Corporate Europe Observatory, 25 November 2015
Monsanto and the pesticide industry breathed a collective sigh of relief on 12 November 2015. The findings of an investigation into the toxicity of glyphosate by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and EU Member States were in stark contradiction to the March 2015 conclusion by the International Agency for Research against Cancer (IARC), a body of the World Health Organization (WHO), that this agricultural herbicide was probably causing cancer to humans. If validated, this conclusion could cause a partial ban of glyphosate in the EU. [UPDATED on 30 11 2015 16.30 CET].
This article takes a closer look at the arguments from both parties, and reveals two strikingly different processes that led to these conflicting assessments. In short, the WHO process was transparent, stuck to conventional scientific methodology and looked at glyphosate-containing herbicides (as glyphosate is never used alone in the real world), whereas EFSA’s route was based on a ‘peer review’ by anonymous EFSA and national public officials relying on undisclosed industry-sponsored studies that looked at glyphosate alone. The European Commission, which will have the last say on whether or not glyphosate will be re-authorized in the EU, and under which conditions, must now decide what to make of this interesting piece of ‘science’.
On 12 November 2015, following a long saga (see our previous article), unnamed officials from EFSA and experts from EU Member States published the outcome of their joint re-assessment of the toxicity of glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world. More commonly known as ‘Roundup’, which is the original Monsanto trade name, it is applied to more than 150 food and non-food crops 1 and is used by millions of home-owners, businesses and public authorities to keep lawns, gardens, buildings and other land free of weeds. Glyphosate is also a cornerstone of GM crop cultivation. According to GM proponents, 57 per cent of all genetically modified crops grown commercially around the world in 2013 were herbicide tolerant, and the vast majority of these were engineered to tolerate glyphosate-based herbicides. This simplifies their cultivation in large-scale, socially and environmentally harmful monoculture plantations, also known as ‘green deserts‘.