The EU body that assesses scientific research on glyphosate has recommended a controversial report - which said the pesticide was "probably carcinogenic to humans" - should be examined by an EU committee of experts.
The Bundesinstitut fur Risikobewertung (BfR) - German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment - is the EU-nominated body that recently revaluated the pesticide as part of the normal periodic revision process.
It named 300 toxicology studies and 900 publications from scientific journals in its draft report, published last year, which concluded that the available data shows neither carcinogenic nor mutagenic properties. Glyphosate has no toxic effect on fertility or reproduction and is not considered to pose any risk to human health, it found.
This report is in the hands of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), which circulates it to interested parties and the public before reporting results to the European Commission, which will eventually vote on whether or not to renew approval for glyphosate.
But following last month's surprise decision by World Health Organisation (WHO) cancer division the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to classify glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans", the BfR has submitted a revised assessment report and a preliminary evaluation of the IARC's assessment, and has judged it would be "inexpedient" for the BfR to comment.
Instead it has called on "a European expert panel under the direction of EFSA" to examine the data, called the monograph, behind the IARC's decision and said the results should be incorporated into the EU-wide revised assessment of the active substance.
In addition, the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), which is ultimately the competent authority for the legal classification of glyphosate, should be involved in the very early stages of discussions, it added.
In a statement, the organisation said: "The BfR recommends emphatically that all those involved in the assessment of glyphosate, WHO panels, IARC and JMPR (Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues), as well as the competent EU authorities EFSA and ECHA, should discuss the current disputable issues, with the aim of resolving the discrepancies, before the EU Commission makes a decision on the further approval of glyphosate."
Monsato response - Publish the monograph
"I feel that the BfR's comments are perfectly normal," said Monsanto business director Gary Philpotts. "They have already stated that they are surprised at the findings of IARC, considering the extensive four-year review of all available data on the safety of glyphosate by the BfR that concluded no change in the active's safety profile.
"The BfR understandably, like many interested parties, would like IARC to publish the monograph to understand why they have arrived at their conclusion on glyphosate and to resolve the disputable issues."