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Glyphosate not carcinogenic, after all

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The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization have decided the chemical glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet,” reports The Guardian. The announcement stands contradictory to a warning last year by WHO’s cancer agency that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

The latest safety analysis only takes into account the chemical’s impact through diet and does not consider other forms of contamination like workplace exposure as a way the product (commonly sold as RoundUp) enters peoples’ bodies.

“Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weedkiller and made up a third of Monsanto’s total sales before taxes and interest last year,” says The Guardian’s report. “It is so ubiquitous that surveys show almost all Europeans have significant traces of the substance in their bodies.”

A sampling taken in April of 48 European Parliament members showed, on average, they had 17 times the amount in their systems allowable in drinking water.

As to how the WHO could have come to a different conclusion this time around, the organization explained the latest report builds on the first, by being more focused on actual health risks versus the potential to cause harm, says Politico. For many advocates, though, whether the chemical is dangerous to human health is only part of the controversy.

Molly Scott Cato, a member of the European Parliament from England, told The Guardian there are also “concerns for its impact on biodiversity, with evidence of glyphosate having detrimental impacts on the honey bee, monarch butterfly, skylark and earthworm populations, and posing a threat to the quality of our soil.”

Greenpeace said two of the experts on the WHO panel have industry ties, including a board member from the International Life Sciences Institute, which is partially funded by Monsanto, according to Politico.

Meanwhile, industry representatives claim that the first WHO panel, which called glyphosate carcinogenic, included an anti-glyphosate campaigner.

The European Commission had scheduled a vote for May 19 to relicense glyphosate, but it was delayed amongst infighting by member nations over the issue. If the EU doesn’t vote to relicense the chemical by June 30, European retailers would have six months to take glyphosate off the shelves.

Larry Dreiling can be reached at 785-628-1117 or ldreiling@hpj.com.

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