Monsanto Co.’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup probably causes cancer, the World Health Organization said in a report that’s at odds with prior findings.
Roundup is the market name for the chemical glyphosate. A report published by the WHO in the journal Lancet Oncology said Friday there is “limited evidence” that the weedkiller can cause non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and lung cancer and “convincing evidence” it can cause cancer in lab animals. The report was posted on the website of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, the Lyon, France-based arm of the WHO.
Monsanto, which invented glyphosate in 1974, made its herbicide the world’s most popular with the mid-1990s introduction of crops such as corn and soybeans that are genetically engineered to survive it. The WHO didn’t examine any new data and its findings are inconsistent with assessments from the U.S., European Union and elsewhere, Monsanto said.
“We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe,” Philip Miller, Monsanto vice president for global regulatory affairs, said in a statement.
“The evidence in humans is from studies of exposures, mostly agricultural, in the USA, Canada, and Sweden published since 2001,” the WHO said in the report. “In addition, there is convincing evidence that glyphosate also can cause cancer in laboratory animals.”
The WHO said exposure by the general population is “generally low.”
There is no link between glyphosate and an increase in cancer when relevant studies are included in scientific reviews, Miller said. Last year, a German government evaluation conducted for the European Union found “the available data do not show carcinogenic or mutagenic properties of glyphosate nor that glyphosate is toxic to fertility, reproduction or embryonal/fetal development in laboratory animals.”
Monsanto’s $15.9 billion of annual sales are closely tied to glyphosate. Most of the company’s crops are designed to be used in tandem with it.
The stock rose 0.3 percent to $115.75 at the close in New York.