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Monsanto is pushing back against a recent assessment by the World Health Organization (WHO), which warned that the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup probably causes cancer. The manufacturer describes the assessment as “junk science,” done with an agenda.
In a statement released on Monday, Monsanto indicates that the decision to label glyphosate a “probable carcinogen” goes against previous scientific studies showing the chemical to be safe.
Monsanto states that the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has no authority and will not affect the labeling of Roundup, which is used in more than 160 countries world wide.
“We are outraged with this assessment,” Monsanto’s chief technology officer, Dr. Robb Fraley, said in the press release. “This conclusion is inconsistent with the decades of ongoing comprehensive safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world that have concluded that all labeled uses of glyphosate are safe for human health. The result was reached by selective ‘cherry picking’ of data and is a clear example of agenda-driven bias.”
IARC, WHO’s cancer research division, released a report last week in the medical journal The Lancet Oncology, identifying five pesticides as probably cancer-causing agents. The pesticides cited in the report include glyphosate, tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, and diazinon.
The list was compiled by 17 experts from 11 different countries.
Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup products, which are the most widely used weed killers in the world. It is heavily used on corn and soybean crops that are genetically modified to survive exposure to weed killers.
“IARC’s work is not a study, and it references no new data or studies,” Fraley said. “Instead, IARC only looked at a limited number of existing studies. Respected agencies around the world have looked at the same studies, plus many more, and determined that all labeled uses of glyphosate are safe. IARC’s process is not transparent, its decision is irresponsible, and it has the potential to cause confusion about such an important issue as safety.”
Manufacturer Maintains Roundup Weedkiller is Safe
Monsanto said the chemical has been studied for three decades and two of WHO’s other groups, including the Core Assessment Group and the International Programme on Chemical Safety, have both deemed glyphosate to be safe for human health.
U.S. regulators have also said the weed killer is “considered safe.” According to the EPA,past studies have shown no reason to restrict the chemical. In 2013, Monsanto requested approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for increased tolerance levels for glyphosate in food and the agency agreed.
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.