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Citing Big Ag Research, EU Set to Approve Toxic Weedkiller

Despite WHO declaration that glysophate is a 'probable carcinogen,' Guardian reporting on government analysis exposes industry influence on decision

Environmental watchdog says European regulators "should stop playing Russian roulette with people's health." (Photo: Mike Mozart/cc/flickr)

Environmental watchdog says European regulators "should stop playing Russian roulette with people's health." (Photo: Mike Mozart/cc/flickr)

European regulators—under the influence of industry-backed research—are on the cusp of re-approving the use of the Roundup chemical glysophate, reporting Wednesday revealed, despite the fact that the World Health Organization recently deemed the widely-used herbicide a probable carcinogen.

An imminent decision by the European Food Safety Authority will determine whether glysophate, a main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup and Dow’s Enlist Duo, will be permitted on the continent. Sources from within the agency told the Guardian that findings by the WHO research group, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), may delay the approval.

However, documents obtained by the newspaper show that a key assessment by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR), sourcing information from agrochemical industry research, "has drawn contrary conclusions from the IARC’s data."

The Guardian reports that the BfR paper "relied heavily on unpublished papers provided by the Glyphosate Task Force, an industry body dedicated to the herbicide’s relicensing," whose website is run by Monsanto UK. 

Further, the report found "very limited evidence of carcinogenicity" in mice exposed to the chemical, and recommended its re-approval calling for an even further relaxed "acceptable daily intake from 0.3 to 0.5 mg per kilogram of bodyweight per day."

Since a Monsanto chemist discovered the herbicide in the 1970s, its use has exploded. The development of glysophate-resistant genetically modified corn and soybean seeds only further hastened its spread.

In Europe, the Guardian notes, "The weedkiller is so widely-used that residues are commonly found in British bread. One survey found that people in 18 EU countries had traces of the weedkiller in their urine."

When asked about the potential re-approval of the toxic herbicide, Greenpeace spokesperson Franziska Achterberg told the Guardian that "Regulators should stop playing Russian roulette with people’s health."

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