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Monsanto Co. is hiring an independent research company to convene a panel of experts to review concerns surrounding the safety of glyphosate, the key ingredient in their blockbuster product Roundup, which recent reports suggest may cause cancer.
The company has arranged for Intertek Scientific & Regulatory Consultancy, using a panel of international researchers and scientific experts, to review the safety of Roundup on crops and as a home-gardening product.
An announcement was made on Tuesday, following a study published in March by the World Health Organization (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which concluded the key ingredient in Roundup was carcinogenic and probably causes cancer.
The study highlighted potential dangers of glyphosate, as well as four other pesticides, including tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion and diasinon.
The IARC team of 17 international expert scientists reviewed scientific literature and published studies concerning the safety of the product. Roundup is the most widely used weed killer in the world.
In response to the IARC findings, Monsanto expressed outrage and demanded a retraction of the study, calling it “junk science.” The company said the decision goes against previous scientific studies showing the chemical to be safe, and has continued to defend their blockbuster weed and grass killer.
Now the company has arranged for an outside team of international scientists, researchers, cancer experts and medical professionals to conduct an investigation into the risk of cancer from Roundup. The panel is allegedly independent of Monsanto, however the manufacturer will provide the information and data to be reviewed.
Monsanto President Brett Begemann said he was confident in the safety of the product and said the initial study caused much confusion. He also said the review is being done to reassure consumers and regulatory agencies about the safety of the chemical.
Consumer use of Roundup began to skyrocket in the mid 1990s, after Monsanto introduced genetically engineered crops to withstand treatment with Roundup, killing the weeds and not the crops. Genetically modified crops, like corn and soybean, are branded as being “Roundup Ready.”
Some weeds have developed resistance to glyphosate, thus forcing farmers to use higher quantities of Roundup.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimated agricultural use of glyphosate increased drastically from 110 million pounds in 2002, now to more than 283 million pounds in 2012.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in April that it plans to address the safety concerns of glyphosate during the regular EPA safety review hearing occurring soon. Researchers warn pesticides are commonly detected in the air, food and water near areas that have been sprayed.
France recently banned the sale of Roundup at garden centers across the country, following the safety concerns. The ban was enacted in April, and French officials said they plan to ban the use of all pesticides for home-gardening by 2022. The decision was reached one month after the findings of the IARC study were published.