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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2017 Jun;71(6):613-618. doi: 10.1136/jech-2016-208463. Epub 2017 Mar 20.

Is it time to reassess current safety standards for glyphosate-based herbicides?

Author information

Department of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA.
Department of Developmental and Cell Biology, University of California, Irvine, California, USA.
Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Life Sciences and Medicine, King's College London, London, UK.
University of Newcastle, Newcastle, UK.
Benbrook Consulting Services, Enterprise, Oregon, USA.
TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Paonia, Colorado, USA.
L. Everett & Associates, Santa Barbara, California, USA.
Consumers Union, Yonkers, New York, USA.
Department of Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA.
Child & Family Research Institute, BC Children's Hospital, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri, USA.
Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Missouri, USA.
Environmental Health Sciences, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.


Use of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) increased ∼100-fold from 1974 to 2014. Additional increases are expected due to widespread emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds, increased application of GBHs, and preharvest uses of GBHs as desiccants. Current safety assessments rely heavily on studies conducted over 30 years ago. We have considered information on GBH use, exposures, mechanisms of action, toxicity and epidemiology. Human exposures to glyphosate are rising, and a number of in vitro and in vivo studies challenge the basis for the current safety assessment of glyphosate and GBHs. We conclude that current safety standards for GBHs are outdated and may fail to protect public health or the environment. To improve safety standards, the following are urgently needed: (1) human biomonitoring for glyphosate and its metabolites; (2) prioritisation of glyphosate and GBHs for hazard assessments, including toxicological studies that use state-of-the-art approaches; (3) epidemiological studies, especially of occupationally exposed agricultural workers, pregnant women and their children and (4) evaluations of GBHs in commercially used formulations, recognising that herbicide mixtures likely have effects that are not predicted by studying glyphosate alone.



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Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: LNV has received grants from the National Institutes of Health and funding from the Cornell Douglas foundation. She has been reimbursed for travel expenses by numerous organisations including SweTox, Israel Environment Fund, the Mexican Endocrine Society, Advancing Green Chemistry, ShiftCon, US EPA, CropLife America, BeautyCounter, and many universities, to speak about endocrine disrupting chemicals. She received payment as an expert witness in a case about a commercial plastic with suspected endocrine disrupting properties. MNA receives support from the Sustainable Food Alliance, Breast Cancer UK, The Sheepdrove Trust (UK) and the Safe Food Institute (Australia). CMB is principal of Benbrook Consulting Services, Enterprise, OR. He received support in a grant to Washington State University from the Ceres Trust. BB is a named inventor on several patents related to nuclear receptor function and testing (US 5 861 274; 6 200 802; 6 815 168; 6 274 321; 6 391 847; 6 756 491; 6 809 178; 6 984 773), some of which generate royalty income. He has received grant support from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, American Heart Association, State of California, and the Swedish Environmental Agency FORMAS. He receives occasional research gifts from Advancing Green Chemistry and occasional travel awards from professional societies and non-profit organizations in the US and elsewhere. None of these constitutes an actual, or perceived conflict of interest. LC and TC are employed by TEDX, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Paonia, CO. Contributions by Lynn Carroll and Theo Colborn were supported entirely by grants to TEDX from the Winslow Foundation and the Wallace Genetic Foundation. LGE is principle of L. Everett and Associates, Santa Barbara, CA. MH is employed by the Consumers Union, Yonkers, NY. BPL served as an expert witness in California for the plaintiffs in a public nuisance case of childhood lead poisoning, a Proposition 65 case on behalf of the California Attorney General's Office, a case involving lead-contaminated water in a new housing development in Maryland, and Canadian tribunal on trade dispute about using lead-free galvanised wire in stucco lathing but he received no personal compensation for these services. He is currently representing the government of Peru as an expert witness in a suit involving Doe Run versus Peru, but he is receiving no personal compensation. BPL has served as a paid consultant on a US Environmental Protection Agency research study, NIH research awards and the California Department of Toxic Substance Control. BPL has received federal research awards from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. He is also the recipient of federal research awards from the Canada Institutes of Health Research and Health Canada. FSvS has received grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, National Institute of Mental Health, US Department of Agriculture, US Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Purina-Mills Corporation, Environmental Health Sciences, John Merck Fund, Johnson Family foundation, Mitchell Kapor Foundation, Passport Foundation, Weldon Springs Foundation and W. Alton Jones Foundation; he has received payment for consulting on a number of cases involving bisphenol A and has received cash awards from the Heinz Family Foundation and Jenifer Altman Foundation as well as honoraria to speak at numerous scientific conferences and universities. WVW received support from the Jenifer Altman Foundation. JPM is employed by Environmental Health Sciences, Charlottesville, VA. He received support from the Broad Reach Fund, the Marisla Foundation and the Wallace Genetic Foundation for this work.

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