The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act Scientific Advisory Panel (FIFRA) will meet first on Tuesday to review a set of scientific issues regarding EPA’s evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other herbicides sold around the world.
The goal of the meetings is to determine how the EPA should interpret relevant data and how this information should translate into a “carcinogen risk” classification for glyphosate. This may seem like a strictly academic task, but powerful economic forces are at work when it comes to glyphosate, the most widely-used agricultural chemical in history.
If glyphosate is officially classified by the EPA as a carcinogen (cancer-causing substance), it could be devastating to Monsanto’s bottom line and even threaten its proposed $66 billion merger with Bayer AG. Monsanto is also facing dozens of lawsuits alleging cancer from Roundup, and the company is desperate for EPA backing to defend itself against the complaints.
The glyphosate / cancer link is nothing new. Dating as far back as the early 1970s, numerous scientific studies have raised concerns about the potential harmful effects of the chemical. Monsanto has always countered with its own studies and high-powered team of experts who claim that glyphosate is not carcinogenic, and in fact actually one of the safest pesticides ever brought to market.
The argument got even more heated in March 2015, when the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a report in The Lancet Oncology which declared that glyphosate “probably” causes cancer in humans. Those findings were particularly worrisome to consumers because glyphosate is so ubiquitous that government researchers have declared use of the chemical “widespread in the environment,” finding traces of it in common foods like honey, oatmeal and baby food.
Scientists, activists and agricultural industry leaders are all expected to attend this week’s meetings to voice their opinions on glyphosate, with the EPA setting aside more than 10 hours for personally delivered public comments before the panel.
The panel has 90 days to provide EPA with a written report. Once the agency has reviewed the report and made any appropriate changes, the full human health and ecological risk assessment will be released for a 60-day public comment period. EPA is currently scheduled to publish these documents early next year.
Source: The Hill