A new draft report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that the herbicide glyphosate is not carcinogenic, Olive Oil Times reported on 24 August.

“Glyphosate cannot be classified as a carcinogen,” the Assessment Group of Glyphosate (AGG), which produced the report on behalf of the European Commission (EC), said.

“The drug can cause serious eye damage, but it is not carcinogenic, has no effect on the sex cells and does not affect reproduction.”

The findings followed intense lobbying from glyphosate-based herbicide manufacturers, including Bayer, to extend the use of glyphosate beyond 2022 in the European Union (EU), the report said.

One of the most widely used herbicides globally, glyphosate had been labelled by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015, which had led some European countries to ban it, Olive Oil Times wrote.

The IARC’s findings agreed with previous health and environmental experts’ analysis, which had said that glyphosate posed significant health risks, including the possibility of causing cancer, the report said.

This ruling had been the subject of numerous lawsuits that US agrochemicals company Monsanto, which Bayer purchased in 2018 for about US$63bn, had fought since 2016, Olive Oil Times said.

Following the ban, Monsanto denied the glyphosate-cancer link and lobbied for a 15-year renewal, according to the report.

The herbicide was granted a re-approval by the EU two years later, but only for five years.

However, many environmentalists and farmers’ organizations had criticised the decision, Olive Oil Times wrote.

With the EU’s permit for glyphosate due to expire in 2022, a consortium of eight glyphosate manufacturers – commonly known as Glyphosate Renewal Group – had submitted a request in 2019 to approve a renewal, the report said.

In response, the EC appointed four member states (Hungary, Sweden, France and the Netherlands) to look into the request for the renewal of approval. The four states formed the AGG.

After evaluating the dossier presented by the glyphosate manufacturers, the AGG held that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate chronic or acute consumer risk when crops were treated with glyphosate as long as it was used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, Olive Oil Times wrote.

The AGG added that the herbicide did not cause cancer, but maintained that glyphosate was toxic to aquatic life, as previous studies had indicated, according to the report.

On June 15, 2021, the AGG submitted its findings to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemical Agency (ECHA).

EFSA and ECHA would now begin the peer-review process before either approving or denying the renewal, Olive Oil Times wrote.

The GRG welcomed the new findings saying these conclusions were in line with other leading agencies worldwide, including the Environmental Protection Agency in the USA, according to the report.

However, health organisations and civil societies said that the information relied upon by the AGG was biased as it was based on glyphosate manufacturers’ studies, Olive Oil Times wrote.

“This new scientific analysis shows yet again that the European Union’s claim to having the most rigorous pesticide authorisation procedure in the world has to be taken with a heavy grain of salt,” Angeliki Lyssimachou, an environmental scientist at the Health and Environment Alliance, said.