EU : The denial of Commissioner Kyriakides about glyphosate

  January 26, 2023

On 9 January, the European Commissioner for Health, Ms Stella Kyriakides, replied to the letter we had sent her, together with 28 associations, calling for an immediate ban on glyphosate in all member countries. According to her, the “regulatory framework in the EU establishes a comprehensive and rigorous process to examine all available information so that decision making is based on robust and reliable science”.

Glyphosate is a molecule that has been marketed since 1974 by Monsanto (acquired by Bayer in 2018). This herbicide active substance used in agricultural, forestry and non-agricultural areas is rapidly becoming the most widely used in the world. Since 2000, when Monsanto’s US patent expired, the use of the glyphosate molecule has steadily increased. Nearly 9 million tonnes of the active substance were sold between 1974 and 2014.

Since its commercialisation, numerous studies have revealed its toxicity, but it was not until 2015 that the United Nations International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen”. This announcement led the European Commission in 2017 to reduce the renewal of its approval to 5 years, i.e. until 15 December 2022, instead of the 10 years initially planned.

However, the provisional authorisation of glyphosate was finally extended for another year, until 15 December 2023, due to the delay in the European Food Safety Agency’s (EFSA) risk assessment. The agency had received a large number of critical comments from civil society and Member States on the preliminary assessment report.

On 30 May 2022, the European Chemicals Agency (EChA), which is responsible for assessing the intrinsic dangers of a substance, validated the renewal of its approval, considering that the controversial herbicide does not present a major health hazard.

It justifies the provisional authorisation by “the amount of information to be assessed [which] is much greater than for other active substances”. However, of this amount of information, studies from industry itself and the Glyphosate Renewal Support Group (GRG) are favoured over academic, public and independent studies on the subject.

In our opinion, the authorisation of glyphosate is due to the numerous ethical shortcomings in the management of conflicts of interest and the selection of relevant studies.

The toxicity of the substance makes its authorisation contrary to Regulation 1107/2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, which aims to ensure a high level of protection for human and animal health and the environment.

Thus, the Commissioner remains in denial of the accumulating evidence on the toxicity of glyphosate, hiding behind the the marketing authorization process, which continues to show its limitations.

This position is still difficult to defend as our database accumulates cases concluding a causal link between plaintiffs’ cancers and their exposure to glyphosate, notably in the Hardeman v Monsanto case.