A UN report now says glyphosate is not carcinogenic after all. A decision will be made this week on whether to extend the approval of the herbicide.
Glyphosate is the most widely sold herbicide in Germany and worldwide Photo: imago/Bildwerk
The controversial crop protection agent glyphosate is probably not carcinogenic, according to UN experts. This is according to a report presented in Geneva on Monday, which was written by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO), among others. A decision on whether to extend the herbicide’s approval is pending at the EU level this week. German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) warned against an escalation of the dispute over this.
"Glyphosate is not likely to pose a cancer risk to humans ingesting it," the report unveiled Monday said. The WHO stressed that the study findings now available do not contradict a report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the WHO, that had said glyphosate was "probably carcinogenic in humans."
The IARC report had examined whether the weedkiller could potentially pose any kind of risk to humans, including at extremely high doses. The report by experts from the WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which has now been prepared, evaluated all available evidence on possible risks that could be associated with dietary intake of limited amounts.
Regulatory authorities in Germany and the EU had also concluded that glyphosate posed no risk to human health. The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) gave the EU Commission the green light for renewed approval.
Millions of jobs in Germany
Representatives of the EU member states are expected to decide in the middle of the week whether to extend approval for the pesticide in Europe. The vote was originally on the agenda in March, but was postponed once again.
Agriculture Minister Schmidt warned against an escalation of the dispute. The CSU politician told the Suddeutsche Zeitung that he was concerned that large-scale demonstrations against the industry could turn into a social conflict. This is a sector of the economy "on which millions of jobs in Germany depend. Agriculture and the environment have equal interests. These must be balanced with each other.
In this context, Schmidt also attacked his cabinet colleague Barbara Hendricks (SPD). He told the newspaper that the Environment Ministry was going too far "with some of its proposals. While the CSU minister wants to extend the approval, the SPD-led ministries are strictly against it. Under such circumstances, Germany must abstain from voting in the EU decision.
Glyphosate, marketed by the U.S. company Monsanto, is the most widely sold herbicide in Germany and worldwide, and is widely used in agriculture as well as in private gardens.