Key Evidence Withheld as 'Trade Secret' in EU's Controversial Risk Assessment of Glyphosate

EFSA | Corporate Europe Observatory | February 17, 2016

Companies who make the pesticide glyphosate refuse to disclose key scientific evidence about its possible risks in the name of trade secrets protection. CEO appeals to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to disclose all the possible original elements of three key scientific studies it used in assessing glyphosate as “unlikely” to cause cancer to humans. We also call MEPs to reject the Trade Secrets Directive in the April 2016 plenary vote on the final text.

In March 2015 the World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research against Cancer (IARC) found the world's most commonly used herbicide, glyphosate, “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Three months later the EU's official risk assessment of the pesticide, conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Germany's Federal Risk Assessment Institute (BfR), came to the opposite conclusion that glyphosate was “unlikely” to cause cancer to humans.

A war of words started with, notably, EFSA's director calling scientists critical of its work (including some involved in IARC's review) “facebook scientists” for a petition they had sent to the European Commission... And it continues with, lately, directors of the two organisations engaging in a public exchange of letters, copied to more or less everyone politically involved on this file,1 where both defended the integrity of their respective institution's work. Eventually, a meeting between the two, meant to take place this week, was cancelled, as EFSA did not agree to the IARC's director's requests to change a number of its statements about IARC's work on its website.

One reason behind this almighty mess is the extreme public sensitivity of the topic: behind glyphosate lurks the shadow of US multinational Monsanto, currently one of the most hated companies on the planet, which built its economic development around this wide-spectrum herbicide and GM crops engineered to tolerate it. Monsanto coordinated industry producers into a Glyphosate Task Force (GTF) to facilitate the pesticide's review approval...