Safety a “disaster”: Cancer researchers question glyphosate studies

Harmlessness a “disaster”
Cancer researcher doubts glyphosate studies

In addition to the International Agency for Cancer Research, experts consider the plant toxin glyphosate to be harmless. A Viennese cancer researcher takes a closer look at the studies on which the EU seal of approval is based. He comes to the conclusion that the database is faulty and out of date.

According to a “Spiegel” report, the Viennese cancer researcher Siegfried Knasmüller doubts the safety assessment of glyphosate by EU authorities. A study by the toxicologist suggests that this assessment is based on questionable and outdated research, the magazine reported. The cancer researcher examined 53 studies on possible genetic damage that the industry had submitted to the EU approval authorities.

According to “Spiegel”, these studies were kept under lock and key for a long time because of supposed industrial secrets, but in 2019 the court of the European Union in Luxembourg ended this blockade at the instigation of a non-governmental organization.

Knasmüller considers the studies that are supposed to prove the harmlessness of glyphosate to be a “disaster”. Sometimes the number of cells examined was not enough, sometimes not enough bacterial strains were used. Most of the time, the tests would not have met the OECD standards in force in 2014. Nevertheless, in 2015 the Berlin Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), which was commissioned with the risk assessment for the EU, described most of these tests as “acceptable”, according to the report. In contrast to the state examiners, who considered 85 percent of the genotoxicity studies to be acceptable, Knasmüller rated only 4 percent as reliable, as the “Spiegel” reported on.

Bayer Group sticks to safety

The dangers of the pesticide glyphosate have been debated for years. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the active ingredient as “probably carcinogenic”. At the end of 2017, the EU Commission extended the approval of glyphosate by five years and now has to make a new decision. A first round of talks is to take place in September and then the EU member states will be involved. A final recommendation from EFSA is expected in the second half of 2022.

Glyphosate was developed by the Bayer subsidiary Monsanto and marketed by the Americans and now also by Bayer under the Roundup brand name. The herbicide is also manufactured by other companies, as the patent has expired for years. Bayer is faced with around 9,300 plaintiffs because of the weed killer in the United States, as glyphosate is suspected of being carcinogenic. The Leverkusen-based agrochemicals and pharmaceuticals company has repeatedly asserted that glyphosate is safe when used properly, referring to more than 800 scientific studies.