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National authorities see no acute danger from glyphosate

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Pesticide spraying in a field
In recent years, numerous studies have pointed to problematic effects of glyphosate. © iStock_Leonid Eremeychuk

In May 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Chemicals Agency (ECHA) asked four testing authorities from France, Sweden, Hungary and the Netherlands for an updated scientific assessment of the safety of glyphosate. This so-called Assessment Group on Glyphosate (AGG) has now concluded that the product is not carcinogenic and does not harm the human genome. No chronic or acute risk to the consumer from the treatment of crops with glyphosate is apparent.

For the report, the documents of the applicants were taken into account and the literature of the last ten years was searched and evaluated, says the AGG's summary. On their website are presentations of the manufacturers, which they showed at a total of eight meetings with the AGG, as well as short protocols of the meetings. Helmut Burtscher-Schaden, environmental chemist of the Austrian environmental organisation Global 2000, criticised that the manufacturers did not present a single new study on the cancer risk of glyphosate and that the authorities had not demanded this either.

EFSA to draw conclusions from report in mid-2022

The AGG's 11,000-page report will now be reviewed by EFSA and ECHA and is expected to be made publicly available for discussion in September this year. Subsequently, ECHA's Risk Assessment Committee (RAC) is to review the classification of glyphosate and make a decision. After that, EFSA intends to publish its conclusions, probably in the summer of 2022.

The final decision on an authorisation must then be made by the member states in a joint committee by December 2022. "Experts believe it is quite possible that the EU authorities will not express any fundamental reservations about a new five-year licence for glyphosate on the basis of the current study," writes the German newspaper Handelsblatt. However, an EU insider is also quoted saying that he did not believe there was a serious chance for an extension of the glyphosate licence: "The political mood against the agent is too heated for that."

Numerous studies are critical of glyphosate

The clean note of health from the four national authorities is astonishing, as numerous studies in recent years have pointed to problematic effects of glyphosate: For example, US scientists found that certain diseases increased massively in the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of experimental rats that had been fed the glyphosate-containing herbicide Roundup. A study by Italian researchers demonstrated hormonal effects and reproductive disorders in rats at comparatively low levels of glyphosate.

Environmental physicians from the USA showed that the risk of premature birth increased with the level of glyphosate in the urine of pregnant women. Scientists found far more glyphosate than expected in and around Brazilian farmland because the herbicide does not break down as quickly as expected. Only a few days ago, Canadian researchers published a study showing that glyphosate-containing herbicides alter the pollen of roses and thus reduce their fertility.

In a German nationwide study, the Bündnis für eine enkeltaugliche Landwirtschaft (Alliance for an Agriculture Fit for Children) and the Umweltinstitut München (Munich Environmental Institute) found traces of glyphosate throughout Germany and were able to prove that the active ingredient also spreads through the air. Until now, manufacturers and regulatory authorities had vehemently ruled this out and seen no risk in it.

The Alliance for an Agriculture Fit for Children includes numerous organic companies, the citizens' initiative Landwende and the Schweisfurth Foundation. Bio Verlag, the publishing house of, is a supporting member.


Related links:

Glyphosate: EU regulators start reviewing renewal applications, EFSA

Summary of the AGG audit report

Background on the Assessment Group on Glyphosate (AGG)

Test authorities support EU re-authorisation of glyphosate - Bayer welcomes result, environmentalists are appalled, Handelsblatt (Paywall, in German)

US study on laboratory rats

Fertility study

Study by the Alliance for an Agriculture Fit for Grandchildren and the Munich Environment Institute (in German)


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