E.U. Delays Vote on Roundup

Newly published research on the key ingredient in the Monsanto-made weed killer is holding up lawmakers’ decisions on whether to continue to allow its sale in Europe.

By | May 24, 2016

WIKIMEDIA, NIGEL MYKURAThe United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) agree that the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.” The recently released, joint report seems to contradict 2015 WHO glyphosate research, which concluded that the chemical was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The confusion is delaying a European Union (E.U.) vote on whether to renew the sales authorization of glyphosate. That vote was postponed on May 19, and the current sales license for Roundup expires on June 30. Several E.U. member states, including France and Germany called for delaying the vote until the confusion is cleared up.

“Safety first, health first. I am against authorizing this product until these doubts have been entirely ruled out,” Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's vice chancellor told The Wall Street Journal.

The WHO, for its part, tried to clear up the seemingly conflicting assessments of glyphosate, claiming in a FAQ that the new report and the 2015 report are “different, yet complimentary” because the earlier one did not estimate risk based on feasible exposure routes. Other assessments, including one from the European Food Safety Authority, have supported the claim that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in human populations.

Update (July 1): The European Commission announced this week (June 28) that it is temporarily granting farmers in the European Union clearance to use glyphosate through 2017. The temporary reauthorization will give the European Chemicals Agency to further study the potential health effects of the herbicide.

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Comments

Avatar of: St James

St James

Posts: 4

May 24, 2016

Money talks

Avatar of: JonRichfield

JonRichfield

Posts: 135

May 24, 2016

This sort of thing is very annoying.
Though I am sceptical about there being any substantial danger whatever, even when it is used on crops, there certainly seems to be no rational risk associated with use of the herbicide in non-food situations such as killing invasive weeds in the wild or among ornamentals, but  I have had difficulty with people who cite the WHO publications in support of forbidding its use in innocuous applications.

Avatar of: JonRichfield

JonRichfield

Posts: 135

Replied to a comment from St James made on May 24, 2016

May 24, 2016

So does good sense, only not so loudly

Avatar of: PatrikD

PatrikD

Posts: 7

May 31, 2016

There really shouldn't be any "confusion" - these terms have been around for decades and should be well understood by anyone dealing with regulating these compounds. Really, this is just political maneuvering, using "confusion" as a pretext.

The earlier WHO report of "probably carcinogenic" just means that there is some limited evidence that the compound *could* be carcinogenic under some circumstances. To quote directly from the report: "Limited evidence means that a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer, but that other explanations for the observations (called chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out." Sounds weak? Yes it does! Essentially, they're saying "We can't really tell, but it's worth looking into this a bit deeper".

The new report then shows that the real-world cancer risk to humans through food is actually negligible. Note that there could still be some cancer risk to farm workers being exposed to high concentration glyphosate - the new report doesn't cover that at all, and something like this might be entirely consistent with the earlier report.

 

TL;DR: It's safe on food, but probably best not to bathe in it...

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