An independent review by some of Europe’s leading cancer researchers is calling into question an initial agreement by the European Union (EU) to issue a positive safety review for glyphosate, the controversial herbicide in Monsanto’s Roundup weed and grass killer. 

Glyphosate’s authorization in the EU will expire at the end of 2022. Based on the findings of officials in the Assessment Group on Glyphosate (AGG), glyphosate may be re-licensed sometime next year, according to a report by EU Observer

The AGG consists of EU member states France, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden. AGG officials based their assessment on 35 studies that were assessed by Bayer, the Germany-based pharmaceutical giant that acquired Monsanto in 2018 for $63 billion. 

But researchers affiliated with Global2000, an independent environmental non-profit based in Austria that also goes by the name Friends of the Earth Austria, claims that 33 out of 35 studies Bayer based its recommendation on were incomplete.

Dr. Helmut Burtscher Schaden, one of the cancer researchers affiliated with Global2000, wrote a 21-page report entitled, “How can EU authorities say that glyphosate is not genotoxic?”

In the report, Dr. Schaden claims that the “EU is … overlooking serious shortcomings in the latest scientific dossier from glyphosate manufacturers, and brushing aside all evidence that glyphosate is genotoxic.” 

Global2000 concluded that out of the 35 studies the AGG considered, courtesy of Bayer, only two were “reliable.” AGG called 15 of the studies “partly reliable” and 18 “not reliable.” 

Researchers with Global2000 accuse Bayer of intentionally omitting the latest published studies using “modern methods” that show glyphosate damages DNA in the liver and other inner organs.

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), under the purview of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. The herbicide remains approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, although after a series of losses in U.S. courts, Bayer announced at the end of July that it will stop selling glyphosate-based herbicides for residential use in 2023.

Juries in those four trials determined that glyphosate was the cause of the plaintiffs’ cancer and that Monsanto deliberately hid the risks of the herbicide. 

In June 2020, Bayer settled close to 100,000 Roundup cancer claims for almost $11 billion. Plaintiffs allege that long-term exposure to the herbicide caused them to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. 

Each of the four plaintiffs who have successfully sued Monsanto have received damage awards of several million dollars, including a California couple, whose $87 million award remains standing, when in November, the California Supreme Court refused Bayer’s request to review the case. 

Prior to a 2019 ruling by the European Court of Justice that declared the practice illegal, EU officials had been able to conceal from the public glyphosate literature studies conducted by Bayer and other manufacturers of glyphosate. Consequently, independent researchers were only recently able to access manufacturer data.