Glyphosate, the chemical used widely in pesticides including Roundup, is ‘unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans‘, according to a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

However, the EFSA has proposed a new safety measure that would tighten the control of glyphosate residues in food.

This conclusion will now be used by the European Commission in deciding whether or not to keep glyphosate on the EU list of approved active substances.

It will also be used by EU Member States to re-assess the safety of pesticide products containing glyphosate that are used in their territories.

A peer review expert group made up of EFSA scientists and representatives from risk assessment bodies in EU Member States has set an acute reference dose (ARfD) for glyphosate of 0.5 mg per kg of body weight.

This is the first time such an exposure threshold has been applied to the substance.

Unlikely to be carcinogenic

The peer review group concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to be genotoxic (i.e. damaging to DNA) or to pose a carcinogenic threat to humans.

Glyphosate is not proposed to be classified as carcinogenic under the EU regulation for classification, labelling and packaging of chemical substances.

In particular, all the Member State experts but one agreed that neither the epidemiological data (i.e. on humans) nor the evidence from animal studies demonstrated causality between exposure to glyphosate and the development of cancer in humans.

As well as introducing the ARfD, the review proposed other toxicological safety thresholds to guide risk assessors: the acceptable operator exposure level (AOEL) was set at 0.1 mg/kg body weight per day and an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for consumers was set in line with the ARfD at 0.5 mg/kg body weight per day.

Jose Tarazona, head of EFSAs Pesticides Unit, said that EFSA will use the new toxicological values during its review of the maximum residue levels for glyphosate in food, which will be carried out in cooperation with Member States in 2016.

The EFSA conclusion will inform the European Commission in deciding whether or not to retain the substance on the EU’s list of approved active substances.

Glyphosate is an active chemical substance widely used in a number of pesticide products and its use in Europe is subject to strict regulation. The EFSA peer review was carried out as part of the legal process required to renew authorisation of its use in Europe.