Friday 20 April 2018

Weedkiller glyphosate 'not a carcinogen'

A decision on whether and when to propose reauthorisation rests with the European Commission Photo: Reuters
A decision on whether and when to propose reauthorisation rests with the European Commission Photo: Reuters

Sarah Collins

Controversial weedkiller glyphosate does not cause cancer, the EU's chemicals agency has said in a new report that clears the way for its licence to be renewed.

Last year, EU governments agreed to temporarily extend glyphosate's licence pending the report, which they hoped would heal a scientific split over the harm the chemical causes to humans.

The European Chemicals Agency's (ECHA) risk assessment committee has now concluded that "the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction".

A decision on whether and when to propose reauthorisation rests with the European Commission.

It will then be up to EU governments to accept or reject the proposal, with a decision due in the six months following the ECHA's report, or by the end of 2017 at the latest.

The Irish Farmers' Association welcomed the report, saying the failure to reauthorise glyphosate would have had "the potential to destroy the EU crop production sector in the near to medium term".

Glyphosate has been around since the 1970s and was last authorised in the EU in 2002.

Conflicted

It is the main ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicides and is in widespread use in Ireland and across the EU by gardeners and farmers of cereals, sugar beet and other crops.

The chemical came up for a 15-year renewal in 2015 but a decision was put off after a World Health Organisation (WHO) body classified it as "probably carcinogenic to humans".

The advice conflicted with the European Food Safety Authority, which found it was "unlikely" to be carcinogenic, a position echoed by a joint United Nations/WHO committee.

Green MEPs, who made an 'access to documents' request to the EU food safety authority last year, say this contradiction has not been resolved by the ECHA's new report.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News