GMOs and Cancer – Fact vs. Myth
By Casey Bradley, ASAS Public Policy Committee
Pick your search engine of choice and search “GMO’s and cancer” or “glyphosate and cancer” and depending on what algorithm the site is running, which may be based on your personal history, you can either get articles suggesting a link with cancer or not linked to cancer.
So not only is leading search engines promoting information to our consumers based on advertising dollars, but misinformed writers or writers with a personal mission are misconstruing scientific data to sell the idea that GMO’s via glyphosate is causing cancer.
One of the top anti-agriculture bloggers of our time, “Food Babe”, has several blog postings that attack Monsanto and state that glyphosate residues found in GMO grains is causing cancer. However, there is little evidence supporting this fact in a typical human diet.
Instead of using social media, a scientific based search, even on Google Scholar presents a different story, one that mainstream consumers are not getting.
Mink et al. (2012) conducted a review of epidemiologic studies regarding glyphosate and cancer and the authors stated, “Our review found no consistent pattern of positive associations indicating a causal relationship between total cancer (in adults or children) or any site-specific cancer and exposure to glyphosate.”
But why is there still confusion even within the scientific community? It boils down to what agency and what type of scientific evaluation was conducted to infer the connection of glyphosate and cancer. Portier et al., (2016) discussed this issue in a commentary about the differences between the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The IARC working group concluded from published rodent studies that glyphosate meets the criteria for classification as a probable human carcinogen. However, ESFA concluded that ‘glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential. The IARC reviewers assert that EFSA ignored important laboratory and human mechanistic evidence of genotoxicity. However EFSA responded at length in a serious of letters found here. Furthermore, Williams, et al. (2016), address the matter, stating “Glyphosate has been rigorously and extensively tested for carcinogenicity by administration to mice (five studies) and to rats (nine studies). Most authorities have concluded that the evidence does not indicate a cancer risk to humans.”
One critical point to make within this debate is to separate the use of GMO grains from use of glyphosate when educating or debating GMOs. It is also important to note that glyphosate is one of the least toxic herbicides available. Furthermore, there is little to no strong evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic.
Moving forward, as ASAS members we need to review the facts and promote the facts versus myths to consumers.