Glyphosate Risk Assessment Deadline Missed by EPA, as RoundUp Cancer Questions Continue

An environmental group indicates that federal regulators have missed a deadline for re-evaluating the potential health risk of the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp weed killer, which has been linked to serious questions about an increased risk of cancer. 

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release on December 30, announcing that the deadline had passed for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to complete a glyphosate risk assessment in 2015. The group also noted that the agency missed deadlines for similar risk assessments for other pesticides as well, including atrazine, and imidacloprid.

In March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization (WHO), warned that glyphosate probably causes cancer in humans, raising questions about the safety of Monsanto’s widely used Roundup weedkiller.

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Monsanto has complained that the IARC’s conclusions were agenda-driven and based on “junk science,” indicating that it would convene an independent panel to review the Roundup herbicide cancer risks. While the findings of this panel were presented last month, they have not been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal to date.

Roundup is one of the most widely used herbicides, which was introduced by Monsanto in the 1970s. A recent report on glyphosate usage by the U.S. Geological Survey found that an estimated 2.6 billion pounds of the herbicide has been used 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.

Genetically modified crops, such as corn and soybean, are branded as being “Roundup Ready.” However, as some weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, it has forced farmers to use higher and higher quantities of Roundup.

The missed risk assessment deadline comes despite assurances by the EPA in May that it would release the risk assessment before the end of the year, according to the Center.

“These risk assessments aren’t just bureaucratic boxes to be checked,” Lori Ann Burd, the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health director, said in the press release. “Every day that the EPA delays completing these much-needed reviews is a day that people and wildlife in the United States remain at risk from some of the most toxic chemicals in use today.”

In June, the Center reached a settlement agreement with the EPA which requires the agency to also conduct an assessment of the environmental impact of glyphosate and atrazine on 1,500 endangered plants and animals by June 2020.

Previous EPA Glyphosate Risk Assessments Questioned

The EPA has previously indicated that Roundup is safe, but that determination has been the subject of growing criticism and the agency is reportedly planning to re-address glyphosate safety in the coming months.

Some critics have indicated that the the EPA’s prior determination that glyphosate herbicides are not endocrine disruptors was based almost entirely on data provided by Monsanto and others within the industry, ignoring independent safety data.

European regulators recently indicated that they believe it is unlikely that side effects of Roundup cause cancer, but did recommend an exposure threshold for human safety, and proposed new controls to keep the chemical’s residue out of food.

That decision by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in November has also been highly criticized by independent researchers and academics.

A growing number of Roundup cancer lawsuits have been filed against Monsanto since the IARC ruling both as individual claims and class action lawsuits. In addition, a growing number of states, cities, and countries worldwide have enacted full or partial glyphosate bans to protect citizens from exposure.


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