Glyphosate Facts

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


Does glyphosate pose risks to human health?

Glyphosate is one of the most widely used active ingredients in herbicides designed to prevent unwanted plant growth in cultivated crops. Numerous health assessments conducted by public authorities over the past 40 years have consistently concluded that glyphosate does not pose any unacceptable risk to human health. However, a controversial debate concerning the assessment of glyphosate health risks has emerged, largely as a result of a recent publication entitled “Roundup And Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?” released by the non-governmental organisation Earth Open Source. The report expresses criticisms of a number of toxicological evaluations and risk assessments conducted by official authorities in recent decades. In particular, it refers to some studies that reported developmental toxicity in in vitro tests with isolated chicken and frog embryos and human cell lines.

Glyphosate products are the most widely used herbicides in Europe
(© berggeist007/

Public authorities have found these in vitro studies to be of only very limited use for regulatory decisions, as they do not take into account the realistic exposure conditions that apply to animals and humans, nor the physiological barriers (absorption, metabolism and excretion) that limit exposure. A detailed review of the Earth Open Source study has recently been published.

According to international guidelines, substances must be tested in in vivo feeding experiments with intact animals, which is consistent with real exposure conditions. In vitro studies, in which substances are artificially administered directly to embryos (by mixing them into the culture medium or through injection), do not conform to international guidelines and authorities consider them to be less reliable and less relevant for human risk assessments than studies in intact animals.

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Last update: 19 August 2013