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Chemical Regulation

Glyphosate is not carcinogenic, US EPA says

Agency finds no human health risks associated with proper use of common herbicide

by Britt E. Erickson
January 31, 2020

The US Environmental Protection Agency has cleared the way for continued use of the herbicide glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, now produced by Bayer. Many other companies also sell generic herbicide formulations that contain glyphosate as an active ingredient.

Chemical structure of glyphosate

In an interim decision, the EPA concluded that glyphosate poses no risks to human health when used according to instructions on the label. The agency also says that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. The findings are consistent with those of the US Department of Agriculture, the European Food Safety Authority, and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. However, they are in contrast to the conclusion of the World Health Organization’s cancer agency, which declared in 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

The EPA’s evaluation of the risks of glyphosate to human health and the environment is ongoing, but the agency issued the interim decision for the parts of the assessment that are complete. The evaluation is part of a routine reregistration process that the agency conducts every 15 years for pesticides in the US marketplace. The EPA has yet to complete its assessment of the risks of glyphosate on threatened and endangered species. It is also still working on screening glyphosate for potential endocrine-disrupting effects. The agency expects to take at least another year to finish that work.

In the meantime, the EPA issued the interim decision so that it can enforce certain mitigation measures to ensure that glyphosate is used safely. Those include targeting herbicide sprays to intended weeds, protecting pollinators, and slowing down the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds.

Environmental and public health groups claim that the EPA has delayed a complete review of the risks of glyphosate to protect Monsanto and other pesticide companies. “EPA’s announcement that it has concluded its regulatory review of glyphosate is false,” Ryan Talbott, staff attorney at the Center for Food Safety—an advocacy group—says in a statement. “The truth is that after a decade of review, the EPA still has not conducted the necessary research on glyphosate’s impacts on human health and threatened and endangered species. EPA’s foot-dragging puts Monsanto’s interests ahead of farm workers, food safety, and endangered species.”



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