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"By denying scientific principles, one may maintain any paradox." – Galileo Galilei

European Agencies and Leaders Agree: Science Overwhelmingly Confirms Safety of Glyphosate

The European Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (a committee of member-state representatives) will meet tomorrow to discuss the reauthorization of glyphosate in Europe. Glyphosate is approved for use in the European market until the end of the year under a recent short-term extension. The committee will ultimately vote on the herbicide’s long term reauthorization later this year.


As Agra Facts reported, the European Commission circulated a draft proposal of its recommendations ahead of the meeting that advocates for a renewal of glyphosate’s authorization for a 10 year period.  The document states that “…from a risk management perspective it is appropriate to provide for a renewal of the approval of glyphosate for a period of ten years ensuring a priority re-assessment of glyphosate over other active substances.” (emphasis added)  However, according to recent comments made by the European Commissioner dealing with this subject —the standing committee, not the Commission— will make the final decision.


As the standing committee members prepare to meet, it’s important to acknowledge that the chief European scientific organizations have determined that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. And the top leaders in the European Commission and member states have publicly stated that they support this clear scientific evidence.


Let’s have a look:


European and Member State Scientific Institutions


European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): “Following a second mandate from the European Commission to consider the findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) regarding the potential carcinogenicity of glyphosate or glyphosate-containing plant protection products in the on-going peer review of the active substance, EFSA concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential according to Regulation (EC) No 1272/2008.” (emphasis added)


Jose Tarazona, head of EFSA’s Pesticides Unit: “This has been an exhaustive process – a full assessment that has taken into account a wealth of new studies and data. By introducing an acute reference dose we are further tightening the way potential risks from glyphosate will be assessed in the future. Regarding carcinogenicity, it is unlikely that this substance is carcinogenic.” (emphasis added)


European Chemicals Agency (ECHA): “ECHA’s Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) agrees to maintain the current harmonised classification of glyphosate as a substance causing serious eye damage and being toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects. RAC concluded that the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction.” (emphasis added)


Bundesinstitut fur Risikobewertung (BfR) in Germany: “In conclusion of this re-evaluation process of the active substance glyphosate by BfR the available data do not show carcinogenic or mutagenic properties of glyphosate nor that glyphosate is toxic to fertility, reproduction or embryonal/fetal development in laboratory animals.” (emphasis added)


BfR President Andreas Hensel: “The deadly doses of glyphosate and cooking salt are in the same dimension.”


Review of the Carcinogenicity of Glyphosate by ECHA, EFSA and BfR: “EFSA and ECHA confirm that the original assessments considered all relevant findings. Our detailed technical assessment you will find in the Annex to this letter.”


European Leaders


European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker: “There is no reason to doubt the scientific evaluations and the conclusions on glyphosate made by the European Union.” (April 2017)


European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans: “The conclusion of EFSA and ECHA that glyphosate should not be classified as carcinogenic is I think in line with the conclusions of many other regulatory bodies both inside and outside the EU, including those in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and also the joint EU Food and Agriculture Organization – World Health Organization meeting on pesticides residues. The only real anchor we have is the scientific evidence. If we just [have] reasons of emotions or other political considerations, we would just put aside scientific evidence. That would not be the right direction to take.”

European Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis: “[T]he last word belongs to the ECHA, that is why the Commission proposes to ask ECHA for its scientific assessment on the carcinogenicity of the glyphosate and to extend the current approval of glyphosate until it receives ECHA’s opinion.” (June 2016)


Andriukaitis cont.: “Globally, a lot of scientific communities and scientific assessment boards agree that glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic. We know today that the Canadian assessment authorities, New Zealand assessment authorities, Japanese assessment authorities, and Australian assessment authorities, say the same about glyphosate […]If EFSA and ECHA [European Chemicals Agency] – two assessing bodies – decided through a scientifically based approach it’s unlikely to be carcinogenic, we will propose to our standing committee, to member states, to approve such a scientific decision.”


Andriukaitis cont.: “While individual persons might continue to disagree with the overwhelming convergence of scientific opinions [from both EFSA & ECHA], this cannot put into question the robustness of our system & we should proceed with the renewal of the approval of glyphosate, as there is no reason to doubt the safety of the substance.”


Member State Leaders


German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “We need to have a unanimous position in the government. The CDU/CSU has always said they would approve the substance as we know that plant protection products are used under very strict conditions. You also mentioned the institutions which are in favour of the re-approval. The European Commission approved the substance for a certain period (18 months) but there will have to be another vote and this can only happen after the federal elections.” (emphasis added)


Members of the European Parliament


Julie Girling UK MEP: ECHA’s opinion is “a means to finally end the hysteria and start working on the basis of robust scientific evidence. This opinion confirms what the EU and other scientific bodies have been saying since this debate began in 2015. It represents the first step in restoring certainty for farmers so that they can continue responsibly using this important substance to provide us with safe and nutritious food.”


Ashley Fox UK MEP: “I am pleased that the ECHA has delivered its judgement on glyphosate. Time for the uncertainty to end for farmers”


Jan Huitema Netherlands MEP: “This is one of the most commonly used weedkillers in the world. The scientific authorities in the European Union looked at this carefully. They concluded that glyphosate isn’t carcinogenic. Politics, however, completely hijacked the discussion. The European Parliament tightened its grasp last year and pleaded for a short allowance. I was very against this, as science should lead these kinds of discussions! They decided to wait for one more study: that of the European Chemical Agency. They brought out their results this week: based on the current scientific knowledge, they concluded that glyphosate isn’t a carcinogen and doesn’t change heredity traits or affect fertility. A clear call. This should clear up any doubts. It is good to look at alternatives and ways to use less crop protection agents, such as precision agriculture. But completely banning glyphosate is complete nonsense. I don’t think we should give up on our faith in science. I will continue to fight this, it’s a matter of common sense.” (emphasis added)


Mairead McGuinness Ireland MEP: “This is an important part of the technology, as has been said, that farmers use. If I believed that there was a problem, I would call for a ban as well. However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is out of step with all of the other Agencies that have looked at this product and we need to acknowledge that.” (emphasis added)


Clara Eugenia Aguilera García Spain MEP: “The International Agency for Research on Cancer said that the co-formulant that was mixed with glyphosate was the one that could have carcinogenic effects. By eliminating the co-formulant from the herbicide, glyphosate would have no carcinogenic problem. You (European Commission) promised that with the scientific analysis given by EFSA, the authorization would be granted or not, also taking into account the opinion of Parliament. I trust the European institutions. I trust you, Commissioner. I trust the agencies that give us food security. So here we have come to a point where there are political judgments. It will have to clarify many circumstances, also Monsanto. But Monsanto has become the ‘Atila horse’ in a position against herbicides in general. Therefore, there is great political manipulation.” (emphasis added)


Geoffrey Van Orden UK MEP:I have listened very intently to this debate, and I just want to say that of course we all want a healthy countryside and a good environment for us all to live in; so do our farmers. No one in this House has a monopoly on virtue in this particular matter. Our farmers are responsible farmers. I represent the East of England, which is a major agricultural sector in the United Kingdom. Our responsible farmers rely on good scientific, evidence—based information for what they are doing. From what I have heard from the Commission this afternoon, that is exactly what we have. I hope that the Commission will bring an end to all the uncertainty on this, and confirm once and for all the authorisation for glyphosate. It has been very clear: we are hearing repetitions of the same sort of scaremongering, the same things. Listen again to what the Commissioner had to say, look more closely at what he said to us all. So let us put an end to all this nonsense, and let us give certainty to our farmers – our responsible farmers.” (emphasis added)


EU Stakeholders


The European Crop Protection Association (ECPA): “Glyphosate is one of the most researched and tested products that is on the market. There is more than 90,000 pages of evidence, 3,300 peer-reviewed studies, plus opinions of ECHA, EFSA, WHO, not to mention regulatory authorities around the world — that support its re-approval. Click here to see what would happen to farmers if they didn’t have access to glyphosate.” (emphasis added)


European farmers union (Copa and Cogeca) Secretary-General Pekka Pesonen:Both EFSA and ECHA have published strong scientific evidence that supports full re-authorization of this widely-used active substance for 15 years since there are no safety concerns. We feel it is essential to respect these opinions and maintain trust in EFSA and the high standards that EU producers meet. Creating doubt about EU science-based decision-making processes will only have an negative impact on the credibility of the EU authorities and jeopardise our high safety standards at the same time as putting our own farmers in a less competitive and uncertain position vis a vis their competitors in non-EU countries.” (emphasis added)