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Does Monsanto's Glyphosate Cause Cancer?

Health + Wellness

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has rejected the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) classification of glyphosate as a possible carcinogen, declaring that the active ingredient in Monsanto's widely used weedkiller Roundup, is "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans."


However, the EFSA has made a very important admission in their report, as noted by Sustainable Pulse. Unlike the IARC, the Italy-based EFSA examined glyphosate alone, not glyphosate formulations.

The adverse health effects of the herbicide, therefore, could be related to reactions with "other constituents or 'co-formulants,'" the EFSA report said.

As Sustainable Pulse writes:

"A very important point is that glyphosate-based herbicides would not work well to kill weeds for farmers or gardeners without the addition of these extra additional chemicals known as adjuvants."

"However, the complete pesticide formulations as sold and used also contain additives (adjuvants), which increase the pest—or weedkilling activity of the pesticide. These complete formulations do not have to be tested in medium- and long-term tests—even though they are the substances to which farmers and citizens are exposed."

The EFSA provides independent scientific advice to the European Union and plays a key role in the authorization of thousands of products ending up in Europe's food chain, including genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, food additives and nanotech products, according to the Corporate Europe Observatory, a non-profit corporate lobbying research group.

Could the EFSA's conclusion in it latest report be influenced by larger players though? Sustainable Pulse suggests that "corruption" might be at hand. This video from the Corporate Europe Observatory alleges that Big Food corporations and biotech companies, including Monsanto, might have intimate ties with EFSA.

In March, the IARC (the World Heath Organization's cancer research arm) famously linked Monsanto's weedkiller to cancer. If the EFSA had a similar classification, it would mean that glyphosate would no longer be used.

The EFSA explained today why their conclusion differed from the IARC's:

This is because the EU and IARC take different approaches to the classification of chemicals. The EU scheme—assesses each individual chemical, and each marketed mixture separately. IARC assesses generic agents, including groups of related chemicals, as well as occupational or environmental exposure, and cultural or behavioural practices.

This is important because although some studies suggest that certain glyphosate-based formulations may be genotoxic (i.e. damaging to DNA), others that look solely at the active substance glyphosate do not show this effect. It is likely, therefore, that the genotoxic effects observed in some glyphosate-based formulations are related to the other constituents or “co-formulants."

Interestingly, the EFSA has also, for the first time, proposed a maximum exposure on glyphosate. The maximum safe daily dose is recommended at 0.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.

According to Reuters, "that means an 80-kg person could eat food containing 40 milligrams of glyphosate per day for the rest of their life."

Monsanto has vehemently denied glyphosate's link to cancer and has demanded a retraction of the IARC's report. Today, the agrotech giant also sent out this tweet touting the herbicide's benefits to farmers.

Glyphosate is the go-to weed killer for use on genetically engineered (or Roundup Ready) crops grown around the world. In the U.S., farmers sprayed 2.6 billion pounds of it on U.S. agricultural land between 1992 and 2012, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Since the IARC's classification, however, several communities have demanded bans, France has ceased sales of Roundup in garden centers, California's Environmental Protection Agency issued plans to list glyphosate as a possible carcinogen and a slew of lawsuits have been mounting against Monsanto. EcoWatch recently reported that personal injury law firms around the U.S. are gathering numerous plaintiffs to build “mass tort actions" alleging that exposure to the company's popular weedkiller has caused cancer in their clients.

Last month, a majority of the European Union officially "opted out" of growing genetically modified crops (GMOs) within their territories. These member states were targeting Monsanto's GMO maize, the only GMO crop approved for cultivation in the EU.

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