WASHINGTON, DC (November 12, 2015)—Center for Food Safety is very disappointed by the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) assessment of the weed-killer glyphosate, released today. Glyphosate is the active ingredient of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, and is the most heavily used pesticide in the U.S. and the world. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to release its assessment of the controversial herbicide soon.
EFSA’s conclusion that glyphosate is unlikely to be a carcinogen is sharply at odds with a more rigorous evaluation carried out earlier this year by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” In addition, EFSA raised by 67% (from 0.3 to 0.5 mg/kg body weight) the level of long-term glyphosate exposure that it regards as “safe” for consumers in Europe.
“The cancer experts at the World Health Organization got it right, glyphosate is probably carcinogenic, because they took an unbiased look at the science. EFSA got it wrong because they bent the rules for assessing studies and rejected valid studies from consideration,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety.
In arriving at its conclusion, EFSA relied heavily on the glyphosate assessment conducted by German pesticide regulators, which was based on egregious violations of accepted standards for interpreting studies. For instance, faulty statistical methods were used to reject clear evidence that glyphosate causes cancer in experimental animals.
Second, EFSA only considered studies on the active ingredient, glyphosate, whereas IARC also considered studies that were done with various formulations of the herbicide, in which glyphosate is mixed with other substances that can be toxic in their own right, or make glyphosate more toxic. Such formulations are what farmers and consumers actually use.
Third, EFSA assessed some studies provided by the pesticide industry that IARC rejected because they lacked critical information required for proper interpretation, and/or were not publically available.
“EFSA’s decision to allow consumers to be exposed to 67% more glyphosate is also disappointing and unjustified,” added Freese. “As the scientific case on glyphosate’s toxicity grows stronger, exposure should be reduced rather than increased.”
EFSA has rarely if ever rejected an application to approve a Monsanto genetically engineered (GE) crop for import or cultivation in the European Union. Nineteen countries in Europe have chosen to opt out of the EU system of GE crop approval.
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