EU Glyphosate Data Release Could Help Settle Classification

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By Stephen Gardner

Sept. 30 — The European Food Safety Authority's release of previously confidential scientific data about the safety of the herbicide glyphosate could help resolve disagreements among scientific bodies about whether or not the substance should be considered a carcinogen, an advocacy group said.

The data would “enable scrutiny” of an evaluation of the hazard classification of glyphosate being carried out by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), Martin Pigeon, a researcher with the Corporate Europe Observatory, which monitors lobbying of European Union legislation, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 30.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) released the data in response to a Corporate Europe Observatory access to documents request, it said Sept. 29, adding that the data would be “sufficient to enable a third-party scientist to scrutinize the evaluation of glyphosate.”

In its November 2015 study, EFSA found that glyphosate was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans,” contradicting an earlier finding from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization, which said glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

Carcinogenicity Dispute

EFSA's study was done as part of the reauthorization of glyphosate at the EU level in line with the bloc's regulation on plant protection products on the market (Regulation (EC) No. 1107/2009). The EU authorization of glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide, was due to expire June 30.

The IARC finding that glyphosate was probably carcinogenic led environmental groups, some members of the European Parliament and some EU countries to oppose the reauthorization of glyphosate. The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, ultimately opted for an 18-month authorization extension, rather than a full reauthorization, while ECHA assesses if the substance is correctly classified in the EU.

Pigeon said EFSA would release the study data to Corporate Europe Observatory during the next two months and “we will share the data with competent toxicologists,” who would be able to provide an independent input into the ECHA classification check on glyphosate.

Pigeon said the release of data was welcome and EFSA “really went as far as they could to provide transparency and crucially to enable scientific scrutiny.”

ECHA's Risk Assessment Committee would have “access to the complete reports from those studies which they need for their decision-making on the proposed update of the harmonized classification for glyphosate,” ECHA told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 30.

Glyphosate is used in more than 750 products, including Monsanto's Roundup brand of herbicide. Although the substance is authorized at EU level, member countries have the right to refuse individual authorizations for products containing glyphosate.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephen Gardner in Brussels at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com

For More Information

A Corporate Europe Observatory summary detailing the pending EFSA release of data on glyphosate is available at http://src.bna.com/i3C .

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