EPA: Glyphosate Unlikely A Carcinogen

The herbicide glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. That is the conclusion reached by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its draft risk assessment released this week. The assessment is set for a 60-day public comment period early in 2018. 

The EPA said in a news release in early January that a proposed interim registration review decision for glyphosate is set for publication in 2019. That decision would propose a variety of mitigation steps to reduce glyphosate risks, if measures are needed.

“The draft human health risk assessment concludes that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” EPA said in a news release. “The agency’s assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label. The agency’s scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by a number of other countries as well as the 2017 National Institute of Health Agricultural Health Survey.”

EPA said it also conducted an “in-depth review” of the glyphosate cancer database.

The agency’s announcement comes one year after a scientific advisory panel meeting in Arlington, Virginia, considered the existing body of science on the herbicide.

Though glyphosate was developed by Monsanto, it is off-patent and sold by many agriculture companies as one of the most widely used herbicides in the world. It came to market in 1974 under Monsanto’s Roundup label for control of perennial and annual weeds in non-crop and industrial areas. Agricultural crops genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate have greatly expanded the use of the chemistry since 1996. Glyphosate is also used in forestry, urban and lawn and garden applications.

That broad use has drawn world-wide attention to the herbicide and to its safety.

At the end of November, the European Union approved a five-year extension of glyphosate’s use. Agriculture interests had wanted a 15-year extension.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a World Health Organization agency, concluded glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic.”

IARC came under fire as a result of its broad declarations about what is carcinogenic in summary reports the IARC calls “monographs.” The agency, for instance, drew scorn in 2015 for a monograph classifying processed red meats such as bacon as carcinogenic.

The IARC’s glyphosate finding set off a series of reactions. The EPA released and retracted a report refuting the IARC’s conclusion in 2015.

Monsanto has been sued dozens of times by people claiming various cancers linked to glyphosate exposure. Nearly every one of those cases filed cite the IARC findings. 

Congress opened an investigation into why a scientist at the National Cancer Institute allegedly withheld information from an international cancer research body that showed the widely used herbicide glyphosate did not cause cancer.

In August 2017, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., began pressing the NIH for information as to why Dr. Aaron Blair of the National Cancer Institute and a senior researcher on the Agricultural Health Study — who also led the IARC’s review of glyphosate — did not share unpublished data with the IARC that showed no cancer connection with glyphosate.

Blair told DTN he did not hold back his findings from the Agriculture Health Study.

Todd Neeley can be reached at todd.neeley@dtn.com

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