Environment minister demands withdrawal of authorisations for glyphosate herbicides containing tallowamine over health risks
The French agency for food, environment and health, ANSES, has published a report stating that glyphosate is a suspected carcinogen and suggesting that it could arguably be placed into Category 2 of the European chemicals classification system, CLP.
ANSES considered that the level of evidence of carcinogenicity in animals and humans is “relatively limited and cannot be used to propose a classification in Category 1A or 1B (respectively, known or presumed to be carcinogenic to humans)”.
However, the classification of glyphosate should be “rapidly reviewed” by the European Chemicals Agency, ECHA, ANSES said.
ANSES is particularly concerned about an additive found in glyphosate preparations, tallowamine. It will conduct an “immediate reassessment of the marketing authorisations for preparations combining glyphosate and tallowamine”.
France’s environment minister Ségolène Royal has already asked ANSES to withdraw the authorisations for glyphosate herbicides containing tallowamine on grounds of health risks.
ANSES will also carry out a risk assessment of the additives found in all pesticides, with glyphosate-based products to be prioritised.
Member states and the European Commission are due to take a decision this year on whether glyphosate should be re-approved in Europe. The European Food Safety Authority, based on an assessment by Germany’s risk assessment authority BfR, decided in November that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. However, BfR’s pesticide committee contains people from the pesticide industry. It is unclear what role they had, if any, in the evaluation.
EFSA’s decision is controversial because the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had previously decided that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen, based on “sufficient” evidence from animal tests. The EU assessment was based only on glyphosate, the so-called active ingredient of glyphosate herbicides like Roundup, while IARC also examined glyphosate-based formulations.
ANSES was asked to review the BfR and IARC findings by the French health and ecology minister. The difference between the BfR and IARC conclusions was partly due to selection criteria for studies used, ANSES said. However, BfR considered secret and unpublished industry studies, whereas IARC’s decision was based on publicly available studies.
Glyphosate is widely used in France by amateur gardeners, as well as in agriculture.