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As debate over the link between Roundup and cancer continues in the scientific and regulatory community, it appears that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accidentally posted, and then immediately pulled down, a report that suggested the active ingredient in the weed killer, glyphosate, is safe. However, officials with the agency indicate that a formal review will not be completed until later this year.
A number of media reports indicate documents briefly posted by the EPA earlier this week indicate that herbicide glyphosate is “not likely” to cause cancer.
While the documents were quickly removed and EPA officials confirmed that the review remains incomplete, the posting of the documents suggest that some reviewers inside the agency disagree with a March 2015 determination by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that glyphosate is a likely human carcinogen.
The report was first noticed Friday, on the EPA’s Regulations.gov website, but was taken down on Monday. While the EPA said the reports were preliminary, they were reportedly labeled “FINAL” and dated October 1, 2015.
The use of glyphosate has skyrocketed in recent years, amid Monsanto’s marketing strategy of creating “Roundup Ready” genetically modified seeds for crops, which are designed to withstand heavy use of the herbicide, but have resulted in more and more of the herbicide being sprayed on farm lands.
To date, about 18.9 billion pounds of glyphosate have been sprayed on the world’s crops, according to estimates of a recent study. Researchers found that glyphosate use has increased almost 15-fold since the introduction of “Roundup Ready” crops in 1996.
The EPA’s glyphosate review has been ongoing since 2009, but took on a new urgency after the IARC warning last year.
In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will begin monitoring glyphosate residue in certain foods, which it has never done before.
A recent U.S. Geological Survey on glyphosate usage nationwide found that an estimated 2.6 billion pounds of the herbicide has been sprayed on America’s agricultural land over the two decades since the mid-1990s, when Monsanto introduced “Roundup Ready” crops that are designed to survive being sprayed with glyphosate, killing the weeds but not the crops.
In all that time, the FDA has never tested for residue or buildup in the food sold to Americans nationwide. In a report published in 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the FDA for this deficiency in its pesticide program.
Although Monsanto has attempted to dismiss the cancer concerns, the company faces a growing number of Roundup lawsuits in courts nationwide, typically involving individuals diagnosed with a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma following heavy exposure to the herbicide as a farm or agricultural worker. The complaints allege that plaintiffs may have avoided a cancer diagnosis if they had been warned about the Roundup risks, as safety precautions could have been taken or other products could have been used to control the growth of weeds.