Ancient industry evidence won't do

August 2015
Photo Creative Commons
In response to the World Health Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) re-classification of glyphosate herbicide as a "probable carcinogen" [1], Monsanto said "We don't know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe".

Well, here's how.

First, the IARC considered up-to-date evidence. The last comprehensive assessment of glyphosate carried out by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) dates back to 1993.

Second, it considered a broad range of independent evidence, including human epidemiology and peer reviewed studies. The EPA relied almost entirely on unpublished industry studies (the same ones which were used by Monsanto to advertise glyphosate as 'safe as salt' [2]). Even the most recent safety assessment in the EU was based on information prepared the the 'Glyphsate Task Force', a consortium of agri-chemical companies (including Monsanto).

Third, where America and Europe go "all regulatory agencies around the globe" usually follow sooner or later.

Clarifying the IARC concern, one of its co-authors said:
"Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic". 
Genotoxic chemicals damage DNA and have a recognised potential to cause cancer.

The safety of glyphosate is, of course, central to most of Monsanto's GM crops which are genetically transformed to tolerate and accumulate it. Besides this, the herbicide is widely used on transport routes and green areas, and on conventional crops (such as wheat) to dry the green matter in preparation for harvest.

Presenting data showing that glyphosate in its commercial formulation, 'Roundup', is a thousand times more toxic than glyphosate alone, Dr Mesnage of Kings College London said:
"Glyphosate is everywhere throughout our food chain - in our food and water." 
Residues of the herbicide are below the previously established safe concentration, but recent data now suggest every molecule may present a risk of cancer: there may be NO safe level of exposure.

In the UK, glyphosate has been found in 30% of bread samples. Europe-wide sampling of city-dwellers found seven out of ten people in the UK had traces of glyphosate in their urine. Tests of breast milk in 16 women from a variety of regions in Germany revealed glyphosate at levels of two to more than four times the maximum allowed level in drinking water.


Who knows how much glyphosate we are getting from milk produced by cows fed GM, glyphosate-accumulating feed.

Cancer may have a lag-time of scores of years. We're only 15 years through this now in the GM era.

As Claire Robinson of GM Watch said, people cannot rely on regulators to protect their health: the battle will be won by consumers pressuring retailers to remove glyphosate from their shelves.

You could start by adding your voice to the the Soil Association's call to UK bread manufacturers and supermarkets to ensure that no British wheat destined for bread-making is sprayed with glyphosate before this year's harvest, and that none of the bread that they sell contains glyphosate weed-killer.



[2] GLYPHOSATE: SAFE AS SALT? - (Doc) GMFS Archive, February 2009

  • World Health Organisation says that glyphosate probably causes cancer, Thin Ice GM Freeze Campaign Newsletter, Issue 35 June 2015
  • Glyphosate damages DNA, says World Health Organisation expert, GM Watch 15.07.15
  • Green warn: German breast milk unsafe, The Local, 26.06.15

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