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Pesticides Update 2 – Scientists strike back, rebutting EU glyphosate review

96 scientists denounce an EU report and reaffirm International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) finding that the world’s most commonly used herbicide, glyphosate, probably causes cancer

By Meg Sears, PhD, Chair and Science Advisor of Prevent Cancer Now

Background: In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that the world’s most-used herbicide, glyphosate, probably causes cancer. In October 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced a contrary conclusion.

November 30, 2015, 96 scientists world-wide, including IARC panel members, released a letter (available here) to the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Mr. Andriukaitis. They express deep concern that the EFSA evaluation is not credible, evidence-based nor transparent.

“For science to be effective in guiding public health decisions, there needs to be clarity, rigor, transparency, and common sense. The EFSA assessment has serious deficits in all of these areas,” said corresponding author Prof. Christopher Portier.

The scientists maintain that the IARC Working Group evaluation of probably carcinogenic to humans accurately reflects the results of the published scientific literature on which IARC relies. On the face of it, the IARC finding is also consistent with the unpublished industry-supplied studies to which the EFSA refers. The scientists ask the Commissioner to forward their letter, and to disregard the EFSA evaluation in formulation of European health and environmental policy.

IARC relied in part upon previous government-funded Canadian research finding increased cancer with workers’ glyphosate exposure, but Health Canada’s April 2015 draft re-evaluation of glyphosate (online here) incongruously countered that Canadians’ exposures via food, water and (for those close to applications) spray drift and house dust, are too low to be of concern.

“Good decisions are based upon scientific evidence, but Canada appears to lack up-to-date data,” remarked Prevent Cancer Now (PCN) Chair, Dr. Meg Sears. Roundup sales have increased many-fold over past decades, but Canada’s dietary assessment was based upon US Environmental Protection Agency mid-1990s data. PCN was unable to obtain more relevant, recent Canadian data on glyphosate in water, foods or biological samples from Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Canadian Grain Commission or the Canadian Health Measures Survey, and there is no glyphosate data on the new federal website:

PCN also discussed online and in its Health Canada submission that glyphosate effects include known, patented actions as an antibiotic and to mobilize metals (it is a “chelator”). Respectively, these leave open important questions about soil and human health, and about essential and toxic minerals (e.g., lead and cadmium) in foods.

Canadians wishing to avoid glyphosate must eat certified organic foods.

Meg Sears, PhD, is an Ottawa-based environmental health researcher, and Chair of Prevent Cancer Now.

Also in the DECEMBER 2015 Issue of An Ounce Newsletter

Published: December 17, 2015


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