LONDON, April 21 Politicians who attack the EU agency that ruled the weedkiller glyphosate probably does not cause cancer are in danger of undermining the effectiveness of a body that is key to keeping Europeans safe, its chief warned.
Bernhard Url, executive director of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), said his agency is facing unprecedented criticism after concluding in November 2015 that glyphosate – one of the world’s most widely used pesticides and an ingredient in Monsanto’s big seller Roundup – was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans”.
Attempts to discredit his agency over its assessment were “unacceptable and short-sighted”, he told Reuters in a rare interview, accusing his critics of undermining science to pursue a “political agenda”.
“If political actors discredit scientific organisations because they don’t like the outcome in one out of 100 cases, they diminish the reputation of an organisation that they as policymakers will need to rely on in future,” he said. “From a political perspective it’s very unwise”.
An international dispute over glyphosate’s possible risks to human health has prompted investigations by congressional committees in the United States, and in Europe has forced a delay to a re-licensing decision for Roundup. The EU decision is now due by the end of 2017.
The row erupted after the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a semi-autonomous part of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in March 2015 that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic”.
Many other regulators besides the EFSA have since determined it does not pose a cancer risk, however, including the European Chemical Agency (ECHA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and a joint committee of the WHO and the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Opposition in the European Union has been driven by the European Parliament’s Greens-European Free Alliance and by others, including Greenpeace and a group of scientists led by…