likely to be where the potential cancer danger lies. The good news is that unless a person works directly in a farming environment where they are coming into close contact with sprayed crops, the likelihood of high exposure is very low.

That being said, glyphosate is widely used and traces of the chemical persist in many of our foods–and even possibly in some beers. As the Guardian notes in a separate piece, urine samples from people across 18 EU countries show traces of the weedkiller. If there is any wider cancer risk, it is likely to come from cumulative exposure. But with limited evidence, it would be irresponsible at this time to state that these trace amounts are upping the general public’s cancer risk.

What Happens Next?

If the EU does extend glyphosate authorization, the discussion doesn’t end. Any action to renew glyphosate does not automatically mean that every EU nation must use the herbicide. Individual nations retain the authority to grant licenses or refuse them based on the individual products. And there is cause to think at least some EU countries will decline.

In addition, the EFSA studied glyphosate when it was the only active ingredient in a product. It did not take into consideration whether glyphosate is harmful when combined with other active ingredients. European regulators are said to be evaluating that issue now. When their findings are published later this year, further reviews could take place.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

67 comments

william M
william Miller10 months ago

thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Fran site probs F.

Disgusting and reprehensible!

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Marie W.
Marie W1 years ago

People are wising up to Monsatan- but it's money still whispers in many ears.

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Rebecca T.
Rebecca T1 years ago

I spit on any company that sells this shit!!!!

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Neville B.
Neville B1 years ago

But see this:

http://www.care2.com/causes/france-sweden-italy-and-the-netherlands-rebel-against-relicensing-of-monsantos-glyphosate.html

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Diane M.
Diane M1 years ago

Another case of money talks, health takes a back seat.

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Linda C.
Linda C1 years ago

For shame!! Europe used to lead the way in banning harmful compounds. Please return to your vigilance in protecting human health and the environment.

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Andrea Kenyon
Andrea Kenyon1 years ago

Say it isn't so .....

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Sharon S.
Sharon S1 years ago

what a bunch of MORONS

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