Glyphosate Facts

Transparency on safety aspects and use of glyphosate-containing herbicides in Europe

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Do glyphosate residues pose a risk to animal health or consumers?

All risk assessments conducted to-date by national and international regulatory authorities have concluded that glyphosate has limited toxicity for humans, animals and the environment. Although residual traces of glyphosate may sometimes occur in animal feed and in foodstuffs, the levels permitted do not pose a threat to animal or human health. © Fotolia.com / Alex011973
 
To facilitate the assessment of potential risks that can arise through consumption of food containing residues of glyphosate, an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) value has been established for glyphosate and Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) have been established for glyphosate in food and feed commodities. MRLs are legally enforceable maximum levels of pesticide residues, arising from recommended uses, that are permitted in food or feed, whereas an ADI value represents the amount of residue that (if ingested daily over a person’s lifetime) is considered to be without appreciable health risk. The ADI established by the European Commission for glyphosate is 0.3 mg/kg body weight/day.
 
A comparison of the extent of potential consumer exposure to glyphosate residues (assuming that all food consumed contained residues at the maximum permitted levels - a most unlikely occurrence) and the Acceptable Daily Intake value demonstrates that it is unlikely that the ADI could ever be reached. In other words, even if all food contained residues of glyphosate at the maximum permitted amounts (MRLs), this would still only represent a very small percentage of the Acceptable Daily Intake value for humans. A recent assessment report prepared by Germany1 found that exposure of consumers to glyphosate residues is < 2% of the ADI.
 
It must be noted that various toxicokinetic and metabolism studies have demonstrated that residual traces of glyphosate ingested are rapidly eliminated (excreted) from the body primarily unchanged. Although a recent paper2 claimed that there is a link between glyphosate residues present in urine of livestock and conditions such as kidney disease, that paper has been heavily criticised on the basis of flawed design and methodology.
 
Nevertheless, the extremely low levels reported are in the expected range and demonstrate that exposures are far below the levels that produced no effects in animal studies. Therefore these studies do not provide any new data or information relevant to the safety profile of glyphosate.
 
 
1 As rapporteur Member State in the renewal process for glyphosate
2  Krüger M, W Schródi et al, Field investigations of glyphosate in urine of Danish Dairy Cows. J Environ Anal Toxicol 3: 1896. Doi: 10 4172/2161-0525.1000186 and Krüger M, Schledorn, P et al, Detection of Glyphosate Residues in Animals and Humans. J Environ Anal Toxicol 4: 210. doi: 10.4172/2161-0525.1000210.
 
More information:
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR): Frequently Asked Questions about pesticide residues in food

Last update: 14 January 2015