In a major boost for farming groups, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has declared glyphosate to be non-carcinogenic.
The ECHA’s findings support the conclusion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which said glyphosate was ‘unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans’ in November 2015.
The European Commission had asked the EFSA to examine claims made by the International Agency for Research on Cancer that glyphosate posed a cancer risk.
Crop Protection Association chief executive Sarah Mukherjee said the ruling clearly showed the Commission should now reauthorise the chemical for the standard 15-year period.
“Glyphosate is, and always has been, safe”, she added.
“This ruling is another reminder this debate has never really been about safety, it has been hijacked and politicised to force a wider debate on modern agriculture. It is right we are having that debate, but it is wrong to use health scares to get there.
“Glyphosate is an essential part of the farmer’s toolkit, helping to tackle pests and produce healthy and safe food.
“Over 40 years of robust scientific evidence, supported by one of the most extensive human health, crop residue and environmental databases ever compiled on any pesticide shows no risk to safety.”
NFU vice president Guy Smith also welcomed the news, saying glyphosate helps to protect soil and cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the need for ploughing.
He joined Ms Mukherjee in calling on the Commission to reauthorise the chemical for a further 15 years and said the NFU would continue to ensure the facts about glyphosate’s safety were heard in the run-up to the decision being made.
The controversy surrounding glyphosate, however, is ongoing.
A group of environmental charities, including Greenpeace and the Pesticide Action Network, have attempted to bring the ECHA’s ruling into disrepute by claiming certain members of the risk assessment committee who made the decision have conflicts of interest.
In a letter to the executive director of the ECHA, they claimed Slawomir Czerczak and Tina Santonen were compromised because they provided risk assessment consultancy services to the chemical industry and called for the agency to ‘safeguard its independence’.
The ECHA said it saw ‘no cause for concern’ in response.