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European agency says glyphosate is not a carcinogen

European Chemicals Agency completes assessment of glyphosate as EPA's SAP announces findings.

The European Chemicals Agency or ECHA announced that its Committee for Risk Assessment has found glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide, not to be a human carcinogen or cancer-causing substance.

The ruling was announced on Wednesday (March 15) a day before U.S. EPA released the report of its Scientific Advisory Panel on Glyphosate, which said it found no “reliable evidence of an association between glyphosate and any solid tumor or leukemia or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

The 101-page report said the SAP agreed with EPA that available studies do not link glyphosate exposure to multiple myeloma, and it concluded that, overall, the agency’s review and evaluation chose relevant epidemiology studies “that inform the assessment of the human carcinogenic potential of glyphosate.”

The ECHA ruling, which is reported to be the final word on the issue in Europe, refutes a 2015 finding by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a quasi-official arm of the World Health Organization, that glyphosate is “probably a human carcinogen.

The report by the IARC, which has been criticized for its selective review of scientific studies, has been cited by a number of entities, including the state of California, as justification for designating glyphosate as a “known carcinogen.”

Conflict resolution

Reports said the ECHA’s review is intended to resolve conflicting findings over the carcinogenicity of glyphosate after European Union member states failed to reach an agreement on the renewal of the herbicide in 2016.

“The last word belongs to the ECHA, which is why the Commission proposes to ask ECHA for its scientific assessment on the carcinogenicity of the herbicide,” European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said early in 2016. The Commission had extended the approval of glyphosate until it received the ECHA opinion.

The opinion will now go through a normal editorial check before being sent to the European Commission and will be a determining factor in the European Commission’s decision of whether or not to renew approval for glyphosate as an active substance in pesticides later in 2017.

ECHA noted that the “committee also had full access to the original reports of studies conducted by industry. “RAC has assessed all the scientific data, including any scientifically relevant information received during the public consultation in summer 2016,” The ECHA said in a statement. RAC’s independent classification is based “solely on the hazardous properties of the substance.”

The European Commission previously extended glyphosate’s existing approval in the hope that the ECHA’s opinion would resolve conflicting scientific views over the carcinogenicity classification. The ECHA opened a public consultation in June 2016 on the evaluation carried out by Germany, as rapporteur member state, which concluded that there is no need for a specific classification for carcinogenicity.

Replicated studies

Since the publication of the IARC Monograph on glyphosate, several regulatory bodies have completed their studies of glyphosate, all indicating findings supporting the safety of the herbicide. Among those were the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency, the European Food Safety Authority, the UN World Health Organization, the German Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority.

The EPA’s glyphosate review process has also been quite lengthy, with a few stutter steps along the way.

The agency’s Cancer Assessment Review Committee posted a report of its findings that glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic” on the EPA website last May 2, but the report was later removed.

Although the CARC report was marked “final,” then-EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told a congressional committee investigating the agency’s handling of the glyphosate review that the document was a preliminary report and not a complete assessment.

EPA released a final report last Sept. 12 that said glyphosate probably was not a human carcinogen. To read the full report, click on http://bit.ly/2elagDg.

The Scientific Advisory Panel that was supposed to review the CARC’s findings in October was delayed after industry representatives complained about the objectivity of some of the SAP members. The SAP hearing was rescheduled for December, and the Panel’s final report was issued Thursday (March 16). To read the SAP report, click on http://bit.ly/2nAPCji.

To read more about the European Chemicals Agency report, visit http://bit.ly/2n9vCXO.

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