25th Feb 2024

Researchers slam EU safety review of glyphosate

  • EU authorisation of glyphosate expires in December 2022 - but is set to be renewed next year (Photo: Global Justice Now)
Listen to article

Researchers have slammed an initial EU agreement on Friday (26 November) which decided that the controversial and widely-used weedkiller glyphosate is safe.

The EU's authorisation of glyphosate expires in December 2022 but is set to be renewed next year, and has now received an initial positive safety review.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

According to an independent review by cancer researchers, the EU decision is based on a faulty analysis performed by the German pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer - one of the biggest producers of glyphosate-based products in the world.

Researchers connected to Global2000, an independent Austrian environmental organisation, found that 33 out of 35 studies Bayer based its recommendation on were incomplete.

Global200 found only two studies were reliable. Another 15 were "partly reliable", and 18 were not reliable.

"None of the most important knowledge gaps were addressed," lead author Siegfried Knasmüller said in a statement.

The manufacturer has omitted well-known studies using modern methods that show glyphosate damages DNA in the liver and other inner organs.

Test systems used in the research Bayer based its conclusions on are more than 30 years old. "The models used in these studies detect only five to six out of 10 carcinogens," according to Knasmüller.

In 2015, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) also concluded there is "strong evidence" exposure to glyphosate can cause DNA damage.

But the officials in the Assessment Group on Glyphosate (AGG) - consisting of EU member states France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden - rejected these studies and concluded that glyphosate is safe and could be re-licensed.

"Now it appears that the EU is repeating the same mistake," Knasmüller said.

In 2019, a US court found that Roundup - a Bayer-produced glyphosate-based herbicide - probably causes cancer and Bayer had acted maliciously in hiding this fact.

€9bn in settlements already

The company has since been targeted by more than 125,000 lawsuits from plaintiffs who claim the use of glyphosate contributed to their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The company has already paid out almost €9bn in settlements last year.

"Worryingly, these industry-sponsored studies are now at the heart of the current EU market approval process of Glyphosate," Angeliki Lyssimachou, a science policy officer at the Brussels based NGO Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said.

EU officials have in the past refused to share details of the manufacturer's literature studies, but a March 2019 ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found this was illegal.

This allowed independent researchers to review the materials for the first time.

In a separate development this week, the incoming German coalition government agreed to cut the use of the weedkiller and remove glyphosate from the market by the end of 2023.

"The writing is on the wall for glyphosate," Global2000 researcher Helmut Burtscher Schaden said in a statement. "Yet here we see EU officials deliberately baking in another relicensing. That is bad."

A final decision on glyphosate will be taken by EU member states next year.


The most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of

Scientists say there is no acceptable dose to avoid brain damage. Its use is banned in several European countries. Yet its residues are found in fruit baskets, on dinner plates, and in human urine samples from all over Europe.

Glyphosate: a step closer to reauthorisation in EU?

The long-running controversy over the herbicide ingredient glyphosate was reignited this week when the EU chemicals agency (ECHA) said classifying it as carcinogenic was "not justified".


After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports

Two years of tragedies, with well over 100,000 Russian war crimes now registered, underscore the urgent need to stop international LNG investments in Russia that continue to fund Vladimir Putin's war chest.


Blackmailing the Global South on EU carbon border tax won't work

According to the European Commission, CBAM is supposed to prevent "carbon leakage". In other words, it seeks to prevent European industries relocating to jurisdictions with less stringent environmental policies, while also incentivising carbon pricing and industrial decarbonisation abroad.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us