The debate over a key chemical used in Roundup just got tangled even deeper in the weeds.
A major European regulatory body, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), has concluded that the popular herbicide glyphosate does not demonstrate “carcinogenic or mutagenic properties” and has no toxic effect on fertility or reproduction.
The findings are a stark contrast to a report released in March by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), that deemed the chemical a “probable carcinogen.”
According to a report in Time, the divergent findings come down to different interpretations of the same research. In its assessment, IARC concluded that the risk of cancer was mostly isolated to workers who are exposed to glyphosate at high levels.
"I don't think home use is the issue," said Kate Guyton of IARC at the time. "It's agricultural use that will have the biggest impact. For the moment, it's just something for people to be conscious of."
But EFSA reportedly pointed to holes in some of the individual studies that were a part of IARC’s assessment.
However, this isn’t the first time that regulators have said glyphosate isn’t toxic to humans. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency came to the same conclusion -- but Time reports that its assessment relied heavily on information from glyphosate manufacturers.
Glyphosate is the most popular weed killer in the world and most commonly associated with Roundup, which is made by Monsanto. Many farmers rely heavily on the product, and research has shown that the use of glyphosate has increased by a factor of 250 between 1974 and 2014.
Monsanto applauded the new research and said in a statement it hoped the findings would clear up unwarranted confusion about the chemical.
“These robust and strong assessments by authoritative regulatory bodies are a significant and direct contrast to IARC’s classification,” the company stated.
But others have argued that when it comes to determining whether or not a substance could cause cancer, IARC should have the final say.