(CN) – The Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed Tuesday its previous finding that the mostly widely used herbicide in the country does not cause cancer.
Glyphosate, an herbicide and the principle ingredient in Roundup, does not pose a health safety risk if used as directed, the EPA said in its Proposed Interim Registration Review. The finding is the latest step in a procedural review of the chemical.
“The EPA has conducted an independent evaluation of the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate and has determined that glyphosate is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans,” the agency said in its review.
The decision angered environmentalists who point to the World Health Organization’s 2015 analysis, which found that the chemical is a probable carcinogen.
“Health agencies and credible non-industry experts who’ve reviewed this question have all found a link between glyphosate and cancer,” said Jennifer Sass, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “EPA should take the advice of its own science advisors – who have rejected the agency’s no-cancer-risk classification.”
The finding comes about a month after a federal jury awarded a Northern California man approximately $80 million, finding a link between his use of Roundup and his Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Bayer, which acquired Roundup manufacturer Monsanto last year, is appealing the verdict. There are thousands of similar cases pending at the state and federal level throughout the country.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue praised the findings and said glyphosate is an important tool for farmers looking to optimize production.
“If we are going to feed 10 billion people by 2050, we are going to need all the tools at our disposal, which includes the use the glyphosate,” Perdue said on Tuesday.
Public comments poured in during the interim review process, and many focused on the chemical’s potential to cause cancer and also discussed environmental problems such as the decline of pollinators like Monarch butterflies and bees.
The EPA said that although there is a lack of conclusive evidence tying the herbicide to pollinator population declines, it recognizes that widespread use of the herbicide, particularly on an industrial level, presents ecological risks.
The agency said it would help educate farmers about how to use the chemical in a more targeted fashion that could mitigate such risks.
“Today’s proposed action includes new management measures that will help farmers use glyphosate in the most effective and efficient way possible, including pollinator protections,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.
The Center for Biological Diversity claims such measures are minor and were preapproved by the pesticide industry. Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center, said the herbicide is used to kill milkweed, which is vital for the Monarch butterfly population.
“Glyphosate is a leading cause of the decline of the imperiled and iconic monarch butterfly,” Donley said. “The minor, industry-vetted restrictions the EPA has proposed are a far cry from what’s needed to bring these amazing creatures back from the brink.”
Environmental Working Group said studies show that glyphosate has the potential to hurt children.
The advocacy group said it commissioned two separated laboratory studies, which found trace amounts of glyphosate in oat-based foods and cereals popular with children. The organization also pointed out the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry released an analysis last month that lends credence to the connection between glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and recommended limiting exposure to children.
“The EPA’s decision to allow continued glyphosate uses fails to protect children’s health from glyphosate, and puts polluters’ profits first,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday.
The EPA’s review of the chemical is part of a federally mandated process that requires the agency to explore science related to pesticides every 15 years.
The agency will release its final decision later this year.