In a statement, ECHA’s committee for risk assessment said that “the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction”.
The scientific body maintained its current classification of glyphosate – as a substance causing serious eye damage and being toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects only.
Advice from ECHA will be crucial when the European Commission and EU member states decide whether to renew the authorisation of glyphosate in herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup before it expires at the end of this year.
The previous round of talks on this issue ended in a stalemate last summer, with France and Malta opposing the re-licensing of the glyphosate, while seven other member states including Germany abstained. Ireland voted in favour.
Conflicting scientific reports have created confusion in the past two years. The European Food Safety Authority concluded that “it is unlikely that this substance is carcinogenic,” while different branches of the World Health Organisation alternatively concluded that it should be “classified as probably carcinogenic to humans”, but was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet”.
In the absence of agreement between member states, the European Commission re-authorised glyphosate for an interim period of 18 months at the end of last June, specifically to allow the ECHA report to inform a longer-term decision this year.