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EU Parliament: hearing on “the Monsanto papers and glyphosate”

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Spraying pesticides

The pesticide glyphosate is classified as being probably carcinogenic for humans. (Photo © Fotolia)

Yesterday, the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) and the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) held a public hearing in the European Parliament concerning “the Monsanto papers and glyphosate”. As Monsanto recently refused to attend the public hearing, the panels took place without the agrochemical corporation.

The hearing was structured in three panels with different speakers from research institutions, NGOs and public authorities such as Prof Christopher Portier from Maastricht University; Dr José Tarazona, Head of Pesticides Unit at EFSA; Carey Gillam, U.S. Right to Know; and Tim Bowmer, Chairman of the ECHA Committee.

Authorities’ insufficient consideration of independent research

Within the hearing, among others, Prof Portier criticized the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as well as the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) for their improvident dealings with the European Commission’s proposal to re-authorize the pesticide glyphosate. Beyond that, he expressed his serious concerns about the European agencies’ positive evaluation of glyphosate, as they adopted the industry’s data without further review and considered independent research results insufficiently.

In addition to Prof Portier’s remarks, Kathryn Guyton, WHO-toxicologist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), stated that though only limited evidence for carcinogenicity of glyphosate for humans was found, sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of animals has been noticed. According to these findings, the IARC has classified the chemical substance glyphosate as being probably carcinogenic for human beings.

Criticism of blind faith in the positive evaluation of glyphosate

While the European Commission gets criticized for its blind faith in evaluations of glyphosate by EFSA and ECHA, and lobby control guards demand EU agencies to operate transparent and independent of the companies whose products they have to evaluate, José Tarazona, head of the pesticides department at EFSA rejected any allegations of non-transparency. He explained that EFSA didn’t only use studies conducted by the industry, but research from 24 companies as well as 1,500 own studies concerning toxicity of the chemical. As a result, the agency concluded that glyphosate isn’t carcinogenic. Additionally, he stated that EFSA’s evaluations are accessible online.

As a reaction to the remarks by the authorities of the EU agencies EFSA and ECHA, Martin Häusling (Greens), member of the agricultural and environmental committee in the European Parliament, expressed his serious doubts of the independence of European control of the pesticide glyphosate. As the studies of the industry, which served as a basis for the positive evaluation of the chemical, are only accessible under secrecy restrictions and aren't open for the public, the evaluation process for the re-authorization of glyphosate is not transparent. In order to protect the health of humans, the environment as well as the reliance of consumers and farmers, he demands a reform of risk evaluations within the EU and calls upon the European Commission to act resolutely by reviewing the authorization process of glyphosate.

Similar to Monsanto, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), originally being responsible for the evaluation of glyphosate, decided not to attend the hearing too.


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