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November 13th, 2017 / The Scientist, US

A new study has found no conclusive link between exposure to glyphosate—the main ingredient in a popular weedkiller—and cancer.

The new study, which was seen by Reuters, draws on long-term data collected through the Agricultural Health Study. This has monitored the health of nearly 90,000 people in Iowa and North Carolina from 1993 to 2010, including farmers licensed to apply pesticides to their crops, and their spouses. The researchers tell Reuters that among more than 54,000 pesticide applications taken into account in the study, 83 percent contained glyphosate. Yet they found no significant increase in cancers among those exposed to the chemical.

The widespread use of glyphosate, which is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, has become increasingly controversial as studies have produced mixed results on the hazards it poses to humans.

For instance, a 2015 study by the European Food Safety Authority concluded that glyphosate was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans.” Yet a review by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer that same year classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” to humans. An investigation by Reuters later found that key information had been omitted from the report that supported the conclusion that the pesticide does not cause cancer in animals.

David Spiegelhalter, a professor at Cambridge University in the U.K. who was not involved in the most recent study, tells Reuters he believes that the analysis has been “large and careful” and shows “no significant relationship between glyphosate use and cancer.” Read more