The allowable amount of the weedkiller glyphosate may be raised now that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has said that the chemical is unlikely to cause cancer in humans. The agency proposed a higher limit on the allowable daily amount of residue of the popular weed killer in foods.
Glyphosate is in Roundup, a widely used herbicide made by the Monsanto company, and in other weedkillers. Environmental groups have been calling for a ban on glyphosate since March, when the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organization, said that the chemical was "probably carcinogenic to humans." A petition signed by 1.4 million people is calling on the European Union to suspend the approval of glyphosate until further investigation.
The EFSA, which is based in Parma, Italy, advises policymakers in the European Union. Its conclusion could lead the 28-member European Union to renew approval for glyphosate. The EFSA said it carried out a thorough analysis of glyphosate which took into account the findings of the IARC.
"This has been an exhaustive process - a full assessment that has taken into account a wealth of new studies and data," said Jose Tarazona, head of the pesticides division at the EFSA. "Regarding carcinogenicity, it is unlikely that this substance is carcinogenic."
EFSA is proposing a limit of 0.5 milligrams of glyphosate per kilogram of body weight as the maximum safe daily dose over a period of time. It is also proposing the same level as the new acute limit, which would be the amount for a single intake over a short period, for instance in one meal. Previously, the acceptable daily intake of glyphosate was 0.3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day. The EU will decide in the next few months whether to renew the approval for use of glyphosate.
A180-pound person could eat food containing a residue of 40 milligrams of glyphosate per day for the rest of their life, according to EFSA researchers. Monsanto has said that this is the equivalent of eating each day 900 pounds of fruit or vegetables that were treated with glyphosate.
EFSA researchers say that their results differ from those of the IARC's because it evaluated only glyphosate, whereas the IARC assessed groups of related chemicals. The EFSA said the toxic effects seen by IARC could be related to reactions with other chemicals.