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WHO Flags Pesticide Glyphosate As Probable Carcinogen But EU Says Weedkiller Unlikely To Cause Cancer

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After a thorough study, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded that the pesticide glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer.

This is in response to environmental groups calling for the pesticide to be banned after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the World Health Organization's cancer research arm, reported last March that glyphosate can most likely cause cancer. The group claimed that their petition asking the European Union (EU) to suspend the chemical's approval for use was able to gather at least 1.4 million signatures.

However, based on EFSA's findings - and despite taking the IARC's report into account - the EFSA claimed that the substance was not likely to cause cancer.

"This has been an exhaustive process," explained Jose Tarazona of the EFSA's pesticide unit, who said that the agency looked into as much research as they could on the matter before coming to their conclusion that the pesticide was not carcinogenic.

Safe To Be Consumed

The EFSA also proposed a limitation on the maximum daily dose that can be considered safe to be consumed over a year. The currently proposed dose is 0.5 miligrams per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

The EFSA scientists said that an 80-kilogram (176-pound) person can eat food with up to 40 milligrams (8.8 pounds) of residual glyphosate safely every year. Monsanto, the agricultural company behind the weedkiller, said that figure was equal to consuming around 400 milligrams (882 pounds) of produce a day.

The EFSA said that the study they conducted differed from the IARC's because theirs focused only on glyphosate while IARC studied glyphosphate alongside other related chemicals. The carcinogenic effects could have been related to glyphosate's reactions with the other compounds.

Mixed Responses

Sweden, one of the 28 nations under the EU, did not wholeheartedly agree with the recommendations, citing that the IARC's findings were able to meet the country's criteria for evidence to consider the pesticide can cause cancer. Non-governmental environmental organization Greenpeace called EFSA's report "a whitewash" that disregarded the findings of what it considers to be the world's foremost authority on cancer.

As expected, Monsanto and other users and promoters of glyphosate responded positively to the report.

"It confirms the previous evaluations of glyphosate by regulatory authorities around the world ... That the application of glyphosate poses no unacceptable risk," said Richard Garnett, chair of the Glyphosate Task Force.

The report was submitted to EU regulators, who have up to June of next year to come to a final decision.

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