Glyphosate not a carcinogen, EPA concludes
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December 26, 2017
Glyphosate not a carcinogen, EPA concludes

As part of its registration review of the herbicide active ingredient glyphosate, the EPA has preliminarily concluded that the substance has the “potential for effects on birds, mammals, and terrestrial and aquatic plants” but is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.”

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pesticides

Introduced by Monsanto in the 1970s, glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup®, a product that has both agricultural and domestic uses and is probably the most widely used herbicide in the world. In the United States alone, about 300 million pounds of Roundup are applied at farms each year.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) directs the EPA to review the registrations of regulated pesticides and herbicides every 15 years. These reviews are preceded by human health and ecological risk assessments for the products. Given the dominant role of glyphosate in the United States, the EPA has issued no less than 10 draft studies. In addition to the ecological and human health assessments, the drafts cover areas that include drinking water, occupational exposure, glyphosate “incidents,” and dietary exposure (the list of draft documents).

No meaningful risks

The Agency said its review of the human carcinogenic potential of glyphosate included a weight-of-evidence evaluation of data from animal toxicity, genotoxicity, and epidemiological studies. This review was presented to the FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel and was subsequently updated based on their further review.

The draft human health risk assessment concludes that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” concluded the EPA. “The Agency’s assessment found no other meaningful risks to human health when the product is used according to the pesticide label. The Agency’s scientific findings are consistent with the conclusions of science reviews by a number of other countries as well as the 2017 National Institute of Health Agricultural Health Survey.”

Ecological assessment

The draft ecological assessment comprised seven major conclusions:

Exposure to glyphosate residues resulting from spray drift is not anticipated to impact the survival, growth, or reproduction of aquatic invertebrates, fish, aquatic nonvascular plants, or submerged vascular plants in surface waters adjacent to a treated field.

Exposure to glyphosate residues from its application to aquatic environments is not anticipated to impact the survival, growth, or reproduction of aquatic invertebrates or fish.

Exposure to glyphosate residues in water resulting from spray drift or application to aquatic environments may impact the survival and/or biomass of aquatic emergent vascular and nonvascular plants in surface waters adjacent to a treated field or in the treated water body.

While some toxicity data for honey bees suggest that toxicity from glyphosate is low, the estimated environmental concentrations are greater than the highest concentrations tested in honeybee toxicity tests. Therefore, it is unclear if exposure to glyphosate residues on foliage could impact the survival, growth, and/or reproduction of honeybee larvae.

Exposure to glyphosate residues on foliage resulting from direct deposition or spray drift may impact the growth of birds but may not impact reproductive parameters.

Exposure to glyphosate residues on foliage from direct deposition or spray drift may impact the growth and reproduction of terrestrial mammals.

Exposure to glyphosate residues on foliage resulting from spray drift may impact the survival and/or biomass of upland plants and riparian/wetland plants in areas adjacent to a treated field.

ECHA and WHO

The draft human health conclusions were in line with a March 2017 finding by the Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).

“RAC concluded that the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria in the CLP [classification, labelling, and packaging] Regulation to classify glyphosate for specific target organ toxicity, or as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or for reproductive toxicity,” said the ECHA.

But the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said EPA’s findings were biased.
“The EPA review, which ignored the Agency’s own guidelines for assessing cancer risks, contradicts a 2015 World Health Organization analysis of published research that determined glyphosate is a probable carcinogen,” said the CBD. “The only way the EPA could conclude that glyphosate poses no significant risks to human health was to analyze industry studies and ignore its own guidelines when estimating cancer risk. The EPA’s biased assessment falls short of the most basic standards of independent research and fails to give Americans an accurate picture of the risks posed by glyphosate use.”

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