(Adds comments, details on ECHA)
By Jussi Rosendahl and Tuomas Forsell
HELSINKI, March 15 Glyphosate, the key
ingredient in Monsanto Co's Roundup herbicide, should
not be classified as a substance causing cancer, the European
Chemical Agency concluded on Wednesday, potentially paving the
way for its licence renewal in the EU.
A transatlantic row over 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 Monsanto's big-selling Roundup weed
Weighing in on the controversy, the EU body which regulates
chemicals and biocides said it had considered extensive
"This conclusion was based both on the human evidence and
the weight of the evidence of all the animal studies reviewed,"
Tim Bowmer, chairman of ECHA's Committee for Risk Assessment,
said in an online briefing.
The European Commission said it expected to restart talks
with member states on re-approving the use of glyphosate in
herbicides after receiving the formal opinion from ECHA, which
is expected by August.
A decision would be taken within six months after that or by
the end of 2017 at "at the latest", a Commission spokesman said.
Pending the results of the study, the EU granted an 18-month
extension last July of its approval for the weed killer after a
proposal for full licence renewal met opposition from member
states and campaign groups.
Accusing EU nations of hiding behind Brussels and failing to
take an open stance on controversial issues such as glyphosate
and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the Commission also
proposed changes to its decision-making process.
"It's up to the Commission now," said Jack de Bruijn, ECHA's
Director of Risk Management. "We are confident that indeed we
have no issue at all in terms of the transparency and
independence of this opinion."
While the WHO’s cancer agency, the International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC), classifies glyphosate as "probably
carcinogenic", many other government regulators, including the
United States, see the weed killer as unlikely to pose a cancer
risk to humans.
The European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA), which has found
that glyphosate is "unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to
humans", welcomed ECHA's opinion on Wednesday, as did lobby
groups for farmers, who make wide use of products containing
But Greenpeace's Franziska Achterberg said in a statement:
"The data vastly exceeds what's legally necessary for the EU to
ban glyphosate, but ECHA has looked the other way."
According to data published by IARC, glyphosate was
registered in over 130 countries as of 2010 and is one of the
world's most heavily used weed killers.
Analysts have estimated that Monsanto could lose out on up
to $100 million of sales if glyphosate were banned in Europe.
(Additional reporting by Kate Kelland in London and Alissa de
Carbonnel in Brussels; Editing by Tom Heneghan/Ruth Pitchford)