Andrew Martin and Lydia Mulvaney, Bloomberg, March 10, 2016
It’s been a tough year for glyphosate, the world’s most popular weedkiller. A year ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an arm of the World Health Organization, declared that glyphosate—the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup products—was probably carcinogenic to humans. In the months since, multiple lawsuits have been filed blaming the chemical for causing cancer and birth defects. In February, testing found traces of glyphosate in German beer and organic panty liners sold in France. Other tests have found chemical residue in British bread, as well as in the urine of people across Europe. In early March, the European Union put off a vote to renew a 15-year license for glyphosate after several member states balked.
Monsanto famously advertised Roundup, which was introduced in 1974, as safer than table salt. In 1996 the company stopped making the table salt claim after complaints from New York state. Glyphosate’s use has grown exponentially since then, and the new cancer finding revived concerns about its potential health effects. In September state officials in California proposed adding the herbicide to a list of known carcinogens.
The FDA said in February that it would begin testing for glyphosate residue in food in the U.S. The results aren’t yet available. The Environmental Protection Agency has been reviewing its use since 2009. The agency, which in 1985 temporarily classified glyphosate as “possibly carcinogenic,” was supposed to wrap up sometime last year; it now says a draft of its decision should be available for public comment sometime this year.
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