UN body declares glyphosate probable human carcinogen

In a lengthy and livid response, Monsanto has rejected the findings of a World Health Organization report classifying glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a division of the World Health Organization, released a report today reviewing the cancer risk associated with five pesticides, including glyphosate.

The report suggested that glyphosate may increase the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in people who are exposed to the chemical in their occupation.

The report authors also said some studies show that exposure to glyphosate and glyphosate formulations promoted tumours in laboratory mice.

Consequently, the IARC classified glyphosate as Group 2A: “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

“This category is used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals,” IARC said.

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Monsanto said IARC’s conclusion is not supported by scientific data and the agency ignored relevant studies.

“We believe conclusions about a matter as important as human safety must be non-biased, thorough and based on quality science that adheres to internationally recognized standards,” Monsanto said in a news release. “We join others in viewing IARC’s process and its assessment with strong skepticism. IARC has previously come under criticism for both its process and demonstrated bias.”

Monsanto added the IARC classification is not based on new data. Other regulatory agencies, including the German government, have previously reviewed the same studies. The Germans concluded that “glyphosate was unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk in humans,” 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,” said Philip Miller, the company’s vice-president for global regulatory affairs.

“We have issued an urgent request for appropriate personnel of the WHO (World Health Organization) to sit down with the global glyphosate taskforces and other regulatory agencies to account for the scientific studies used in their analysis and, equally as important, to account for those scientific studies that were disregarded.”

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Labeling glyphosate as probably carcinogenic doesn’t establish a link between glyphosate and an increased cancer risk, Monsanto said.

“It’s important to put IARC’s classifications into perspective. IARC has classified numerous everyday items in Category 2 including coffee, cell phones, aloe vera extract and pickled vegetables, as well as professions such as a barber and fry cook.”

WP reporter Robert Arnason wrote a special report on glyphosate in 2013. You can find those stories via the links below:

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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  • hoboroadie

    Gotta stay upwind of these fools.

  • neil

    You can see why the consumer questions what we are doing on the farm. The science behind these two opposing claims is likely very complicated for most of us to understand. I would like explained why subsequent reviews on the other 4 products has one discontinued, one being phased out due to health and environmental concerns and one subject to new risk reduction measures. I would say that this puts doubt in our consumers’ mind on our regulatory system. I’m just trying to see it from their point of view.

  • Wondering

    As a farmer, I would like to believe that Monsanto and the other agricultural chemical companies wouldn’t knowingly expose us to anything carcinogenic. However, after reading this article I can’t help thinking of my uncle, a lifetime farmer, who was just found with tumours throughout most of his body. He has been given a month to live.

    • John Fefchak

      There is more than Monsanto to consider for the grief and suffering that people are experiencing.
      Our governments have also failed us in permitting this to
      be incorporated. This was their responsibility alone and they simply ignored the warnings that they were presented with.

    • louieleblanc1@aol.com

      It’s true, Glyphosate is bad..It’s been proven over and over…

    • CharleeR

      I too, as a farmer, am very concerned. When the study by the France researchers came out, that proved that Monsanto only did 90 day trials on rats, but the French study showed huge tumours appeared beginning at 4 mos……I was convinced that it causes cancer. I now order in all non-GMO grains to be fed to all of my animals.

  • neil

    Upon more consideration of this article I have thought that maybe all 5 are carcinogenic if in close continual contact with animals or humans. But that doesn’t mean they are carcinogenic at the rates and the way they are used in food production. As a farmer I certainly try not to splash any on my skin or any easily entered body part(mouth, eyes, nose, ears, etc.) Like any potentially toxic substance proper care handling and application along with well researched safe rates are the mainstays of prevention for negative consequences.

    • Tom K

      Common sense is usually a product of the farm. Thanks for your very sensible comment, I couldnt agree more.

      • Dr

        FDA cooked studies, interchanging CEOs with government regulators, Monsanto disagrees with the WHO, peer reviewed science,organic farmers can t grow canola without a huge buffer from non visually distinguishable commercial canola, what’s next ? Monsanto disagrees with the Supreme Court?

        A previous comment said, I can t believe Monsanto would sell us something that would give people cancer. That is why they are categorically denying this to avoid liability. If they admit it they are liable.

        Not to mention the overuse on farms. A previous commenter said that common sense prevails on the farm. Like overusing and creating resistance to chemicals ( and antibiotics in agriculture) . A more is better attitude creates more and bigger problems than a balanced and diversified approach . We are so hooked on immediate gratification that we may cause our own extinction…or die of cancer.

  • ed

    You could see this coming. Farm chemicals that I am aware of have the skull and crossbones symbols on them. That means, for people that are not aware, that they are poison. Although the LD50 number is lower on Roundup than, say an insecticide, it is still a relative Lethal Dose benchmark that puts it for sure in the danger zone for good human health. All farm chemistry is in this category so Monsanto need not feel bad. They would be the first to admit it in a clever type of legal double speak as to avoid liability when what they know to be true becomes blatantly and conclusively apparent. They spend much resource on building rationals for selling ever increasingly volumes of their flagship profit maker because so far the jury being out on the issue makes them innocent now and forever because the trajectory’s of this tommy gun marketing disaster could never have been known or predicted previous to even the very last marketing shots being launched. The days for this type of farming are soon going to have their wings clipped by the consumers. Finally!

  • puskwakau

    I have full CONfidence that Monsanto wouldn’t ‘cook the science’ just for profit.
    And they have as many billions as the tobacco industry to fight with in court and the bribery, I mean lobby dollars for politicians to keep on Corporate Message.

  • richard

    What did we honestly think they were putting in these products… vitamins?…..The industry calls itself “Crop Life” but it is really about “carpet bombing nature”…..and human health is just part of the collateral damage. Now that we are drenching crops with dessicants at harvest we are mainlining the glyphosate right into the germplasm of THE FOOD WE EAT…..And this is called progress…..Are we living on the planet of the apes????

    • Denise

      Most consumers have no idea that glyphosate (Roundup) or other desiccants are sprayed on the wheat crop before it is harvested. How wide spread this practice is? I don’t know.
      But, my bet is that the many people who complain and suffer from acute and chronic gastrointestional issues and some other health issues are probably having a bad reaction to the glyphosate residues found in the wheat.
      They may not be gluten intolerant but glyphosate intolerant… Their bodies are signalling to them that something is wrong here..!
      And you wonder why so many people are turning to organics, once they know the truth?

      • Neil

        The registered practice of spraying desiccants and preharvest glyphosate is quite widespread around the world.It is a big leap to blame many gastrointestinal problems on glyphosate. Especially before it was registered for this practice it was tested and shown not to leave a residue in the wheat crop therefore none in the food products. And all food testing has shown that organic is not more nutritious, safer or healthier than the mainstream food. That is a much tested and proven fact.

        • richard

          One would never want to contradict the cult of mythologies surrounding industrial agriculture, but the fact is that the maltsters reject barley dessicated with roundup why? Because it destroys the sprouting viability ….the life force of the seed…..its vitality? I could be wrong but I wonder if dead food leads to minds which are easily lead by marketing myths?

          • Neil

            Well I do like beer so maybe I am easily lead! You are right about maltsters. Because our crops’ plants are rarely at the exact same growth stage some plants not as far advanced have their germination process affected by preharvest glyphosate (the same is true for crops grown for seed). Where we will likely disagree is the testing done on those seeds and the results reviewed by federal government employees showing safe residue amounts for human consumption.

          • richard

            You must be referring to the same federal government employees (PhD scientists) who approved safe limits on feeding spinal tissue to cattle (BSE), growth hormones to dairy cows BST (mastitis), blood plasma to hogs (PED), antibiotics as prophylactics (antibiotic resistance), neonicotine (sudden colony collapse with bees), unimpeded use of glyphosate (superweeds), unrestricted use of nitrogen and phosphorous (eutrophication of watersheds)…..you mean those scientists? It occurs to me that blind faith in technology has never been an adequate replacement for critical thinking. That the public is ten years ahead of agribiz, is a function of the fact that industry has chosen to move forward with its eyes wide shut.

          • Neil

            With BSE, antibiotic resistance and nitrogen/phosphorous the science at the time was correct but as new information or more precise science became available decisions needed to be reassessed-same as human medicine. In the case of nitrogen and phosphorous farmers have done and will continue to change their practices to help protect surface and groundwater. The majority of those nutrients in large water bodies comes from city sewage, not agriculture. BST was never approved in Canada but was in the USA. PED cause I don’t know enough to comment on. With neonictinoid it is only one possible cause with bees. And I do agree there are glyphosate resistant weeds as to many other pesticides but I don’t blame the manufacturers’ as much as farmers for overuse. I was right we do disagree on the effectiveness of federal scientists approving/rejecting agriculture pesticides.

  • Amelia Jordan

    And thus glyphosate joins the list that includes working at night, drinking coffee, and the sun.

    This move means nothing and changes none of the studies on glyphosate toxicity.

    • ed

      Yes, you are right, it is quite dangerous.

      • Amelia Jordan

        No more dangerous than drinking coffee, a day at the beach, or even being a hair dresser. Glyphosate is not all that toxic. It is less toxic than capsaicin even. Very scary indeed.

        • Patton

          Monsanto in Britain says they are happy to label gmo’s,yet they sue the state of Vermont for requiring gmo labelllng.They spent millions in California and Washington state to fight gmo labelling…………..it is not safe period,but Monsanto is raking in the dough……lol.

    • Dayton

      So coffee is possibly carcinogenic and Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic (big difference). What would you suggest farmers do in the case of a glyphosate chemical overlap? Would that be considered highly probable? Happens all the time on every field.

    • Mr. B

      So, you’d not mind if your daughter poured herself a nice hot mug of
      herbicide? The UN health authority didn’t publish any warnings about
      coffee causing cancer, as far as I know.
      There are lots of studies done, but most of them are funded by the industry, so they aren’t to be trusted, sorry. There are some studies showing roundup to be bad for health, we should take them seriously.

  • Dayton

    How this chemical or any for that matter is allowed to be poured over breakfast cereal prior to harvest I’ll never know. Those handling it have to now be aware of the “probable” causes and risk these chemicals pose. Unlike coffee which is a possible cause of Cancer this one is deemed “probable”. Big difference!

    • Neil

      I don’t know of any chemical that is allowed to be poured over cereal unless you mean sugar. Please explain. We farmers have known since we started using pesticides that proper handling and use to limit exposure to the products is important for our safety. I would encourage you to read some of the independent university scientists’ responses (they are not working for Monsanto) . They are claiming that the IARC has been biased in their analysis. I think we should respect a WHO body so am interested in how the IARC counters these claims.

      • Ian Forrester

        Why don’t you list them? Do you include Kevin Folta as an “independent scientist”?

  • jack dale
  • COGowan

    Now two weeks after this article was posted, the IARC conclusion has been universally labeled a “big, steaming load.” Look around, folks: it’s politics pretending to be science.

  • Glysophate began its life as a boiler cleaner in 1964.

    It works extremely well as a boiler cleaner.

    Glysophate is a chelater of metals and was patented as such in 1964 by Stauffer Chemical Co. in 1964 (U.S. Patent No. 3,160,632).

  • NCF8710 .

    The UN and WHO have even less credibility than Monsanto.

  • DaddyPro

    Glyphosate (in very low levels) has also been recently linked to fatty liver disease in mammals. http://www.nature.com/articles/srep39328