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 firstname.lastname@example.org.