11 August 2016
A new report on glyphosate, commissioned by the Environmental Protection
Authority (EPA), says the broad-spectrum herbicide is unlikely to be
carcinogenic and should not be classified as a mutagen or carcinogen under the
Review of the Evidence Relating to Glyphosate and Carcinogenicity has been prepared by former National Poisons Centre Director and
toxicologist Dr Wayne Temple, with input from Poisons Centre colleague Michael
Beasley, and peer reviewed by toxicologists from the Ministry for Primary
It takes into account studies reviewed by the International Agency for
Research on Cancer (IARC) as well as those assessed by the European Food Safety
Authority (EFSA), the US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and the
FAO/WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR).
A lay summary of the report states: “The majority of human studies did
not show an association between exposure to glyphosate and cancer. Although a
small number of studies with a limited number of participants found a weak
association between glyphosate exposure and increased risk of non-Hodgkin
lymphoma (NHL), others did not”.
The studies that found no association between glyphosate exposure and
NHL included the largest and most reliable, which included over 50,000 participants.
The lay summary adds: “Based on the inconsistency in the results of the
studies on glyphosate exposure and NHL, and the lack of any association in the
largest, most robust study, it was concluded that there is no convincing
evidence of an association between glyphosate exposure and the development of
cancer in humans.”
The EPA, which approves and regulates glyphosate for use in New Zealand,
commissioned the report amid ongoing public unease about its impact on people
and the environment.
Ray McMillan, Acting General Manager of the EPA’s Hazardous Substances
and New Organisms team says: “The review confirms the EPA’s long-held findings,
that at the present time glyphosate – with controls – is safe to use.
“As with any chemical, glyphosate remains subject to our approval
process which considers any likely impacts on human health and the environment.
We ensure risks are managed by setting controls which cover how, when and where
it should be used, and by whom.”
Mr McMillan adds: “Glyphosate has been approved for use in New Zealand
since 1976. It is one of around 30 chemicals currently listed on the Chief
Executive-initiated Reassessment Programme. This means we continue to
keep a watching brief on its status, and monitor international scientific
findings or developments. If any new information comes to hand that makes us
think further action is necessary, we can consider a formal review of its use”.
Glyphosate is used in New Zealand in a wide variety of commercial and
domestic settings including orchards, vineyards, pastures, vegetable patches,
roadways, parks and sports fields and gardens. It is sold under a range of
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