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EPA report concludes glyphosate an unlikely carcinogen

​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 HSNO Act.

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 Industries. 

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 brand names.


What we do: The EPA decides on applications for the release of hazardous substances under the HSNO Act. We assess the benefits, risks and costs of releasing hazardous substances to safeguard people and the environment.

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Related Documents

  • Review of the Evidence Relating to Glyphosate and Carcinogenicity [pdf 120kb]
  • Glyphosate review lay summary [pdf 62 kb]