Crop protection body hits out at calls for glyphosate regulatory action based on hazard rather than risk

The Crop Protection Association has said calls for regulatory action against the use of glyphosate based on IARC's hazard identification are unfounded and that risk assessments by global regulatory agencies remain valid "in the absence of any significant new information".

Nick von Westenholz
Nick von Westenholz

The statement followed the publication at midnight on the 14 July, of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)'s monograph which was used to classify glyphosate as a "probable carcinogen".

CPA chief executive officer Nick von Westenholz said: "It is important to understand the difference between IARC's work, i.e. the identification of a potential hazard of a product, and the work of the world's regulatory bodies. Regulators conduct risk assessments, taking into account hazard and exposure, to ensure that crop protection products are only approved for use when shown to be safe for humans and the environment.

"IARC recently clarified this distinction when it published a Question and Answer document on its website in which it states:

"The IARC Monographs Programme evaluates cancer hazards but not the risks associated with exposure."

"It is disappointing to see pressure groups misrepresenting the science in using this classification to promote their own agenda, whipping up concern amongst the public despite glyphosate's excellent safety profile. Let's not forget that IARC has made similar assessments of items such as coffee, mobile phones, pickled vegetables and aloe vera, products we are quite capable of using in our day to day lives while managing any risk. Crop protection products are no different.

"IARC uses limited data to identify a potential hazard, not risk, associated with an active ingredient. This is in stark contrast to the world's most robust regulatory bodies. In the European Union crop protection products undergo extensive reviews based on multi-year testing to assess risk and risk management in real world conditions.

"Calls for regulatory action against the use of glyphosate based on IARC's hazard identification are unfounded – risk assessments carried out by the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) and by major regulatory agencies around the world remain valid in the absence of any significant new information.

"Human health and responsible use of crop protection products is and must always be our highest priority. As an industry we take pride in the extreme rigor by which we assess our products, our detailed submissions to regulators and the subsequent confidence this gives to crop protection product users and the public at large – we do not want to see this process undermined."

Meanwhile,  Pesticides Action Network, Friends of the Earth and the Soil Association are calling for a UK ban on the use of glyphosate, with PAN and FOE campaigning to stop retailers from selling products with it as an active ingredient, such as Round Up. 

New figures analysed by the Soil Association from government data were released at a scientific briefing in London on 15 July 2015. The association said the figures show glyphosate use in UK farming has increased by 400 per cent in the last 20 years and it’s one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread - appearing in up to 30 per cent of samples tested by the Defra committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF). 

The Soil Association said Professor Christopher Portier, one of the co-authors of the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) recent report which determined Glyphosate’s status as a probable carcinogen, reiterated the IARC’s conclusions, and said: "Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic. There is no doubt in my mind."


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