Environmentalists swiftly slammed the Trump administration Tuesday for reaffirming the federal government's position that the world's most widely used herbicide poses no threat to public health—despite other global experts tying it to cancer.
After conducting a safety review of the weed killer, the Environmental Protection Agency said in a statement Tuesday that "EPA continues to find that there are no risks to public health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label and that glyphosate is not a carcinogen."
"There’s no risk to public health from the application of glyphosate," said @EPA official Alexandra Dunn. Didn't they say the same thing at one time about DDT? And chlorpyrifos? https://t.co/uJNhj7xC7D via @DMRegister
— carey gillam (@careygillam) April 30, 2019
The agency did, however, identify ecological risks associated with glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup—and proposed some new management measures designed to protect pollinators and reduce the problem of weeds becoming resistant to the herbicide.
The EPA's conclusion Tuesday contradicts that of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) that classifies glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.
The American agrochemical company Monsanto—which merged with the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer last year—has faced multiple lawsuits brought by people who say their illnesses were caused by exposure to RoundUp. The company, like the EPA, maintains that glyphosate is safe when used as instructed.
Critics of the EPA's announcement Tuesday highlighted that the agency's position conflicts with the WHO's classification.
The @EPA Pesticide Office is charged with protecting public health—including farmworkers and those who apply pesticides—and yet the @EPA continues to disregard risks from routine occupational exposure. https://t.co/Lp72D83Mre
— NRDC (@NRDC) April 30, 2019
"EPA's pesticide office is out on a limb here—with Monsanto and Bayer and virtually nobody else," Dr. Jennifer Sass, a senior scientist with the Healthy People and Thriving Communities Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
"Health agencies and credible non-industry experts who've reviewed this question have all found a link between glyphosate and cancer," she said. "EPA should take the advice of its own science advisers—who have rejected the agency's no-cancer-risk classification."
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), in a statement, pointed out:
A report published in January in the Environmental Sciences Europe documented how the EPA ignored a large number of independent, peer-reviewed studies that link glyphosate to cancer in humans. Instead, the report found, the EPA used research paid for by Monsanto to support the agency's position that glyphosate is not carcinogenic.
EWG president Ken Cook on Tuesday called out President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler—both for the glyphosate announcement specifically and the agency's policies more broadly.
"Today's decision by Administrator Wheeler, like virtually every one he and the Trump administration make, completely ignores science in favor of polluters like Bayer," Cook charged.
"This move by EPA should not come as a surprise," he said. "Under the control of Trump and Wheeler, the agency is virtually incapable of taking steps to protect people from dangerous chemicals like glyphosate."