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Controversial Monsanto herbicide 'unlikely' to cause cancer

May 17, 2016

A new UN-backed study has found that glyphosate will most likely not cause cancer in normal quantities of exposure. This apppeared to contradict an earlier report that the chemical would "probably" be carcinogenic.

Deutschland Traktor Unkrautbekämpfung Herbizid
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Heimken

In a blow to critics who have long called for its ban, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that the controversial weedkiller glyphosate is "unlikely" to cause cancer in humans. Glyphosate is used by agrochemical producers including industry giant Monsanto as the key ingredient of its herbicide Roundup.

"Glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet," said the review conducted by WHO experts alongside colleagues from the Food and Agriculture Organization.

This seemed to contradict a report from March 2015, wherein WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) found that glyphosate "probably" caused cancer. This caused international organizations like Greenpeace to call on government to ban the substance, and last month the European Parliament urged the EU to approve the chemical's use for only seven years instead of the fifteen suggested by the bloc's regulator.

WHO insisted, however, that the two studies were not contradictory. The first study, the organization explained, was based on a slightly different premise – to discover whether or not glyphosate posed any health "hazard." This includes abnormally high levels of exposure.

The EU pesticides committee is set to meet on Monday to decide whether to extend permission for glyphosate use. France and Austria have expressed their opposition to the chemical, whereas Germany and Britain are generally in favor of allowing its usage.

es/ (AFP, Reuters)