The glyphosate inquiry

LIHUE — For the seventh time in history, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has declared glyphosate unlikely to cause cancer in humans.

The May 1 announcement was included in a proposed interim registration review decision on registering glyphosate. The agency is determining whether the pesticide meets standards for registration in the federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act.

It’s partway through the investigation, and the proposed decision is a way to require new risk-mitigation measures, if the investigation requires.

The EPA said in its interim decision that the chemical, best known as being the active ingredient in RoundUp, is “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans” after conducting an independent evaluation.

RoundUp is used for weed control around homes, on property maintained by County of Kauai, and on many Kauai crops.

Comments will be accepted for 60 days as soon as the official document is published in the Federal Register. EPA has not yet done that, and hasn’t provided an expected publication date.

And, the investigation is just mid-way through. Missing pieces include environmental evaluation and investigation into impacts on endangered species.

EPA also hasn’t completed endocrine screening for glyphosate in humans — meaning the agency still has to do testing to determine the extent to which glyphosate disrupts human hormones.

Lastly, EPA is still deciding whether or not they need to include pollinator data in their decision.

“EPA will determine whether pollinator exposure and effects data are necessary to make a final registration review decision for glyphosate,” the interim review says.

On Kauai, glyphosate has been found in roughly one third of tested beehives, according to a 2018 study, with concentrations as high as 179 parts per billion. There is no tolerance limit for glyphosate in honey in the United States. In the European Union, the tolerance level is 50 parts per billion.

Because of those missing pieces, organizations like the Hawaii-based Center for Food Safety are is questioning the interim decision and the overall investigation.

That organization says EPA’s interim decision was issued too early and the EPA needs to complete its assessment of glyphosate’s potential to disrupt human hormonal systems. The Center for Food Safety also points out the EPA hasn’t assessed the adverse effects of glyphosate formulations — pesticide concoctions that contain other ingredients as well.

“EPA continue(s) to defy the science, and deny glyphosate’s carcinogenic threat,” said Bill Freese, science policy analyst at Center for Food Safety.

And while he and others point out the need to include data from independent scientists and from organizations like the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the EPA says its independent evaluation of glyphosate’s carcinogenic potential is more robust than IARC’s.

IARC classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015.

“IARC’s evaluation only considers data that have been published or accepted for publication in the openly available scientific literature,” EPA’s interim review said. “The Agency’s cancer evaluation for glyphosate is also more transparent.”

EPA maintains their scientists considered more studies in their evaluation and excluded some studies that weren’t appropriate — like studies in non-mammals like worms and fish. The EPA also points out a public-comment and open-meetings process that it says makes its studies more transparent.


Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or

  1. Charlie Chimknee May 3, 2019 4:04 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    Mahalo Jessica for pointing out some very salient points.

    We do know that Insecticides kill Insects dead, that Fungicides kill Fungi dead, that Herbicides kill Herbs and weeds dead, that Rodenticides kill rodent, rats, and mice dead; and that you are not supposed to eat, drink, inhale, or put on your skin any of the above ‘ciders…in fact to do so would be suicide.

    And after all killing is why we use them…!

    Glyphosate, being one of the above, or is it a cocktail of several, it kills dead what it targets…but we know if our government and the FDA tells us so that It doesn’t harm humans (because we must have some kind of special chemical opt out internal mechanism to protect us from poison); and if a former top executive at Monsanto is now an executive at the FDA, WE KNOW WE MUST BELIEVE OUR GOVERNMENT AND ITS AGENCIES…Obediah…!

    Now that we know it is safe, even though cancers are on the rise, we do not need to concern ourselves…(voice in the ceiling) ”into the Valley of Death rode the 600…!” Or is it Fools rush in where Wise Men fear to tread…

    So let your children run loose in the poison aisles at those stores that carry the poisons and Roundup, and just ignore it when they start sneezing…it’s just those pesky chemicals…besides your kids won’t need haircuts later…that will all be taken care of with more chemicals.


  2. curious dog May 3, 2019 10:14 am Reply

    Do NOT trust the EPA. Monsato has a corner on this debacle & will pay anything to keep this product free-flowing.

    What would really be nice is to have Hawai’i legislation that requires EVERY island user to put up signs when they are spraying to notify the general public where they are spraying it. This should be mandatory at all children’s playgrounds & dogparks at the very least. Kids walking home from school barefoot or in slippers could be walking through it on at any given day w/out even knowing.

    The EPA is not about to quash a multi-billion dollar industry & we should at least try to protect ourselves until the evidence is absolutely proven one way or the other.

    1. Pete Antonson May 3, 2019 2:11 pm Reply

      Since you brought it up, why don’t you consider how much of a bribe it would take to risk ruining your professional reputation and future and everything your years of student loan payments brought you, then multiply that by the thousands of scientists that make the scientific consensus favoring Monsanto, then tell us how a moderately sized corporation, that is publicly traded and is now a subsidiary of Bayer maintains a bribery slush fund larger than it’s annual profits and hides it from it’s stockholders and from Bayer. How do they do that? Huh? How? Inquiring minds want to know how that’s done! What’s that? You didn’t think of those kind of things when you were taking your cheap shot? What a surprise!

  3. N. Kama May 3, 2019 5:05 pm Reply

    Auwe! These poisons are harmful to both the aina and people. I agree with the two previous commenters. But what can we do against these billion dollar businesses who seem to have the government in their back pockets? Proud to be Hawaiian, but sad that our island is poisoned.

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