Reaction to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) announcement that glyphosate be "classified as probably carcinogenic to humans" has been very negative from agriculture organizations.

Both the National Corn Growers Association and CropLife International issued statements criticizing the IARC’s decision.

The National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling issued the following statement in response to the International Agency for Research on Cancer’s recent movement to reclassify glyphosate:

“The movement to reclassify glyphosate as a class 2A probable carcinogen ignores the findings of more than four decades of credible scientific research. In doing so, this decision creates unnecessary fear and confusion over the proven safety record of this important agricultural tool.

“It is irresponsible to reclassify glyphosate in such a capricious manner as this decision both creates panic and has the potential to impact access to one of farmers’ main methods of combatting weeds. While glyphosate is one of the most studied, trusted crop protection products available today, it is under political attack currently, and it is possible this impacted IARC’s decision.

“We urge IARC to release the scientific evidence upon which they claim to have based this decision as well as to reconsider the overwhelming scientific studies supporting the product’s safety.”

IARC, which coordinates and conducts both epidemiological and laboratory research into the causes of human cancer, makes its conclusion on a limited data review during a meeting that lasts only one week. This stands in stark contrast to the regulatory review process for products such as glyphosate which take a comprehensive look at all available data over an extended period of time.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the regulatory body with authority over glyphosate approval in the United States, has extensively reviewed this product and continues to reassess the data on a regular basis. Following this more thorough process, EPA assigns glyphosate to the lowest category E, indicating glyphosate does not pose a cancer risk to humans.

Notably, although IARC is part of the World Health Organization, it appears that the WHO does not always endorse IARC’s decisions. Thus, it would be presumptive to conclude that the WHO would do so in this situation, NCGA noted.

CropLife International President and CEO Howard Minigh issued the following statement:

“The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) conclusions published in the Lancet Oncology contradict the world's most robust regulatory systems—namely the European Union and the United States—where crop protection products have undergone extensive reviews based on multi-year testing and where active ingredients such as glyphosate and malathion been found not to present a carcinogenic risk to humans.

“CropLife International believes that IARC has made its conclusions as a result of an incomplete data review where key evidence has been omitted.

“The IARC results also contradict the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) which is an internationally recognized expert body administered jointly by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and IARC's parent body, the World Health Organization. The JMPR is made up of the world's foremost toxicology specialists and has also approved the safety of these active ingredients.

“The crop protection industry, represented by CropLife, will continue to work with national regulators and international bodies to ensure each and every product goes through a rigorous testing procedure and only enters the market when approved as safe by the regulatory authorities.

“CropLife International believes conclusions about a matter as important as human safety must be based on the highest quality science that adheres to internationally recognized standards. The IARC classification system is not aligned with current international regulations and their recent decisions create needless public concern.”