Glyphosate Task Force makes technical statement on IARC glyphosate Monograph

Since the publication of the IARC preliminary classification of glyphosate in The Lancet in March 2015, the IARC has taken steps to clarify its scope and purpose.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is an advisory body to the World Health Organisation and found glyphosate was a possible carcinogenic.

The Glyphosate Task Force (GTF), which is a consortium of companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, which is trying to get EU glyphosate registration renewed, said IARC had specified that it "evaluates cancer hazards but not risks associated with exposure".

But the GTF said the IARC conducted a limited hazard identification based on a subset of the literature on glyphosate, unlike regulatory agencies globally which conduct thorough risk assessments on pesticide active ingredients based on the totality of relevant available data.

The GTF said it was the role of regulatory agencies around the world to conduct thorough risk assessments and evaluate the safety of pesticide active ingredients. The regulatory risk-assessment approach "is built off of sound scientific procedures during which all available relevant information is considered; general principles of toxicology evaluation are honored (e.g. acceptance of historical control data, critical assessment of relevance, reliability, repeatability and experimental design of experiments, etc); and the weight of evidence is valued and considered in the context of toxicology classification".

The ongoing European regulatory evaluation of glyphosate has reviewed all available, relevant information on glyphosate, including the data considered by IARC, said GTF. As part of this review, regulatory evaluators have explicitly stated that they found no grounds to classify glyphosate for carcinogenicity, GTF added.

The GTF has also conducted a preliminary review of the IARC monograph. This preliminary review has identified what it termed "multiple shortcomings" in IARC's assessment. Specifically, GTF pointed out the following "shortcomings and flaws" in the IARC monograph:

• IARC's monograph does not present new research data. It does not consider new or original data on hazard, exposure or risk of glyphosate. All the key studies considered by IARC in the monograph have been previously reviewed and considered by regulatory agencies, most recently in the context of a comprehensive toxicology assessment conducted on behalf of the EU's ongoing regulatory review. No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen.

• Unlike regulatory agencies, IARC did not consider the total weight of evidence available for glyphosate. It is clear from the limited references listed in the monograph that the information actually selected for consideration by the IARC panel represents only a subset of the vast dataset available on glyphosate. Consideration of the complete dataset, as done by regulators globally, overwhelmingly supports the conclusions of safety and lack of carcinogenic potential of glyphosate.

• IARC selected data points and made very basic errors in data interpretation within each of the four areas of evidence they considered (animal carcinogenicity, exposure, genotox and epidemiology). These errors included reinterpreting or misinterpreting the findings of studies; citing old references and considering an incomplete review of the literature; relying on non-standard studies which used methods that have not been validated and /or not conducted according to international guidelines; and ignoring the findings of the largest and single most important study into the health of pesticide applicators in the United States.

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