Glyphosate and genotoxicity, the ANSES study ‘declassified’

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A study on the genotoxicity of glyphosate remained in the drawers of the prestigious French agency ANSES for eight years. The work, just published thanks to a legal action by the newspaper Le Monde, reveals a flaw in the authorization system for the most widespread herbicide in the world. (1)

Eight years of silence on glyphosate and genotoxicity

The French Agency for food, environmental and occupational health and safety (ANSES) resisted until the end in disclosing its document on the genotoxicity of glyphosate.

In October 2021having discovered the existence of the study, the newspaper Le Monde had asked to receive it under the law on access to administrative documents. The Agency had refused, claiming that ‘the report had not been formally adopted: as it did not exist, it could not be communicated‘.

Le Monde therefore turned to the administrative court of Melun (Île-de-France) and on the eve of the hearing, set for 26 March 2024, ANSES published the report on its website. (2) The report does not mention the names of the authors, as they are usually only mentioned after the validation of the study.

The position of ANSES

In the note accompanying the publication, ANSES argues that in 2016 the report ‘was not completed due to work initiated in parallel in other scientific and regulatory frameworks. 

The European Commissionin fact, set up a working group of Member State experts to make proposals regarding co-formulants that cannot be used in the composition of plant protection products.  

This work led to providing the basis for the currently applicable Regulation (EU) 2021/383. Furthermore, the European re-evaluation of glyphosate, which led to the re-approval of the active ingredient in 2017, required the examination of the potential for genotoxicity as part of the evaluation of formulated products‘.

Glyphosate genotoxicity, lack of a test

ANSES’ argument is judged ‘completely false’ by the environmental NGO Générations Futures (member of PAN Europe). (3)

In order to safely and reliably assess the genotoxicity of glyphosate formulations, ANSES experts recommended a series of tests, including

– 2 in vitro tests and

– an in vivo ‘comet’ test (on animals), indicated in scientific literature as essential as it examines the genotoxic potential of glyphosate at the level of the entire organism.

The ‘comet’ test however, has not been adopted in EU assessments.

A less demanding EU assessment

According to the European methodology, only 2 in vitro tests are required. The in vivo comet test is therefore never performed.

Glyphosate-based products could therefore be authorised from 2017 without this comet test being carried out, as shown for example by the evaluations of Credit Xtreme and Gallup 360-K products’, the activists claim.‘, say activists.

Suspending glyphosate

Failure to publish the work of ANSES has effectively allowed an incomplete assessment of the genotoxicity of glyphosate products in Europe. Neither the dossiers reviewed in 2017, nor those of 2023 – which authorised the herbicide for another 10 years – ever covered the ‘comet’ test.

Let’s ask to the French Government, the European Commission and EFSA to immediately take into account the main recommendations of this report, in particular in terms of genotoxicity testing, in order to urgently review the new authorization just granted to glyphosate for 10 years and which will, pending the results of these new tests, be suspended‘, thunders François Veillerette, spokesperson for Générations Futures.

Marta Strinati

Cover image from Glyphosate: à taaaaaaable! – Soulcié (France), Télérama.fr
“Europe votes to allow glyphosate” “It is for your own good!”

Footnotes

(1) Stéphane Foucart. A ghostly report on the glyphosate sort of placards de l’Anses, huit ans later. Le Monde. 27.3.24

(2) Read the glyphosate classification propositions for the CIRC Read the glyphosate n° 2015-SA-0093 RAPPORT d’expertise collective Report additionnel: Reply to the next question GECU_glyphosate Report additionnel – v10 https://www.anses.fr/fr/system/files/Expertise-glyphosate-2016-non-finalisee.pdf 

(3) Glyphosate : Révélations sur un report official caché de l’ANSES et qui éclaire le risque génotoxique de cet herbicide. Generations Futures. 27.3.24 https://www.generations-futures.fr/actualites/rapport-anses-genotoxicite-glyphosate/ 

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Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".