The pesticide industry had advance access to the European Food Safety Authority’s safety assessment of glyphosate, new CEO research shows. Shortly before the agency revealed its 2015 safety assessment for the world’s most widely-used herbicide, industry representatives were asked to file redaction requests and were even able to edit the documents at the very last minute. EFSA argues this is normal practice. EU member states’ pesticide experts will come together on 19 July to discuss the European Commission’s proposal for a 10-year reauthorisation of glyphosate.
Email correspondence between the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and pesticide industry lobbyists obtained through an access to documents request shows that the agency granted industry representatives advance access to its final evaluation of glyphosate in 2015, a practice the agency describes as part of its normal process. Barely two weeks before publication, EFSA asked industry to suggest which parts of the documents should be redacted. While NGOs were denied any advance access in order to “protect the integrity of the decision-making process”, the emails also contain evidence that industry obtained changes in EFSA’s final conclusions and background documents – the exact nature of these changes remains unknown but EFSA says they are normally limited to “factual errors or typos”.
In November 2015, EFSA’s final evaluation of glyphosate concluded the substance was “unlikely” to cause cancer in humans, and raised the acceptable legal exposure levels1 by 66%. Its findings at the time were diametrically opposed to those of the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research Against Cancer, but well-received by industry.
On 30 October 2015, EFSA sent an email to Knoell, a German chemical industry consultancy working for the Glyphosate Task Force, which itself is a Monsanto-led industry coalition of most glyphosate-producing companies. In the message, the agency expressed its wish to “to give you [Knoell] the opportunity to remove confidential data from the EFSA conclusion and background documents”. The email included a link with a password to access EFSA’s internal server, to enable industry lobbyists to view the agency’s final conclusions and use a “redaction software tool that blackens the relevant text and fully removes the underlying information from the document.”