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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to wade into the debate over the safety of glyphosate, an herbicide used in Roundup and other popular weed killers.
According to a report by CropLife.com, the EPA is preparing to address glyphosate safety in a few months, when the herbicide comes up for its regular safety review.
In the agency’s last review, glyphosate was determined to be fairly safe. However, in March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) labeled the chemical a “probable carcinogen.”
IARC is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer research division. The group released a report last month in the medical journal The Lancet Oncology, identifying five pesticides and herbicides as probably cancer-causing agents. The chemicals cited in the report include glyphosate, tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, and diazinon.
The list was compiled by 17 experts from 11 different countries.
The determination by IARC outraged officials at Monsanto, the makers of Roundup, the most popular herbicide in the world. Monsanto officials called IARC’s determination “junk science” that was conducted based on an anti-Monsanto agenda.
According to CropLife Magazine, Carissa Cyran, the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Program’s chemical review manager, e-mailed a statement addressing the issue, saying that the EPA had not found any evidence that glyphosate caused cancer in its last review of the chemical. However, she also told the magazine that the herbicide comes up for review in a few months.
Cyran said at that time the EPA will address the recent IARC report and will release a new preliminary human health risk assessment for glyphosate.
Concerns regarding the safety of Roundup prompted a special EPA meeting last year to discuss the safety of glyphosate. The EPA heard from scientists, environmentalists and concerned mothers regarding the potential side effects of Roundup to decide on whether to place further restriction on the chemical, a decision is expected this year.
A study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) last year revealed pesticide residue is found in half of all food in the U.S. More than 8,500 samples of fruit, vegetables, infant formula, butter, salmon, groundwater and drinking water were tested for the study. Half contained detectable levels of pesticide residue, however 23 samples exceeded EPA safe tolerance limits.
Weed killers are commonly detected in the air, food and water near areas that have been sprayed, according to the report.