Background: On March 20th of 2015, the International Research on Cancer (IARC), affiliated with the World Health Organization (WHO), classified two organophosphate insecticides (malathion and diazinon) and one herbicide (glyphosate) as "probably carcinogenic to humans" (Group 2A). Because these pesticides are currently registered in Egypt, the Senior Management Team (SMT) of the Agricultural Pesticide Committee (APC), Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, was held on the following day of the IARC designation, and assigned the author of this review to make a case study particularly on glyphosate due to its uniqueness and the recent controversial views regarding its human and environmental safety. Even though the IARC classification has no mandatory impact on regulatory agencies, it was decided to conduct a review of the toxicological evidence on glyphosate and its current regulatory status in the International Pesticide Regulatory Agencies/Authorities. This review-based report is intended to help pesticide regulatory agencies in the third world countries through case-modeling.
Methods: Given the very serious implications of the recent and controversial IARC designation of glyphosate as 'probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), the author of this report has invested substantial effort in reviewing voluminous scientific and regulatory publications. In order to reach an appropriate level of objectivity and fairness, the author will shed some lights on critical research/review articles that cover two extremist views regarding the human safety of glyphosate, i.e., one that ultimately questions glyphosate safety and the other that ultimately considers glyphosate safe and poses no carcinogenic, genotoxic or reproductive risks to humans.
Results: This review has clearly indicated that IARC designation of glyphosate is in contradiction with an overwhelming consensus among the World's most robust and stringent pesticide regulatory agencies/authorities as well as many reputable international scientific and research organizations. In particular, all the agencies/authorities that are currently regarded by APC as reference organizations in the committee's registration or re-registration eligibility decisions of agricultural pesticides continually viewed glyphosate as a safe pesticide with no evidence of human carcinogenicity. Furthermore, three other WHO-affiliated programs agree on glyphosate safety-namely the WHO Core Assessment Group, the WHO Guidelines for Drinking-Water Safety and the WHO International Programme on Chemical Safety.
Conclusion: It appears that IARC has overreached in its conclusion by failing to consider the vast body of literature supporting the notion that glyphosate is not a carcinogen. Besides, IARC has failed to place potential hazard into a context of actual risk. When the conditions of glyphosate use in Egypt is rationally analyzed, it appears that exposure of the public to glyphosate is order of magnitudes far below the zero-risk dose. Therefore, glyphosate can be continually used in Egypt with some restriction measures to minimize its risk even further.
Keywords: N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine, glyphosate, carcinogenicity, genetically modified glyphosateresistant
crops, pesticide risk assessment, potential hazard, exposure, actual risk