BRUSSELS, Belgium (Reuters) — Glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer in humans, according to the European Food Safety Authority.
However, it nevertheless proposed new limits today on the amount of residue of the herbicide that is deemed safe for humans to consume.
The EFSA advises EU policymakers, and its conclusion could pave the way for the European Union to renew approval for glyphosate.
Environmental groups have been calling for a ban after the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, said in March that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
An environmental group said 1.4 million people had signed a petition calling on the EU to suspend glyphosate approval pending further assessment.
The EFSA said it had carried out a thorough analysis and taken account of IARC’s findings.
“This has been an exhaustive process, a full assessment that has taken into account a wealth of new studies and data,” said Jose Tarazona, head of EFSA’s pesticides unit.
“Regarding carcinogenicity, it is unlikely that this substance is carcinogenic.”
EFSA scientists, who worked with experts from EU member states, said their study differed from the IARC’s in that it considered only glyphosate, while IARC had assessed groups of related chemicals. They said the toxic effects could be related to reactions with other constituents.
However, they are for the first time proposing a limit on the maximum safe daily dose: .5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight.
That means a 175 pound person could eat food containing a residue of 40 milligrams of glyphosate per day for the rest of their life. Monsanto said that was the equivalent of eating 400 kilograms of fruit or vegetables a day.
EU member states, together with the European Commission, now have to decide over the coming months whether to renew the existing approval for glyphosate use in the EU.
Greenpeace called the EFSA’s report a whitewash.
“EFSA has defied the world’s most authoritative cancer agency,” said Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg.