EU regulators ‘dismissed evidence’ linking glyphosate to rodent tumors | Environment
EU regulators dismissed the main scientific evidence linking glyphosate to rodent tumors in a positive assessment they gave for continued sales of the substance last week, according to a new report from environmental campaigners.
Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weedkiller and its re-licensing by the EU has become the cornerstone of a wider battle between environmentalists and agribusiness over the future of farming.
A separate study last week found that glyphosate severely damaged the ability of wild bumblebees to regulate colony temperatures.
Meanwhile, the NGO report says the assessment by the European Chemicals Agency (Echa) contains “serious scientific shortcomings which call into question its scientific objectivity”, due to an alleged rejection of the results of 10 11 studies that link the herbicidal ingredient to the tumor. trainings.
Dr Peter Clausing, co-author of the report, said: “Animals exposed to glyphosate developed tumors with significantly higher incidences compared to their unexposed control group – an effect considered evidence of carcinogenicity by the guidelines. international and European.
“Yet EU risk assessors rejected all of the tumor findings from their analysis, concluding that they all occurred by chance and none of them were actually related to exposure. to glyphosate.”
Seven of the animal studies are supported by historical control data, and five of them show that mice and rats developed more than one type of tumor, the report said. In four of the rodent studies, the number of tumors increased as the dose of glyphosate increased, he adds.
Malignant lymphomas, kidney and liver tumors and cutaneous keratoacanthomas were all found in the studies, said Professor Christopher Portier, an expert whose analysis informed the new Health and Environment Alliance report.
“Glyphosate fuels cancer,” said Portier, who was a visiting expert on the World Health Organization (WHO) expert panel that found glyphosate to be “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015. .
“No matter how you look at it, there is more than enough evidence of carcinogenicity, and that evidence meets the criteria to classify glyphosate as a substance suspected of having carcinogenic potential for humans,” he said. .
Echa’s decision not to apply even a secondary carcinogenicity classification – used when the evidence is limited – was “incomprehensible”, according to the report.
Echa’s latest review closely followed the recommendations of a “Glyphosate Assessment Group” made up of experts from four countries: France, the Netherlands, Hungary and Sweden.
The full opinion of Echa’s Risk Assessment Committee (RAC), which sets the stage for a more definitive decision by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) next year, will be published in mid -august.
But an online summary concludes that it is “not justified” to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, even though it is toxic to aquatic life and causes serious eye damage.
The chemicals agency says its RAC produced a “comprehensive and thorough review” of all relevant studies, including papers that found tumors in mice and rats.
A spokesperson for Echa said: “The results of studies conducted with glyphosate have not been rejected, but a causal relationship has not been established between exposure to the substance and the incidence of tumors. observed.”
Several regulators have challenged the WHO’s findings on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate, including the EU’s European Food Safety Authority and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Glyphosate was originally developed by US food company Monsanto, which was sold to German chemicals giant Bayer for $63bn (£50bn) in 2018.
This deal led Bayer to take on a series of ongoing litigation over glyphosate’s alleged links to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In the two and a half years after Monsanto lost its first lawsuit in the United States over the RoundUp pesticide, Bayer’s share fell 45%. The Wall Street Journal described the acquisition as “one of the worst corporate deals” in recent times.
Utz Klages, a spokesperson for Bayer, welcomed Echa’s assessment, noting that it also did not classify glyphosate as having specific target organ toxicity, or as being a mutagenic or mutagenic substance. reprotoxic.
He said: “We remain confident that we have a strong scientific rationale for renewed approval of glyphosate, which would continue to provide farmers and professional users with important technology in an integrated weed management approach.
“Glyphosate herbicides play and will continue to play an important role in sustainable agriculture and in Bayer’s product portfolio.
Attention in the European glyphosate debate will now turn to EFSA’s next assessment of the chemical, which it says will be published last week in July 2023, a year later than expected.
The EU is expected to decide whether or not to renew the product license by December 15, 2022, although a temporary extension of the existing license may also be possible.