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Roundup® a Carcinogen? Never Mind the Science…

Today, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has departed from the scientific consensus to declare glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup®, to be a class 2A “probable human carcinogen”. This contradicts a strong and long standing consensus supported by a vast array of data and real world experience, and comes from an organization that rarely addresses potential pesticide carcinogenicity, perhaps because the real concerns in this area are minimal, and lie elsewhere. The IARC statement is not the result of a thorough, considered and critical review of all the relevant data. It is beyond the pale.

A vast body of relevant information, including dozens of detailed genotoxicity, studies, animal bioassays, peer-reviewed publications and regulatory assessments, that show no evidence of carcinogenicity, and confirm its safety were presented to the IARC, but seem to have been ignored. On the other hand, witnesses report one paper so severely criticized and discredited that it was condemned by the scientific community and withdrawn by the publisher was actually taken on board by IARC.

That the IARC seems to have even considered such a fatally flawed and withdrawn paper triggers the Séralini Rule: “If you favorably cite the 2012 Séralini rats fed on Roundup® ready maize study, you just lost the argument.” The fact that IARC seems to be taking seriously this laughingstock publication suggests they have run thoroughly off the rails, gone beyond anything defensible as science, and well into fictional realms.

Scientific experts who have considered the body of relevant research do not agree with a categorization of glyphosate as carcinogenic for a very simple reason – it’s clearly not. There is nothing in the data to support such claims, and nothing in the deep reservoir of real world experience with glyphosate, to justify such a move. IARC did not consider any new research or data, and all the information they considered has already been evaluated by regulatory bodies around the world. The most recent of these reviews was conducted by Germany on behalf of the European Union.

IARC, a semi-autonomous “extension” of the World Health Organization, has been criticized before for advancing unsupportable conclusions reached using flawed methodology. But IARC’s assault on glyphosate breaks new ground, which is all the more ironic given its clearly superior safety profile compared to the likely alternatives. Glyphosate lacks the chemical structural characteristics of known carcinogens, and neither IARC nor anyone else has ever offered an even remotely plausible mechanism of carcinogenicity. No new data have been advanced to support this categorization, which can be reached only by ignoring and defying a vast body of data and experience. One might be forgiven for suspecting the intrusion of politics into the process; a suspicion not weakened by noting that one of the participants is employed by the Environmental Defense Fund, an organization of professional campaigners that has recently faced charges of manufacturing chemophobic alarms without scientific basis.

It seems IARC is in dire need of some adult supervision. Whether or not WHO finds the bureaucratic courage to apply such, and correct this policy miscarriage, remains to be seen. If they don’t will IARC start picking off the entire list of agrochemicals?

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  • First Officer

    Not sure they actually cite Seralini’s work even if they may have considered it. But i haven’t checked the citings in the citings.

    Still, where are all the cancer incidence increases?

    From their statement:

    “1 International Agency for Research on Cancer
    Volume 112: Some organophosphate
    insecticides and herbicides: tetrachlorvinphos,
    parathion, malathion, diazinon and
    glyphosate. IARC Working Group. Lyon;
    3–10 March 2015. IARC Monogr Eval Carcinog
    Risk Chem Hum (in press).

    2 Parker CM, Van Gelder GA, Chai EY, et al.
    Oncogenic evaluation of tetrachlorvinphos in
    the B6C3F1 mouse. Fundam Appl Toxicol 1985;
    5: 840–54.

    3 National Toxicology Program. Bioassay of
    parathion for possible carcinogenicity.
    Natl Cancer Inst Carcinog Tech Rep Ser 1979;
    70: 1–123.

    4 Cabello G, Valenzuela M, Vilaxa A, et al. A rat
    mammary tumor model induced by the
    organophosphorous pesticides parathion and
    malathion, possibly through
    acetylcholinesterase inhibition.
    Environ Health Perspect 2001; 109: 471–79.

    5 Waddell BL, Zahm SH, Baris D, et al. Agricultural
    use of organophosphate pesticides and the risk
    of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma among male
    farmers (United States). Cancer Causes Control
    2001; 12: 509–17.

    6 McDuffi e HH, Pahwa P, McLaughlin JR, et al.
    Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and specifi c pesticide
    exposures in men: cross-Canada study of
    pesticides and health. Cancer Epidemiol
    Biomarkers Prev 2001; 10: 1155–63.

    7 Eriksson M, Hardell L, Carlberg M, Akerman M.
    Pesticide exposure as risk factor for
    non-Hodgkin lymphoma including
    histopathological subgroup analysis. Int J Cancer
    2008; 123: 1657–63.

    8 Band PR, Abanto Z, Bert J, et al. Prostate cancer
    risk and exposure to pesticides in British
    Columbia farmers. Prostate 2011; 71: 168–83.

    9 Koutros S, Beane, Freeman LE, et al. Risk of total
    and aggressive prostate cancer and pesticide use
    in the Agricultural Health Study. Am J Epidemiol
    2013; 177: 59–74.

    10 US Environmental Protection Agency. Peer
    review of malathion: 18-month carcinogenicity
    study in mice.
    undated_004.pdf (accessed March 6, 2015).

    11 Alavanja MC, Hofmann JN, Lynch CF, et al.
    Non-Hodgkin lymphoma risk and insecticide,
    fungicide and fumigant use in the agricultural
    health study. PLoS ONE 2014; 9: e109332.

    12 Jones RR, Barone-Adesi F, Koutros S, et al.
    Incidence of solid tumors among pesticide
    applicators exposed to the organophosphate
    insecticide diazinon in the Agricultural Health
    Study: an updated analysis. Occup Environ Med
    2015 (in press).

    13 Hatjian BA, Mutch E, Williams FM, Blain PG,
    Edwards JW. Cytogenetic response without
    changes in peripheral cholinesterase enzymes
    following exposure to a sheep dip containing
    diazinon in vivo and in vitro. Mutat Res 2000;
    472: 85–92.

    14 De Roos AJ, Zahm SH, Cantor KP, et al.
    Integrative assessment of multiple pesticides as
    risk factors for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
    among men. Occup Environ Med 2003; 60: E11.

    15 WHO/FAO. Glyphosate. Pesticides residues in
    food 2004 Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on
    Pesticides Residues. Part II Toxicological. IPCS/
    WHO 2004; 95–162.
    (accessed March 6, 2015).

    16 Bolognesi C, Carrasquilla G, Volpi S, Solomon KR,
    Marshall EJ. Biomonitoring of genotoxic risk in
    agricultural workers from fi ve Colombian
    regions: association to occupational exposure to
    glyphosate. J Toxicol Environ Health A 2009;
    72: 986–97.”

  • Kaye Marie

    This is a joke right? It is really sad that you want people to believe this… There are hundreds of studies that prove glyphosate causes a multitude of cancers. Get out of big pharma’s pocket and get a life.