By Jake Spring
BRASILIA (Reuters) – Analysts at Brazil health agency Anvisa have determined that the weed-killer glyphosate does not cause cancer while recommending a series of precautions be adopted in its use, amid growing international pressure to reduce use of the chemical.
The findings come as a legal battle rages in the United States over cancer cases allegedly caused by glyphosate and a new study has linked it to cancer.
Anvisa’s risk analysis team will present its conclusions on Tuesday morning to the agency’s directors, who will vote on whether to advance them to a public consultation phase before they decide on final approval.
Brazil bans any agrichemicals found to cause cancer and the findings would allow sales of glyphosate, the most widely sold herbicide in the country, to continue.
Bayer AG’s Monsanto unit sells the weed-killer under its Roundup brand and historically has been the largest seller of glyphosate-based products in Brazil. The company declines to reveal its market share.
Bayer and Monsanto have faced legal backlash globally over allegations glyphosate causes cancer.
Monsanto was ordered to pay $78 million in damages after a jury in California last year found that its products caused a man’s cancer and the firm failed to warn customers of the dangers of its use.
A similar trial was set to begin this week, also in California.
The companies have said that decades of use and hundreds of studies have found glyphosate to be non-cancerous.
France and Germany are seeking to curtail the use of the chemical.
If Anvisa directors give preliminary approval, the analysts’ findings will advance to a 180-day review period in which the public can submit new evidence to the agency, according to Daniel Coradi, reevaluation coordinator for agrichemicals.
That could include any recent studies on glyphosate that weren’t considered in Anvisa’s technical analysis, he said
In a study published earlier this month in the journal Mutation Research, U.S. academics linked high exposure to glyphosate-based products to non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.
Aside from the issue of whether or not glyphosate causes cancer, Anvisa analysts say health risks remain for those exposed to the chemical when it is being applied to crops and suggested new limits on exposure.
The agency will also recommend banning certain emulsion-in-water glyphosate products, adoption of safer application technologies and better practices to limit exposure.
It also stipulates a safe distance to keep from populated areas when using the chemical.
(Reporting by Jake Spring; additional reporting by Ana Mano; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)