Dietary exposure to glyphosate unlikely to cause cancer, U.N. report says

International researchers say their report suggests glyphosate does not cause cancer when ingested orally, but would not rule out any other cancer risk.
By Stephen Feller  |  May 16, 2016 at 4:39 PM
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GENEVA, Switzerland, May 16 (UPI) -- Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the weed killer Roundup, was found in an international report to be "unlikely" to pose a cancer threat to human who consume it through food.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization published a report Monday contradicting several studies in the last few years, including one by the WHO itself, saying that although exposure to the chemical in other ways may be dangerous, ingesting it orally is likely not carcinogenic.

Glyphosate is the most popular weed killer in the world and makes up about one-third of total sales for its manufacturer, Monsanto, but has been the subject of significant ire over concerns, and studies that suggest, the chemical can cause cancer.

The new report contradicts at least one other from the agencies, and clouds years of research showing that the chemical causes cancer. Researchers at the agency however sought to calm outrage by clarifying that the focus of the new report was not on overall risk, just that associated with eating.

"These conclusions relate to exposure through the diet -- that is very important," Harry van der Wulp, a senior policy officer at the FAO, told The Guardian. "It is not a general conclusion because anything beyond the diet was not in our mandate. It remains less clear what the situation is with occupational exposure. My personal assessment is that it is a very complex puzzle and we are adding more and more pieces to it, but it is not necessarily complete yet."

A WHO report released in March 2015, prepared by the organizations' International Agency for Research on Cancer, said the chemical "probably" causes cancer, and may be a large risk because it was detected in food, air and water.

A report in November contradicted this, however, as the European Food Safety Authority found the chemical probably isn't carcinogenic, but moved to establish a limit for its presence in food just in case.

The new WHO/U.N. report found glyphosate at levels as high as 2000 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, taken orally, was not linked toxic effects in animals, but that while it did not prove carcinogenic in rats, scientists were unsure in mice.

The new report is unlikely to deter advocacy against the chemical, as well as lawsuits filed against Monsanto over cancer that people blame on the chemical -- including a suit filed recently by three farmers and an agronomist in Nebraska who have cancer and blame the company for lying about whether their product played a role.

"Monsanto championed falsified data and has attacked legitimate studies that revealed Roundup's dangers," the lawsuit says, according to the Lincoln Journal-Star. "Monsanto led a campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers and the general population that Roundup is safe. Its continuing denial extends to the date of this Complaint."

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