Glyphosate renewal: ‘no critical areas of concern’, says EFSA

17 July 2023 | Muriel Cozier

The long-awaited European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) peer review of the risk assessment of glyphosate has been released. In its conclusion it ‘did not identify critical areas of concern’, but ‘some data gaps are reported’.

The outcome has been welcomed by the Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG). In a statement the group which represents several leading chemical producers including Bayer Agriculture, and Syngenta Corp, said: ‘These final scientific conclusions are consistent with assessments of leading health regulators around the world, as well as the overwhelming evidence from nearly 50 years of science.’

GRG was active in assisting the EFSA, submitting in excess of 1,500 studies which the GRG said met the criteria set out by the EFSA.

Glyphosate has been a contentious substance, with concerns that it has a negative impact on human health and the environment. During 2022 the European Chemical Agency’s (ECHA) Committee for Risk Assessment agreed that the existing classification for glyphosate: ‘a substance causing serious eye damage and is toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects,’ should be retained. The conclusion was based on ‘a wide-ranging review of scientific evidence’.

Individual members of GRG were contacted, but declined to comment, referring to the GRG statement.

The EFSA’s conclusion has been branded ‘shocking’ by Stop Glyphosate, a coalition of environmental groups and NGOs. Head of Science and Policy at Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN) Angelki Lysimachou said: ‘The positive response of EFSA to proceed despite acknowledged data gaps and shortcomings in glyphosate’s evaluation undermines public trust in European Institutions which have a role in safeguarding the health of citizens and the environment.

‘We are deeply concerned about the whole process so far, in which all actors involved, not just EFSA, but also ECHA, the four rapporteur Member States and their agencies, do not ensure the high levels of protection foreseen by EU law.’ PAN added that it was still evaluating the EFSA conclusions and would produce a more detailed critique of the outcome in due course.

In its statement; the EFSA said that areas where outstanding issues remained included: ‘a lack of information about the toxicity of one of the components present in the glyphosate-based pesticide formulation submitted for evaluation, which is needed to conclude the risk assessment of the formulation for representative uses. For this formulation there were no indications of acute toxicity and genotoxicity.’

The conclusions from the EFSA and the other relevant bodies will be analysed by the European Commission. It will then put forward a renewal report and a draft regulation to the Member States which will propose for or against the renewal of authorisation for glyphosate use in the EU.

However, there is some concern on the side of industry that individual Member States may choose to move against any vote in favour of renewal.

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