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New Publications Confirm the Safety of Glyphosate and Glyphosate-based Roundup Herbicides

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By Aimee Hood Communications Lead,
Regulatory Policy and Scientific Affairs
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One of the great things about science is that it is an ever-evolving story;  a continuous process using a systematic approach that grows on historic knowledge.  That is the philosophy that is followed when it comes to evaluating the safety of our products at Monsanto.

For example, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® brand agricultural herbicides, is continually evaluated by our scientists and tested in our labs for new use patterns, and new formulations are developed. Third-party scientists also evaluate the safety of glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations. It is important to note that if there is a new finding that suggests potential adverse effects, Monsanto is required by law to report it to the appropriate regulatory agencies.  Regulators would act quickly if there were a legitimate concern for public health.

After a product has been studied extensively, sometimes after many years, scientists also write review articles that summarize the current state of research on a particular topic or perform reanalysis of data. Typically review papers discuss research published by others, rather than reporting new data or results.

In the past few years, several articles summarizing research related to glyphosate safety have been written and published in peer-reviewed journals.  These six articles continue to support the 40-year history of safe use of glyphosate-based herbicides. They also add additional weight to one of the most extensive human health, safety and environmental databases ever compiled for a pesticide product.  Summaries of these articles are below:

1. Greim, H., D. Saltmiras, V. Mostert, and C. Strupp (2015). Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate, drawing on tumor incidence data from fourteen chronic/carcinogenicity rodent studies. Rev. Toxicol. http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/10408444.2014.1003423 Summary: A new scientific publication examining 14 separate cancer studies in rats and mice conducted over the last several decades concludes that there is no evidence that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup branded herbicides, causes cancer. The article, in Critical Reviews in Toxicology, evaluated the data from these long-term studies to determine whether there were any patterns to suggest humans exposed to glyphosate would have any concern about developing cancer. Other scientifically relevant information such as expert regulator evaluations, human dietary exposures and epidemiological studies were also discussed. The clear and consistent view across more than 30 years of relevant information continues to support the first expert opinions from the 1980s, that glyphosate does not cause cancer.

2. Sorahan, T. (2015). Multiple Myeloma and Glyphosate Use: A Re-Analysis of US Agricultural Health Study (AHS) Data. J. Environ. Res. Public Health http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25635915 Summary: A new look at data from the US Agricultural Health Study (AHS) clarifies that there is no relationship between glyphosate use and the risk of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer.  The article considered data collected from over 57,000 pesticide applicators to determine whether a relationship exists between multiple myeloma and glyphosate exposure.  These results contradict the outcome of a previous analysis of AHS data that relied on a restricted data set to reach a different conclusion. This reanalysis of the full AHS data set for multiple myeloma is consistent with other epidemiological and laboratory research that demonstrated glyphosate does not cause cancer.

3. Kier, L. D. (2015). Review of Genotoxicity Biomonitoring Studies of Glyphosate-Based Formulations. Rev. Toxicol. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25687244 Summary: Human and environmental genotoxicity biomonitoring studies involving exposure to glyphosate-based formulations (GBFs) were reviewed to complement an earlier review of experimental genotoxicity studies of glyphosate and GBFs (Kier and Kirkland, 2013). The results of the biomonitoring studies do not contradict an earlier conclusion derived from experimental genotoxicity studies that typical GBFs do not appear to present significant genotoxic risk under normal conditions of human or environmental exposures.

4. Kier, LD and DJ. Kirkland (2013). Review of genotoxicity studies of glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations. Rev. Toxicol. 43:283. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23480780 Summary:  An earlier review of the toxicity of glyphosate and the original Roundup -branded formulation (Williams et al., 2000) concluded that neither glyphosate nor the formulation poses a risk for the production of heritable/somatic mutations in humans. The present review of subsequent genotoxicity publications and regulatory studies of glyphosate and glyphosate-based formulations (GBFs) incorporates all of the findings into a weight of evidence for genotoxicity. Glyphosate and typical GBFs do not appear to present significant genotoxic risk under normal conditions of human or environmental exposures.  

5. Mink, P., J. Mandel, B. Sceurman, J. Lundin (2012). Epidemiologic studies of glyphosate and cancer: A review. Toxicol. Pharm. 63:3. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273230012000943 Summary:  A review of 21 epidemiological studies found no causal relationship between exposure to glyphosate and cancer in adults or children.  This observation is consistent with conclusions from regulatory authorities that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a risk to human health based on previous toxicology studies.  

6. Niemann, L., C. Sieke, R. Pfeil, R. Solecki (2015). A critical review of glyphosate findings in human urine samples and comparison with the exposure of operators and consumers. Consum. Protect. Food Safety. http://rd.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00003-014-0927-3   Summary:   The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment reviewed seven existing biomonitoring studies where trace amounts of glyphosate were found in human urine samples. The authors concluded that at the levels of glyphosate found, there is no concern for human health. After oral intake glyphosate is not metabolized significantly by humans and is rapidly excreted in urine. By measuring urine levels it is possible to calculate internal exposure levels.  They concluded that realistic exposures are low and are well below the worst-case assumptions used by regulatory agencies.

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