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Glyphosate ‘not likely to cause cancer to humans,’ EPA says

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It’s been an on-again, off-again sort of 18 months for glyphosate, which is manufactured by Monsanto and can be applied on commercial cotton, soybeans and corn crops that have been genetically-modified to metabolize the active ingredient in the herbicide.

The Environmental Protection Agency apparently has decided glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and a number of generic “look-a-like” herbicides, is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.

After months of what amounted to administrative hemming and hawing, the agency released a 227-page paper outlining its proposed position on the widely-used herbicide. Besides being applied on a majority of U.S. crop acres, the herbicide is used by millions of homeowners.

The report was published on the regulations.gov website Sept. 16. It and more than 80 other documents are expected to be the focus of a Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel or SAP review that is scheduled to be conducted from Oct. 18-21.

“The available data at this time do not support a carcinogenic process for glyphosate,” the EPA paper said. “Based on all of the available data, the weight-of-evidence clearly do not support the descriptors ‘carcinogenic to humans’ and ‘likely to be carcinogenic to humans’ at this time.”

EPA issued an 87-page report that was marked “Final Cancer Assessment Document” on the its website in early May of this year but later removed the document, saying it has been published inadvertently and the agency had not completed its review of the product.

IARC designation

It’s been an on-again, off-again sort of 18 months for glyphosate, which is manufactured by Monsanto and can be applied on commercial cotton, soybeans and corn crops that have been genetically-modified to metabolize the active ingredient in the herbicide.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer announced it was classifying glyphosate as a potential carcinogen. Scientists said the finding was based on a limited number of studies and wasn’t definitive.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy later denied reports agency personnel were involved in meeting with the IARC that led to its issuing of its glyphosate determination. The European Food Safety Authority, meanwhile, says glyphosate is “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.

In the paper released on Sept. 16, EPA said it could find no basis for “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.

“Considering the entire range of information, the evidence outlined above to potentially support the “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential” descriptor are contradicted by other studies of equal or higher quality and, therefore the data do not support this cancer classification descriptor,” the paper said.

U.S. an ‘outlier’?

The National Resources Defense Council blasted the EPA report, saying the assessment made the U.S. an “outlier on the growing global consensus of chemical’s (glyphosate’s) cancer danger.

“The EPA is abandoning farmers and farm families by greenlighting glyphosate,” said Jennifer Sass, who was identified as a senior scientist at the NRDC. “They are on the front line of pesticide health risks and regulators have kept them in the path of a chemical that has been linked to cancer.”

The NRDC claimed the EPA’s finding was at odds with the World Health Organization, which it said has determined glyphosate was “probably” carcinogenic to humans without noting that WHO officials have tried to distance themselves from the International Agency for Research on Cancer report.

“The EPA is sweeping many studies under the rug – some even by Monsanto – that show elevated cancer risks,” said Sass. “Now it’s up to the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Panel to reject this unscientific finding and prod the agency to set standards on glyphosate that keep people and the environment safe.”

Some experts are questioning the need for EPA to convene the Scientific Advisory Panel in Washington Oct. 18-21 now that EPA has released the paper. EPA now says it will issue its final ruling in the spring of 2017, a year after its document marked “final” was first released.

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