Note: This blog post was originally published on June 6, 2016. It was been updated with new information.
People are passionate about food. We love to eat it, talk about it, and take pictures of it but at the end of the day there’s one basic question we all want to know the answer to: is the food we are eating safe?
Unfortunately, in some instances consumers are being misled to fear some of the foods they’re eating when there is no need for concern. In 2015 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified a commonly used herbicide, glyphosate, as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. This classification garnered a great deal of attention from media and certain activist groups, and has even led to regulatory action in some countries.
But a look beyond the fear-mongering headlines reveals that IARC’s hazard-based approach to reviewing chemicals runs counter to the risk-based evaluations done by the majority of major regulatory bodies in the world. IARC — which is a specialized agency within the World Health Organization and not a regulatory body itself — came to a conclusion that contradicts that of three other bodies within the World Health Organization (WHO) who all agree glyphosate is not likely to cause cancer.
The three leading pesticide regulators in the world – the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – have all thoroughly studied glyphosate and come to the same conclusion: glyphosate will not increase the risk of cancer when used as intended.
In Canada, all registered pesticides must undergo a complete re-evaluation at least every 15 years in order to ensure that they continue to meet the latest human health and environmental standards. Recently, the PMRA released its final re-evaluation decision for glyphosate. Following an exhaustive review of all available scientific data, the PMRA concluded that, when used according to label instructions, glyphosate is not likely to cause a health risk to humans or to the environment.
While activists have tried to paint the story of glyphosate as a danger to consumers, the reality is this: glyphosate is one of the safest and most effective herbicides ever developed. It has been studied and used for more than 40 years. It is a tool that helped revolutionize farming, allowing farmers to control weeds more effectively and grow more on existing land without having to turn new land into agricultural production.
Using fear and misinformation to alarm people about glyphosate does a serious disservice to Canadians who are unnecessarily calling into question the safety of the food they’re eating and being distracted from real issues.
For example, every year more than a million Canadians are affected by preventable food-borne illnesses. The bacteria, viruses and parasites that pose legitimate health concerns for consumers should be the focus of Canadians’ attention when it comes to the food they’re eating.
We’re fortunate here in Canada to have rigorous scientific decision-making processes for evaluating the food we eat and the tools used to produce it. It’s here where we get the real answers to whether or not our food is safe. And with one of the safest food supplies in the world, we as Canadian consumers have something to celebrate.
President, CropLife Canada