There is an ideological battle going on in Europe now about how pesticides should be regulated, and several of the main actors have recently taken the gloves off over glyphosate, the principle herbicide used today in such products like Monsanto’s Roundup, but available in generic form, reports David Zurak & Jon Entine for The Genetic Literacy Project.
EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority (Europe’s FDA), is responsible for conducting risk assessments and advising the EU on food safety issues, including pesticides. It gathers all of the scientific evidence and determines if and how to manage the risks (for consumers, users, producers). If there are data gaps, they request more information from industry, the academe, researchers and then make a decision. On glyphosate, they have taken account of the 1000s of studies and concluded that the herbicide is safe.
On the other side is the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which doesn’t do risk management but decides whether a substance can be considered as a carcinogen (they do hazard assessments)–a cancer causing agent. In 2015, IARC held a working group to reevaluate glyphosate. There have been more than 800 studies on glyphosate; IARC set aside the findings of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)–which does risk assessments for the European Commission. BfR had done a formal risk assessment of glyphosate for the European Commission, concluding: “the available data do not show carcinogenic or mutagenic properties of glyphosate nor that glyphosate is toxic to fertility, reproduction or embryonal/fetal development in laboratory animals.”