Daniel Goldstein, M.D.
Senior Science Fellow
Lead, Medical Sciences and Outreach
Like people everywhere, Monsanto employees understand concerns about product safety. Whether it’s toys we buy for our kids, appliances we buy for our homes, or anything else, we expect reliable information about product safety. Unfortunately, misinformation sometimes clouds decision making and can even cause unwarranted confusion and concern.
Enter the latest report from Charles Benbrook and his co-authors, where – again – they significantly misrepresent the safety of glyphosate-based herbicides. Benbrook and his colleagues use fear-mongering to paint an inaccurate story about an agricultural tool with a 40-year history of safe and effective use. The result will no doubt be another wave of unnecessary and unfortunate concern among consumers.
That’s no surprise, considering the affiliations of Benbrook and many of the authors of the paper. Benbrook is a pro-organic consultant with a history of using funds from the organic industry to undermine conventional agriculture. Co-author Michael Hansen is employed by the anti-GM Consumers Union. Michael Antoniou and Robin Mesnage have published with Gilles-Eric Seralini, whose study on GM crops and glyphosate has been retracted. And Bruce Blumberg is on the board of the Factor GMO study that seeks to vindicate Seralini’s retracted findings.
The reality is that glyphosate’s history of safe use is supported by one of the most extensive worldwide human health, crop residue and environmental databases ever compiled on a pesticide product. In evaluations spanning four decades, the overwhelming conclusion of experts worldwide has been that glyphosate, when used according to label directions, does not present an unreasonable risk of adverse effects to humans, wildlife or the environment.
Benbrook and his fellow authors skip over these facts and instead highlight the IARC panel’s Category 2 classification of glyphosate as the crux of their argument. It’s important to note that IARC also classified red meat in the same category (this context is missing from Benbrook’s argument). Furthermore, regulatory agencies have reviewed all the key studies examined by IARC – and many more – and arrived at the overwhelming consensus that glyphosate does not cause cancer.
Most recently, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announced its conclusions that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential.” Also in 2015, the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency concluded that “the overall weight of evidence indicates that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a human cancer risk.”
To be clear: No regulatory agency in the world considers glyphosate to be a carcinogen.
A key part of these rigorous and comprehensive evaluations by regulatory authorities is to set limits to ensure glyphosate and other pesticide levels in our food present no unacceptable level of risk. In the U.S., the EPA sets very conservative acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels at 100 times below levels shown not to have any adverse effect in animal studies.
Using highly conservative estimates, the EPA has determined glyphosate residue levels to be well below the ADI levels. Specifically, in May 2013, the EPA found that all glyphosate exposures through food crops and water sources were no more than 13 percent of the ADI based on a highly conservative assumption that all crops are treated with glyphosate and carry maximum allowable levels.
Lastly, regarding Benbrook’s erroneous claim about endocrine disruption, it is important to understand that it has been long established by experts around the world that glyphosate is not an endocrine disruptor. This fact was confirmed by the EPA just last year.
When you consider all the facts about glyphosate safety and the rigorous regulatory processes currently in place, the additional testing suggested by Benbrook would be a completely unjustifiable drain on government resources.
As a father and a pediatrician, nothing is more important to me than the safety of our products. Furthermore, as a scientist, I feel it is my duty to help correct misinformation and advance scholarly dialogue. Indeed, Benbrook’s latest paper does little to foster genuine science-based dialogue and instead is meant to cause unnecessary confusion and fear.
I invite you to check out the below resources for more information: