PORTLAND, Ore.— An EPA analysis relying heavily on unpublished, industry funded studies has determined that glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” The EPA determination, released to the public on Friday, stands in sharp contrast to a finding last year by the World Health Organization’s cancer-research arm that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen.
“EPA’s determination that glyphosate is non-carcinogenic is disappointing, but not terribly surprising — industry has been manipulating this process for years,” said Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The analysis done by the World Health Organization is more open and transparent and remains the gold standard.”
The EPA’s analysis relied heavily on industry-funded studies that have not undergone public scrutiny, while the WHO used publically available research for its analysis. Furthermore, the WHO took into account studies on actual products that are available on store shelves, while the EPA ignored those studies to focus solely on studies that tested glyphosate as a single ingredient. Most products containing glyphosate have other ingredients that can make the pesticide more dangerous.
“We shouldn’t gamble with the risk of cancer and must take appropriate precautions until we get a conclusive answer about the true dangers of glyphosate,” said Donley. “The indiscriminate drenching of farms, ball fields and backyards with glyphosate needs to end.”
The EPA’s industry-friendly determination comes amid a fierce debate in Europe and the United States over the safety of glyphosate.
In February 35 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concerns regarding the potential negative health and environmental impacts of a pesticide, Enlist Duo, that combines glyphosate and 2,4-D. The agency is currently reanalyzing its decision to register the dangerous pesticide after it was revealed that the industry had withheld data on how the pesticides work in combination with other ingredients to have a stronger effect on the environment.
This finding comes as the EPA is in undertaking a “registration review” of glyphosate, a process designed to determine whether the chemical can safely be used in light of new scientific research. These documents will inform the agency’s decision on whether to allow glyphosate to be used for the next 15 years. The last time the EPA fully analyzed the threats posed by glyphosate was 1993.