Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's best-selling Roundup weed killer, is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, according to a controversial new report. The report’s contents have been heavily questioned by major NGOs, including Greenpeace, who say that the links between experts involved in the report and certain privately funded companies, including Monsanto, taint the evidence presented.
The report, released by the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues, an expert ad hoc body administered jointly by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), contrasts an earlier report released by WHO, which highlighted the "probable" carcinogenic nature of glyphosate. WHO rejects the suggestion of a contradiction, claiming that the new evidence is “different, yet complementary” to this earlier report.
“(The) respective functions (of the different reports) can be seen as part of a continuum where potential hazards to public health are identified, and the level of risk associated with any such hazards is subsequently assessed,” said a statement issued by WHO. The statement went on to claim that the potential cancer hazards highlighted by WHO’s International Agency for Research and Cancer report did not include an estimate of the level of carcinogenic risk to the exposed population, which this new report does.
The new report says that there is “some evidence of a positive association” between glyphosate and the risk of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, but that the amount of glyphosate normally ingested by humans was not enough to cause these effects.
Two key experts in the report, Alan Boobis and Angelo Moretto, have ties to the International Life Sciences Institute, which is principally funded by private companies including three manufacturers of glyphosate-based products: Monsanto, Dow, which produces Enlist Duo, amongst others, and Syngenta, the producer of Touchdown.
Many other experts involved in the report preferred to remain anonymous, adding to Greenpeace’s skepticism of its impartiality.
“The agencies contradicting the WHO cancer warning seem to either rely on officials who prefer not to be named, or lack a watertight policy to protect their impartiality,” said Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg. “Any decision affecting millions of people should be based on fully transparent and independent science that isn’t tied to corporate interests.”
The European Parliament made the highly contested decision to reapprove glyphosate for another seven years in April, a decision that will be readdressed at the EU Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food, and Feed on May 18, two days after the release of this new report. One leaked proposal showed that the European Commission plans to propose a 10-year renewal of glyphosate in place of the seven-year renewal proposed by Parliament.
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