Precautionary principle essential as chemical safety decisions lack independence and transparency: Understanding the diverging conclusions on the carcinogenicity of glyphosate

Glyphosate is the most heavily used herbicide in history, and is the subject of intense controversy regarding whether or not it is dangerous to human health. In 2015, EU and UN agencies issued contrasting opinions on whether or not glyphosate is carcinogenic. While the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found that it is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans”1, the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified it as a “probable carcinogen”.

This divergence in opinion may be due to the sources of information used by EFSA and IARC to form their conclusions. While the IARC process is transparent and reliable, the EFSA process is plagued by difficulties and lack of openness. In view of this, the IARC opinion must be given precedence. Given the questions that remain over the independence of EFSA's procedures, the Commission must exercise precaution when deciding on whether to renew the licence for glyphosate. A shorter reauthorisation is not a mean to control the possible negative effects of glyphosate. Instead the Commission should seek to lower citizens’ exposure to this widespread substance.

This briefing will set out an overview of the EFSA and IARC processes, and highlight the issues relating to the reliability of the EFSA review.

Size 119 KB
Published May 18, 2016
Found in ChemicalsHealth