In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialist agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” in a reversal of its own past classification. “Category 2A: probably carcinogenic” means that some evidence of an elevated potential for harm exists, but that researchers cannot rule out the possibility that cancer cases could also be attributed to other factors. It should also be noted that the assessment was at all times related to glyphosate exposure at a farmer’s workplace and not, for example, the uptake of very small quantities of glyphosate in food. Next to glyphosate, the IARC lists a number of other things in the same category – hot beverages heated above 65° Celsius, red meat, shift work and the hairdressing profession.
The important thing is that the IARC assesses only the fundamental potential for harm of a substance. Factors such as the area of application, the dose used or direct contact play no part in this assessment. The IARC does not comment on whether there is a specific link between an allegedly carcinogenic active ingredient and correct use of a crop protection product.
A large number of scientific studies, evaluations by regulatory bodies all over the world and decades of practical experience, on the other hand, all confirm that glyphosate is safe.
More than 800 studies have concluded that glyphosate is safe when used in accordance with the label instructions. This was recently confirmed yet again by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) group in the United States. The United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA, the European Food Safety Authority EFSA, the European Chemicals Agency ECHA and all the other regulatory bodies worldwide have also concluded that glyphosate is safe and “not carcinogenic”.
Long-term study with 50,000 persons
One of the more than 800 safety studies performed with glyphosate was part of the Agricultural Health Study (AHS). Source For 25 years, this study has been continuously monitoring farmers in Iowa and North Carolina who regularly use crop protection products. It is publicly funded; the researchers work at the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Environmental Protection Agency and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, all of which are government bodies in the United States.
The observation study was commissioned by the U.S. government in order to determine the impact of agricultural practices, lifestyle and genetic factors on the health of farmers and their families.
The data has been used to carry out various evaluations seeking to identify a possible relationship between the use of specific products and various forms of cancer and other health impairments. The long-term study that followed approximately 50,000 pesticide applicators, 45.000 of whom use regularly glyphosate, found no association between glyphosate use and cancer. Source
The fact that the study focused on end products containing glyphosate also invalidated assumptions that the additives present in the products could cause cancer.
The IARC did not use this study to assess glyphosate since it had not yet been published when the IARC’s final report was written. Source