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EU Watchdog, Scientists Debate over the Safety of Glyphosate

Update Date: Jan 13, 2016 09:30 AM EST

Is glyphosate a safe ingredient to use in common weed killers? It depends on whom you ask.

According to the a November report issued by the European Union Watchdog, the EU Food Safety Authority (EFSA), glyphosate most likely does not lead to cancer. This opinion, which could greatly influence the decision making process for EU policymakers, did not fall in line with the opinion provided by the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which stated in March that glyphosate is "probably carcinogenic to humans."

Other environmental organizations and experts that have echoed their concerns over the use of this ingredient and have been urging lawmakers to place a ban on this chemical want EU officials to ignore the EFSA's report.

"We urge you and the European Commission to disregard the flawed EFSA finding on glyphosate in your formulation of glyphosate health and environmental policy for Europe," an open letter addressed to the European Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis and signed by 96 academics read.

The letter also asked for "a transparent, open and credible review of the scientific literature."

The letter, which was dated Nov. 27, was written by Christopher Portier, who is a part of the Environmental Defense Fund, a non-government organization based in the U.S. The IARC had also contacted Portier as a specialist during its investigation into glyphosate.

In response to the letter, the EFSA Executive Director Bernhard Url acknowledged that the safety of the chemical, which was introduced by the company, Monsanto, during the 1970s, is "a keenly debated issue."

Url added in his letter, which was addressed to Portier and not the IARC, reported by Reuters, "I strongly disagree with your contention that EFSA has not applied open and objective criteria to its assessment."

Url also argued that the EFSA's investigation was more thorough since it looked at glyphosate alone. The IARC's report examined the effects of glyphosate and a bunch of other chemicals together.

Representatives from the EFSA and the IARC are expected to meet and discuss the safety of glyphosate. Sources with the EU stated that a meeting could happen next month in Brussels.

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