WHO report links Monsanto's weed killer to cancer

A new World Health Organization report claims that a commonly used weed killer has the potential to cause cancer. The report indicts Roundup, an herbicide widely used by farmers and homeowners.

Monsanto, the company which makes the chemical, has reacted sharply to the report.

The active chemical in Roundup, glyphosate, had sparked debate between environmentalists and the agro-chemicals industry over the safety concerns related to its use.

According to WHO's international agency for research on cancer's new report, glyphosate was ''probably carcinogenic.'' The study, a review of existing research, concluded there was ''limited evidence'' the main chemical in Roundup could cause non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and lung cancer.

The decision has been slammed by Western Plant Health Association, a Sacramento-based nonprofit trade organisation.

CEO Renee Pine said she thought it was either politically-motivated or it was an organisation looking for a headline, CBS Sacramento reported. She recommended against people not using the chemical.

Meanwhile, Monsanto said yesterday that the report, issued on Friday by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), was biased and contradicted regulatory findings that the ingredient, glyphosate, was safe when used as labeled.

According to a working group of the IARC, based in Lyon, France, which reviewed scientific literature, it was classifying glyphosate as "probably carcinogenic to humans."

Philip Miller, Monsanto vice president of global regulatory affairs, said on Tuesday that the company questioned the ''quality of the assessment," Bloomberg reported. WHO had something to explain, he added.

Monsanto officials have called for a meeting with WHO and IARC members, and Miller said the company wanted a retraction.

Miller claimed Monsanto had provided scientific data to the IARC, which showed the safety of glyphosate, but the agency had largely ignored it.

The IARC report should not affect the safety review of glyphosate presently being conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, he added.

The EPA, which is empowered to limit or ban use of glyphosate, said it would look at the WHO report as part of the review process.