Don’t attack science agencies for political gain
Nature | By Bernhard Url
The glyphosate controversy began in earnest two-and-a-half years ago, when EFSA and experts designated by European Union members concluded that the product is unlikely to be carcinogenic. In late 2017, the European Commission renewed a licence allowing the herbicide’s sale. EFSA’s conclusion contradicted that of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which had classified the chemical as “probably carcinogenic” months earlier, bringing its own share of controversy.
That the agencies reached different conclusions is not surprising: each considered different bodies of scientific evidence and methodologies. Other independent assessments — by the European Chemicals Agency and regulatory bodies in the United States, Canada, Japan and Australia — agreed with EFSA. So did an expert body on pesticide residuesconvened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization.
Even so, the divergence between EFSA’s conclusion and the IARC’s has been debated by legislators from Brussels to Berlin and beyond. We have seen scare stories about trace levels of glyphosate residues in German beer or Italian pasta — but these fail to mention that observed amounts of herbicide residues would pose risks only if a person consumed roughly 1,000 litres of beer or their body’s weight in dry pasta in one day.