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Glyphosate no carcinogen?

March 15, 2017

The EU's chemicals agency has concluded that one of the world's most widely used weed killers, glyphosate, cannot be classified as a carcinogen. It's contained in Monsanto's best-selling herbicide called Roundup.

Monsanto's Roundup
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/J. Roberson

"Glyphosate should not be classified as carcinogenic," the director of the European Chemicals Agency, Jack de Bruijn, said at a news conference in Brussels Wednesday.

He explained that the weed killer had not been found to cause genetic or reproductive defects, adding that the assessment was based on "extensive evaluation of all the information that was available for this substance."

In July 2016, EU member states approved an 18-month extension for glyphosate, pending the agency's report, but governments limited the use of the substance.

For many, doubts remain

Wednesday's assessment paves the way for Brussels to make a final decision on the chemical used in Monsanto's key herbicide, Roundup.

The European Commission now looks likely to allow the use of glyphosate for a much longer period despite deep divisions in the 28-member European Union. France and Malta opposed reapproving the weed killer the last time around, while Germany was one of seven nations to abstain on the issue.

The EU executive said Wednesday it "took note" of the agency's finding, adding that a decision would be made by the end of the year.

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Greenpeace-led opponents of glyphosate have frequently pointed to research findings from the World Health Organization (WHO), which insists that the substance may well be carcinogenic. They have demanded an outright ban on the use of glyphosate.

Harald Eber, a member of Germany's opposition Green party, said the assessment by the EU chemicals agency was a slap in the face of all those "who have been demanding better protection from unnecessary risks."

German environmental pressure group BUND argued that the widespread use of glyphosate had been responsible for the rapid decline in biodiversity on farmlands.

hg/sri (AFP, dpa)