A few days ago, the European Food Safety Agency published a report on glyphosate a chemical widely used in pesticides. According to the EFSA, “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans” and the agency limits itself to proposing “a new safety measure that will tighten the control of glyphosate residues in food.”We have read plenty about glyphosate in Marie-Monique Robin’s books, The World According to Monsanto and Our Daily Poison. On more than one occasion, the French journalist and documentary-maker has pointed her finger at this chemical compound used in the weedkiller Roundup, produced by Monsanto since the 1970s and commonly used in both monocultures and home gardens.
The multinational has always claimed that it is a 100% biodegradable weedkiller and poses no dangers to humans or the environment. Too bad that it has been condemned first in the United States and then in France for false advertising. Too bad that anyone who has had direct experience can testify to its high toxicity and long-term health risks (it can cause cancer, but also lead to sterility, miscarriages and genetic malformations; it acts on the endocrine system, altering the female and male reproductive systems). Too bad that rural communities in Argentina, for example, who live close to enormous fields of crop-dusted soy, are suffering from the immediate effects of acute intoxication: dermatitis, inflammation of the eyes, vomiting and respiratory difficulties.
Robin has spent many years researching the subject, gathering information, expert opinions and so on. All the same, some might say that hers is not a scientific opinion. It is therefore essential to add that just this year, in July, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, published a report which drew very different conclusions to the EFSA, calling glyphosate “probably carcinogenic to humans,” with a link to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and stating that there is “sufficient evidence
in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.” It was classified as Group 2A.
Greenpeace has demonstrated the problems with the EFSA report, which relies heavily on unpublished studies commissioned by glyphosate producers and dismisses published peer-reviewed evidence that glyphosate causes cancer.
It seems that the story is destined to repeat itself over and over, with the food and chemical multinationals powerful and influential enough to force the EFSA to take an incomprehensible position, one which even goes against the most authoritative international cancer research agency.
In the next few months, the European Commission will rule on the use of glyphosate in the European Union after the expiry of the current authorization, on June 30, 2016. The hope is that this article, the many that will follow, and the appeals from civil society will be able to influence its ruling. We hope the Commission will make its decision independently of the EFSA’s opinion, taking the IARC’s report into full account.