ECHA says glyphosate not carcinogenic: conflicts of interest behind the decision?


The European Chemicals Agency’s (ECHA) Committee for Risk Assessment (RAC) has declared today that “the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction”. The Committee also “agrees to maintain the current harmonised classification of glyphosate as a substance causing serious eye damage and being toxic to aquatic life with long-lasting effects”.

The evaluation by the ECHA will be taken into account when the Commission and Member States consider whether to renew a 15-year EU licence for glyphosate as an active substance in pesticides, a decision that will be taken later this year.

The ECHA evaluation comes much sooner than the deadline of 31st December 2017, a deadline set by the European Commission last June, when the authorization to use glyphosate was temporarily extended. Today’s decision, however, is based on studies carried out and published by companies in the chemical sector.

There’s more. A letter addressed to the ECHA and signed by 20 environmental and public health organizations reports that the chairman of the ECHA’s Risk Assessment Committee and two other members appear to have breached the agency’s own conflict of interest rules. For instance, Tim Bowmer, chair of the ECHA committe, worked for two consultancies in the chemical sector for 20 years. His contract with the organizations ended the day before he became chair of ECHA’s Risk Assessment Committee.

As we wait to know the date of the vote by member states in the Permanent Committee, we ask all EU governments to vote against the renewal of the authorization on glyphosate use: we expect you, our representatives, to protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides.


Slow Food supports the European Citizens Initiative #StopGlyphosate, asking the European Commission to ban glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use.

Over 500 thousand people have signed the petition – you can sign it too!

Background notes

In 2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) deemed insufficient the scientific proof by IARC, the World Health Organisation’s cancer research agency, classifying glyphosate as a “probable” cause of cancer. After a heated debate on the safety of this herbicide and multiple attempts to achieve a qualified majority by Member States on its authorization, the European Commission postponed the decision until the ECHA completed its scientific evaluation.

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Slow Food is a global grassroots organization that envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Slow Food involves over a million activists, chefs, experts, youth, farmers, fishers and academics in over 160 countries. Among them, a network of around 100,000 Slow Food members are linked to 1,500 local chapters worldwide, contributing through their membership fee, as well as the events and campaigns they organize. As part of the network, more than 2,400 Terra Madre food communities practice small-scale and sustainable production of quality food around the world.

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