A little perspective provides balance to IARC report on glyphosate

A lot of people in agriculture were confused a few weeks ago when the International Agency for Research on Cancer, after reviewing a handful of studies, classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had looked at many of the same studies and found that glyphosate was not a carcinogen. What gives?

For one, IARC’s review was a bit shaky and did not consider the full collection of studies on the subject, according to several scientists who spoke during a recent Monsanto press briefing on subject. This included Dr. Keith Solomon, fellow, Academy of Toxicological Sciences, University of Guelph, who noted, “The impression I get is that they have ignored studies that do not suit their particular hypothesis.”

Of course, the usual anti-technology, anti-GMO suspects hailed the IARC summary as gospel on social media and numerous websites.

In these situations, proper perspective is in order.

Perspectives of the Mississippi Delta — photos by Rory Doyle
Perspectives of the Mississippi Delta — photos by Rory Doyle

First of all, farmers and everyday citizens have used glyphosate for 40 years with no chronic ill effects on health, and they’re not going to stop using it because of this classification. It works, has been proven safe and effective when label directions are followed and certainly creates efficiencies in farming that are greatly underappreciated.

All you have to do is look at the rest of IARC’s hit list of known, possible and probable carcinogens to know that perhaps the group itself has lost a bit of perspective.

According to Wikipedia, IARC’s laundry list of things that cause or might cause cancer include coffee, beer (alcohol) and diesel exhaust — all right there with plutonium and mustard gas.

Perhaps IARC biggest whiff was including the inhalation of frying food as a possible carcinogen, leading one to believe that it is much safer to eat fried chicken than to cook it.

The idea is not to poke fun at either IARC or the dreadful disease of cancer, but to point out that most every substance at the right dose is going to have an adverse effect on you.

In the era of Internet and social media, one can find support for just about any claim, no matter how outrageous it may be. On the other hand, if you commit yourself, you can develop a well-rounded perspective on just about any subject as well.

In fact, I recently read an online report that said coffee actually has several benefits, including the delightfully perplexing claim that coffee can “reduce my risk of dying.”

Yes, it actually said that. And on that note, I think I’ll have another cup of Joe this morning.

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