21 March 2015
probably causes cancer,
according to a new report
from the United Nation's
cancer research organization.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC),
published a report in the journal Lancet Oncology on Friday
with findings on three pesticides, including Monsanto's best-selling
The report found that the herbicide glyphosate - the active chemical
ingredient in Roundup - and two insecticides,
diazinon, were "probably
The conclusion was based on "limited evidence" of
cancer among humans.
With grain prices falling - and farm profits along with them - some
farmers are moving away from genetically modified crops to more
lucrative conventional ones.
US Farmers Turn Away From GMOs as Grain Prices
Researchers also found "convincing evidence" among animals for
classifying the insecticides tetrachlorvinphos and parathion as
The IARC, a branch of the World Health Organization, based in Lyon,
France, says its classifications were made by an expert panel but
are not binding.
"It remains the responsibility of individual
governments and other international organizations to recommend
regulations, legislation or public health intervention," the
Monsanto was quick to point out that this
classification contradicts earlier findings in the US and elsewhere.
"We don't know how IARC could reach a conclusion
that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by
all regulatory agencies around the globe," said Monsanto vice
president for global regulatory affairs Philip Miller in a
Monsanto invented glyphosate in 1974 and, marketed as
Roundup, it became the world's best selling herbicide, representing
about 10% of Monsanto's annual revenue. It's now also produced
On Wednesday, Monsanto announced it would settle seven of those
suits, shelling out $350,000.
Monsanto to Pay $350k in Settlement Over
Roundup's dominance went hand-in-hand with the development of corn
and soybeans genetically modified to resist the herbicide and
Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans now account for a staggering 90%
of the US crop.
"The general population is exposed (to glyphosate)
primarily through residence near sprayed areas, home use and
diet, and the level that has been observed is generally low,"
the IARC statement said.
In 1991, the US Environmental Protection Agency
re-evaluated a previous classification of glyphosate as possibly
cancer causing, and concluded there was "evidence of
non-carcinogenicity" in humans.
Monsanto opposed the classification, saying in a statement that the
IARC failed to produce any new data to support the classification,
ignored studies that found the chemical safe and that the IARC
report fails to establish a causal link between the chemical and an
increased incidence of cancer.
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Butterflies, EPA Suit Claims
"We urge anyone who wants to know more about glyphosate to look
at the conclusions reached by regulatory authorities in
developed countries that rigorously consider all available data,
published and unpublished, in a comprehensive evaluation," the
"The IARC process is not a risk assessment," Prof Alan Boobis,
Professor of Biochemical Pharmacology at Imperial College London
told the UK-based Science Media Centre.
"It determines the potential for a compound to
cause cancer, but not the likelihood. Exposure assessment in
epidemiological studies on the effects of pesticides is
"These conclusions of IARC are important and should be taken
into account when evaluating these pesticides, but that must
also take into account how the pesticides are used in the real
world. In my view this report is not a cause for undue alarm."