Jun. 19, 2015
A coalition of groups are urging the World Health Organization to swiftly set new safety standards for the world’s most widely used herbicide—glyphosate, often sold as “Roundup” – after a WHO cancer-evaluating arm recently classified it as a probable human carcinogen.
In a letter to the WHO, the coalition also raised concerns about conflicts of interest on an expert advisory panel that may review the cancer classification that could cloud its review. Researching public documents, the groups found three of eight panel members with financial and professional ties to the chemical industry, including Monsanto, the largest producer of glyphosate.
As a consequence, the WHO should conduct its own investigation and remove any panelists with conflicts of interest, said the letter signed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the Earth US, Friends of the Earth Europe, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network of North America, Pesticide Action Network UK, Food & Water Watch and Toxic Free North Carolina.
“The WHO is highly respected for protecting public health around the world, and it should move forward immediately to safeguard people from being harmed by glyphosate,” said NRDC Health Program Director Erik Olson. “At the same time, the WHO should make absolutely sure that its expert review panel is free of conflicts of interest so it can make science-based evaluations of herbicide and pesticide residues on food and advise what levels are safe for people to be exposed to.”
Earlier this year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a research arm of the WHO, classified the herbicides and pesticides glyphosate, malathion and diazinon as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” The next step is for that finding to be evaluated by another WHO group, the Joint FAO-WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues.