LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe’s food safety watchdog will release data from some of the scientific studies it reviewed in its assessment of glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s widely used herbicide Roundup and subject of a fierce row over possible cancer risk.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said on Thursday it had decided to release the raw data as part of its “commitment to open risk assessment”.
EFSA had received several requests for data in relation to its glyphosate assessment, including from members of the European parliament.
“Transparency and openness are essential values for EFSA because they strengthen confidence in science,” EFSA said in a statement. “The information will be shared with a group of MEPs following a public access to document request”.
It was not immediately clear when the information will be released.
Glyphosate, which is used in Roundup as well as other companies’ weed-killers, is at the heart of a dispute in Europe and United States about whether its wide-spread use as a weed-killer on crops could heighten cancer risks.
Monsanto has long defended the safety of its herbicide, saying the renewal of glyphosate’s license in Europe was vital to European farmers.
The European Union in July granted a temporary extension of its approval for the weed-killer, pending further scientific study after a proposal for full license renewal met with opposition from member states and campaign groups.
The issue blew up in March 2015 after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), based in Lyon and part of the World Health Organization (WHO), said that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic”.
This finding was at odds with previous risk assessment in Germany and the United States, and was followed seven months later by EFSA’s own assessment of glyphosate as “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans”.
Some campaign groups involved in the row have suggested EFSA was unduly influenced by studies backed by Monsanto, which analysts say could stand to lose out on up to $100 million of sales of its weed killer if it were banned in Europe.
According to data published by IARC, glyphosate is registered in “over 130 countries as of 2010” and is one of the most heavily used weed killers in the world.
EFSA’s executive director Bernhard Url said his agency’s decision to share data that underpin its work “is a key ingredient in making science reproducible and therefore trusted”.
Reporting by Kate Kelland in London and Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels Editing by Alison Williams