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European regulators are releasing previously confidential scientific data on glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, which has been the subject of worldwide debate amid concerns that the herbicide may increase the risk of cancer.
The information is being provided by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which announced its plans to release the data in a September 29 press release. The data comes from a November 2015 study, which led the EFSA to determine that glyphosate was unlikely to be a cancer risk to humans.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a likely a cancer-causing agent. In particular, the IARC report linked the side effects of Roundup exposure to a potential increased risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
Monsanto has aggressively defended the safety of Roundup, one of the most important products for the company, criticizing the IARC’s decision and dismissing safety concerns as agenda driven and based on “junk science.”
The EFSA has also contradicted the IARC findings, declaring glyphosate to be safe. However, several countries in the EU have moved to ban glyphosate use, despite the European Commission’s recent decision to extend the license for glyphosate use for 12 to 18 months in late June.
The EFSA released the glyphosate data following a request by the Corporate Europe Observatory, and says the release is an effort to increase the transparency of the EFSA’s decision. The authority said it also will enable third-party scientists to scrutinize their decision.
“Transparency and openness are essential values for EFSA because they strengthen confidence in science,” Bernhard Url, EFSA’s Executive Director, said in the press release. “Sharing the data that underpin our work is a key ingredient in making science reproducible and therefore trusted. We will continue to make data available whenever we can, while striking the balance between transparency and the legitimate interest of study owners.”
Last month, the EPA issued its own findings on glyphosate, which also disagreed with the IARC assessment. EPA investigators said that glyphosate was not a likely carcinogen, although they noted they could not rule out an increased risk of non-Hodgkins lymphoma may be linked to the herbicide.
The EPA has announced that it will hold public hearings on glyphosate risks on October 18-21 in Arlington, Virginia.
Roundup Cancer Lawsuits
As debate continues within the medical and regulatory communities over the health risks associated with glyphosate, Monsanto now faces a growing number of Roundup lawsuits filed throughout the United States, 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 the manufacturer recklessly promoted Roundup and pushed greater and greater use of the chemical, without disclosing the potential health risks or warning about the importance of safety measures that may have reduced exposure to the chemical.
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.
The lawsuits over Roundup allege that plaintiffs may have avoided a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or other cancers if they had been warned about the Roundup risks for farmers, landscapers and others in the agricultural industry, as safety precautions could have been taken or other products could have been used to control the growth of weeds.