Glyphosate, which is the most widely used herbicide in the world, is unlikely to cause cancer in people when they eat food with residue on it, a group of an international experts working for the World Health Organization and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization have determined.
Last March, another body within the WHO – the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) – reported that the chemical was “probably carcinogenic in humans”.
Carcinogens are substances that can lead to cancer under certain levels of exposure, but the IARC but did not establish safe exposure levels or the actual risk glyphosate poses to human health.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the Monsanto product Roundup which is a widely used herbicide around the world.
“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,” Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice-president of global regulatory affairs, said in a statement at the time.
Now, after analysing the results of numerous scientific studies, the WHO says the risk of exposure from food is low and it is unlikely to cause cancer.
“We are pleased with the finding which clearly contradicts the earlier surprising and confusing findings of IARC,” Brandon Mitchener, a communications officer at Monsanto, told Al Jazeera.
Explaining the difference in findings, a WHO statement said: “The same chemical can have different effects at different doses, which depends on how much of the chemical a person is exposed to. It can also depend on the route by which the exposure occurs, for example, ingestion, inhalation or injection”.
The WHO says the next step is for government to establish and enforce safe exposure levels and acceptable daily intakes for consumers based on the particular pesitices and the food they are sprayed on.