23rd March 2018, Volume 131 Number 1472

Jeroen Douwes, Andrea ‘t Mannetje, Dave McLean, Neil Pearce, Alistair Woodward, John D Potter

Glyphosate, an organophosphorus compound, is the most widely used herbicide in the world.1 in New Zealand, glyphosate is found in approximately 90 products, of which the best known is Monsanto’s…

Subscriber content

The full contents of this page is only available to subscribers.

To view this content please login or subscribe

Summary

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority (NZEPA) rejected this and commissioned a new report, concluding that glyphosate was unlikely to be genotoxic or carcinogenic to humans. We conclude that the NZEPA process for evaluating the carcinogenicity of glyphosate was flawed and urge that: the NZEPA report be withdrawn; the NZEPA respond to the concerns raised and for a reassessment to be conducted; and clearer process and better understanding of science be used to inform any future review of hazardous substances in New Zealand.

Abstract

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. The New Zealand Environmental Protection Authority (NZEPA) rejected this and commissioned a new report, concluding that glyphosate was unlikely to be genotoxic or carcinogenic to humans. The NZEPA has argued that the difference arose because IARC is a “hazard-identification authority”, whereas NZEPA is a “regulatory body that needs to cast the net more widely”. We conclude that the NZEPA process for evaluating the carcinogenicity of glyphosate was flawed and the post hoc justification invalid: there is no mention of risk assessment or “net-benefit approach” in the NZEPA report; and there is no discussion of current New Zealand glyphosate exposures. Further, the NZEPA report quotes heavily from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report, which is itself markedly flawed, and like the NZEPA report, relies heavily on industry-funded and industry-manipulated reviews. Given the scientific flaws in both reports we urge that: the NZEPA report be withdrawn; the NZEPA respond to the concerns raised and for a reassessment to be conducted; and clearer process and better understanding of science be used to inform any future review of hazardous substances in New Zealand.

Author Information

Jeroen Douwes, Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington; Andrea ‘t Mannetje, Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington; Dave McLean, Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington; Neil Pearce, Department of Medical Statistics, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom; Alistair Woodward, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Auckland University, Auckland; John D Potter, Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington.

Correspondence

Professor Jeroen Douwes, Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University, Wellington.

Correspondence Email

j.douwes@massey.ac.nz

Competing Interests

JD is a member of the steering committee of the International Agricultural Cohort Consortium. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), 2007–present; A’tM was a member of the IARC working group on the evaluation of carcinogenic risk to humans, Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides (which included glyphosate); DMcL was a member of the IARC working group on the evaluation of carcinogenic risk to humans, Volume 117: evaluation of the carcinogenicity of pentachlorophenol and some related compounds; AW was on the panel that reviewed the Environment and Radiation Section of IARC in 2017; NP has participated in several IARC Monograph Working Groups, and was Visiting Scientist at IARC in 1993. JDP was the US Representative, Science Council, IARC, 2001–2006; Vice-Chair, Science Council, IARC, 2004; and Chair, Science Council, IARC, 2005–2006. He was awarded the IARC Medal of Honour in 2012.

References

  1. Benbrook CM. Trends in glyphosate herbicide use in the United States and globally. Environ Sci Eur. 2016; 28(1):3.
  2. Ministry of Primary Industries. Glyphosate – Overview of Use and Monitoring in New Zealand December 2015. http://www.mpi.govt.nz/document-vault/10538 (accessed 27 Aug 2017 2.08 PM).
  3. Battlelines form for Roundup war. NZ Herald. 2015 9 Apr, 2015.
  4. Plume K. California to list herbicide as cancercausing; Monsanto vows fight 27 June 2017. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-glyphosate-california-idUSKBN19H2K1 (accessed 26 Aug 2017 4.12 PM).
  5. Schlanger Z. France Bans Sales of Monsantoʼs Roundup in Garden Centers, 3 Months After U.N. Calls It ‘Probable Carcinogenʼ 15 June 2015. http://www.newsweek.com/france-bans-sale-monsantos-roundup-garden-centers-after-un-names-it-probable-343311 (accessed 26 Aug 2017 12.52 PM).
  6. Sustainable Pulse. Dutch Parliament Bans Glyphosate Herbicides for Non-Commercial Use 4 April 2014. http://sustainablepulse.com/2014/04/04/dutch-parliament-bans-glyphosate-herbicides-non-commercial-use/-WaD3mK2B3XE (accessed 26 Aug 2017 4.24 PM).
  7. Davis D. Potential dangers of glyphosate weed killers, 19 March 2016. https://blog.oup.com/2016/03/dangers-glyphosate-weed-killers/ (accessed 26 Aug 2017 1.09 PM).
  8. Greenpeace. The EU glyphosate timeline 5 June, 2017. http://secured-static.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/Global/eu-unit/image/2017/20170605 BR glyphosate timeline_update.pdf (accessed 27 Aug 2017 3.00 PM).
  9. Stokstad E. Europe gives controversial weed killer a 5-year lease on life, 27 Nov 2017. http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/europe-gives-controversial-weed-killer-5-year-lease-life (accessed 21 December 4.01PM). 
  10. Temple W. Review of the Evidence Relating to Glyphosate and Carcinogenicity. Wellington: Environmental Protection Authority 2016.
  11. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Some organophosphate insecticides and herbicides: tetrachlorvinphos, parathion, malathion, diazinon and glyphosate. Lyon, France: IARC, 2015.
  12. Pearce N, Blair A, Vineis P, et al. IARC Monographs: 40 Years of Evaluating Carcinogenic Hazards to Humans. Environ Health Perspect. 2015; 123(6):507–14.
  13. Bruning JI, Browning S. Public Health Concern: Why did the NZ EPA ignore the world authority on cancer? http://www.greens.org.nz/sites/default/files/NZ EPA Glyphosate and Cancer 2017.pdf Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, 2017.
  14. Nine to Noon 3 August 2017 http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/201853403/epa-chief-scientist-fronts-up-on-hazardous-substances; 2017.
  15. Rural Report 31 July 2017. http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=201852997; 2017.
  16. Norheim OF, Jha P, Admasu K, et al. Avoiding 40% of the premature deaths in each country, 2010–30: review of national mortality trends to help quantify the UN Sustainable Development Goal for health. Lancet. 2015; 385(9964):239–52.
  17. Monsanto. IARC’s Report on Glyphosate 21 April 2017. http://monsanto.com/company/media/statements/glyphosate-report-response/ (accessed 26 Aug 2017 2.16 PM).
  18. European Food Safety Authority. Conclusion on the peer review of the pesticide risk assessment of the active substance glyphosate. EFSA J. 2015; 13(11).
  19. Portier CJ, Armstrong BK, Baguley BC, et al. Differences in the carcinogenic evaluation of glyphosate between the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). J Epidemiol Community Health. 2016; 70(8):741–5.
  20. De Roos AJ, Blair A, Rusiecki JA, et al. Cancer Incidence among Glyphosate-Exposed Pesticide Applicators in the Agricultural Health Study. Environ Health Perspect. 2005; 113:49–54.
  21. 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(9):e11.
  22. Andreotti G, Koutros S, Hofmann JN, Sandler DP, et al. Glyphosate Use and Cancer Incidence in the Agricultural Health Study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2017 Nov 9. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djx233.
  23. Kier LD, Kirkland DJ. Review of genotoxicity studies of glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2013; 43(4):283–315.
  24. Kier LD. Review of genotoxicity biomonitoring studies of glyphosate-based formulations. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2015; 45(3):209–18.
  25. Elliott DB. Industry-funded research bias and conflicts of interest. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2013; 33(1):1–2.
  26. Hakim D. Monsanto Emails Raise Issue of Influencing Research on Roundup Weed Killer. New York Times. 2017 Aug 1, 2017.
  27. Waldman P, Stecker T, Rosenblatt J. Monsanto Was Its Own Ghostwriter for Some Safety Reviews 9 August 2017. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-09/monsanto-was-its-own-ghostwriter-for-some-safety-reviews (accessed 14 Aug 2017 5.03 PM).
  28. Union of Concerned Scientists. Lawsuit Documents Reveal Monsantoʼs Counterfeit Science Campaign April 2017. http://www.ucsusa.org/publications/got-science/2017/got-science-april-2017 - .WZE8rYpLeRs (accessed 14 Aug 2017 6.02 PM).
  29. McClellan RO. Evaluating the potential carcinogenic hazard of glyphosate. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2016; 46(sup1):1–2.
  30. Oreskes N, Conway EM. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming. http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/: Bloomsbury Press; 2010.
  31. Neslen A. EU report on weedkiller safety copied text from Monsanto study. The Guardian http://wwwtheguardiancom/environment/2017/sep/15/eu-report-on-weedkiller-safety-copied-text-from-monsanto-study 2017 Friday 15 September 2017 00.01 BST.
  32. Rowarth J. The round-up on Roundup Rural News Group, 7 April 2017. http://www.ruralnewsgroup.co.nz/item/11731-the-round-up-on-roundup (accessed 28 Aug 2017 9.58 AM).
  33. Kelland K. The WHO’s cancer agency left in the dark over glyphosate evidence June 14 2017. http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/glyphosate-cancer-data/ (accessed 28 Aug 2017 9.54 AM).
  34. Rowarth J. Regulators heed facts despite public fear of herbicide NBR, July 4, 2017. http://www.nbr.co.nz/opinion/regulators-heed-facts-despite-public-fear-herbicide (accessed 28 Aug 2017 10.02 AM).
  35. Rowarth J. Aiming for better public science understanding. Rural News Group, 20 November 2016. http://www.ruralnewsgroup.co.nz/item/11102-aiming-for-better-public-science-understanding (accessed 28 Aug 2017 9.57 AM).
  36. Rowarth J. Science counters ‘post-truth’ world NBR, 24 July 2017. http://www.nbr.co.nz/opinion/science-counters-post-truth-world (accessed 28 Aug 2017 11.09 AM).

Download

The downloadable PDF version of this article is only available to subscribers.

To view this content please login or subscribe