Glyphosate an unlikely carcinogen to humans – new report finds

Glyphosate is unlikely to be carcinogenic to humans, a new report on the herbicide commissioned by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in New Zealand has found.

The herbicide, which is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, made headlines in recent months over the EU’s failure to reach agreement on the renewal of the chemical.

The report found that the majority of human studies did not show an association between exposure to glyphosate and cancer.

Although a small number of studies with a limited number of participants found a weak association between glyphosate exposure and increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), others did not, it found.

Based on the inconsistency in the results of the studies on glyphosate exposure and NHL, and the lack of any association in the largest, most robust study, it was concluded that there is no convincing evidence of an association between glyphosate exposure and the development of cancer in humans.

The EPA, which approves and regulates glyphosate for use in New Zealand, commissioned the report amid ongoing public unease about its impact on people and the environment.

Ray McMillan, Acting General Manager of the EPA’s Hazardous Substances and New Organisms team said that the review confirms the EPA’s long-held findings, that at the present time glyphosate – with controls – is safe to use.

As with any chemical, glyphosate remains subject to our approval process which considers any likely impacts on human health and the environment.

“We ensure risks are managed by setting controls which cover how, when and where it should be used, and by whom.”

McMillan said that glyphosate has been approved for use in New Zealand since 1976 and it is one of around 30 chemicals currently listed on the Chief Executive-initiated Reassessment Programme.

“This means we continue to keep a watching brief on its status, and monitor international scientific findings or developments.

“If any new information comes to hand that makes us think further action is necessary, we can consider a formal review of its use,” he said.

The report also found that the herbicide should not be classified as a mutagen or carcinogen under New Zealand’s Harardous Substances and New Organisms (HSNO) Act.

The report takes into account three previous studies on glyphosate; all which have had different conclusions on the chemical.

Two reports said that it is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard while the other has said that it probably has the potential to cause cancer in humans.

A UN committee of FAO and WHO experts found that the chemical is unlikely to pose carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.

This followed an European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report in November of 2015 which also found that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.

Meanwhile, a contrasting report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in March last year, found that chemical probably has the potential to cause cancer in humans.

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