EU whitewash on cancer risk from world’s most used weedkiller

Overreliance on unpublished industry studies leads EU food agency to recommend glyphosate approval

Press release - November 12, 2015
Brussels – A report released today by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) could pave the way for EU re-approval of the world’s most used weedkiller – glyphosate – which has been linked to cancer by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The report heavily relies on unpublished studies commissioned by glyphosate producers and dismisses published peer-reviewed evidence that glyphosate causes cancer, said Greenpeace.

Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “EFSA’s safety assurances on glyphosate raise serious questions about its scientific independence. Much of its report is taken directly from unpublished studies commissioned by glyphosate producers. The evidence of harm is irrefutable but EFSA has defied the world’s most authoritative cancer agency in order to please corporations like Monsanto.”

EFSA evaluated six animal experiments that the WHO did not include in its review because the data has not been published or peer reviewed. Several of these industry studies support the IARC classification by showing increased cancer rates in animals, but EFSA claims these cannot be attributed to glyphosate.

In the coming months, the European Commission will recommend whether glyphosate should still be used in the EU after its current approval runs out on 30 June 2016. An EU technical committee is expected to examine the Commission’s recommendation in early 2016.

In March, the WHO’s agency for research on cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen [1].

Under EU law, a “presumed” link to cancer means a pesticide cannot be used, unless human exposure can be shown to be “negligible” [2]. Glyphosate is so widely used that human exposure is unavoidable. It is commonly found in the air, in water, in city parks, on farmland and in food, such as bread.

Health risks associated with the use of glyphosate, including the link to cancer, will also be investigated by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). However, ECHA is not expected to release its report until 2017.

Achterberg added: “The dispute between scientists is not over, and what’s more, the EU’s chemicals agency could take a different view from EFSA. It makes no sense to give glyphosate another ten-year licence until that process is over. After its failure to protect the health of Europeans from car emissions, the Commission should not make the same mistake on pesticides.”

Environmental and health organisations have called for a ban of all uses of glyphosate where people and workers are most exposed [3]. They have urged the Commission to take full account of the WHO’s warning, and to base its decision on the advice of both EU agencies.



[1] IARC press release, 20 March 2015:

[2] Regulation 1107/2009:

[3] Civil society letter, 29 October 2015:



Franziska Achterberg – Greenpeace EU food policy director: +32 (0)498 362403,

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,

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