Renewable Farming

World Health Organization releases full report on glyphosate as “probable human carcinogen”

The World Health Organization’s Agency for Research on Cancer has released its full report in which it classified glyphosate and its weedkiller formulation as a probable human carcinogen.

You can download the entire report at this link as a PDF file. It is 92 pages long and loaded with technical data. So for starters we’d recommend scrolling to page 78-79 for the agency’s summary of its overall evaluation and rationale. 

One conclusion that was not highlighted in press reports is that “There is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of glyphosate.”

That alone is a departure from manufacturer’s claims over the years that glyphosate is as safe as table salt.

In humans, the evidence drawn from multiple lab studies and population studies over many years concluded two pathways to the “probable human carcinogen” designation:

1. “There is strong evidence that glyphosate causes genotoxicity.” (page 77) This means chromosome damage and the inability of cells to reproduce. Similar genotoxic damage emerged for a breakdown product of glyphosate, AMPA. 

2. “Strong evidence exists that glyphosate, AMPA and glyphosate-baed formulations can induce oxidative stress.” (Page 77.) AMPA is aminomethylphosphoric acid, a breakdown product of glyphosate.

The WHO is not a regulatory body. However, several nations have reviewed the studies which back the report. along with their own health data, and they are considering bans or restrictions on glyphosate.

In May, Sri Lanka’s incoming president declared a complete ban on glyphosate following a health study among farmers there. A study showed that 15% of the people of working age in a region of northern Sri Lanka are afflicted with chronic kidney disease. This is a cropping area with extensive glyphosate use.  Here’s a link to the May 25 story in Sustainable Pulse, which has other insights into this issue.