European Food Authority Claims that Glyphosate is ‘Safe’ – But How?

European Food Authority Claims that Glyphosate is ‘Safe’ – But How?
Toxins and Chemicals

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said on Thursday that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, despite the World Health Organization’s declaration in March that the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Adding insult to injury, the agency proposed a higher exposure limit on the daily amount of glyphosate residue.

EFSA said that glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans” and requested that the level of consumption considered safe for humans be raised from .3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight to .5 milligrams. [1]

The agency says the difference between its findings and the WHO’s findings come down to the way the studies were conducted. EFSA’s research focused specifically on glyphosate’s risk to humans, whereas the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) study also reviewed glyphosate-based formulas, which may be carcinogenic because they require the interaction of various chemicals. EFSA said it was “focused on the pure active substance.”

“This has been an exhaustive process – a full assessment that has taken into account a wealth of new studies and data,” said Jose Tarazona, head of the pesticides unit at the EFSA, based in Parma, Italy.

“Regarding carcinogenicity, it is unlikely that this substance is carcinogenic,” Tarazona says. [2]

Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist Jennifer Sass says both groups simply interpreted the same research differently. Previous studies have linked glyphosate and cancer in animals. Research has also suggested that glyphosate may cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma in farm workers who are exposed to the chemical at high levels. EFSA individually evaluated each study looking for holes to discredit the bigger picture, but the IARC took a broader approach. Sass and her organization believe the IARC should be the authority on assessing carcinogenicity.

Are we merely looking at an example of Monsanto using money and friends in high places to boost its own business?

Peter Melchett, policy director of the U.K.-based Soil Association, cautioned that the agency’s announcement shouldn’t spell relief for people who are concerned about GMOs, as glyphosate “is always used in combination with a range of other toxic chemicals,” the findings did nothing but to “make it blindingly obvious that the WHO approach is right from the perspective of public safety, and that the EFSA approach simply serves the interests of the pesticide companies.” [3]

Greenpeace went so far as to call the announcement “a whitewash.”

“EFSA has defied the world’s most authoritative cancer agency,” Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said in a statement.

If you think EFSA’s conclusion gets Monsanto off the hook, think again. The agribusiness has been caught in lies in the past, has been accused of concealing data that shows glyphosate causes cancer and notoriously uses Monsanto- and industry-funded researchers to conduct glyphosate studies.


[1] Time

[2] Reuters

[3] The Daily Meal

Featured article image credit: Philippe Huguen—AFP/Getty Images