Earlier this spring, when glyphosate was added to the World Health Organization International Agency for Research on Cancer's "probable carcinogens" list, there was concern that the classification was introduced based on a poor scientific foundation.
Now, the National Corn Growers Association and American Soybean Association warn that a second finding by the IARC that has the potential to declare 2,4-D, dicamba or other crop protection tools probable carcinogens could be on its way.
Such a classification could cause alarm among consumers, NCGA President Chip Bowling and ASA Chairman Ray Gaesser said in a joint statement.
"Many consumers have questions and concerns about how food is produced. That's why it is important to us to share information with consumers so they have a better understanding of why and how we use the different seeds and crop protection chemicals," the statement wrote. "We are concerned, however, that a pending announcement from the U.N. World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer will only lead to more confusion and concern about two widely-used herbicides that have been mainstays for farmers for decades."
The statement explained that IARC reviews safety data to determine if some substances could – the groups emphasize that doesn't mean "will" or "likely to" – cause cancer.
IARC, they said, creates confusion and unnecessary fear amongst the public by using "narrowly-focused data removed from real-world situations to find almost everything that it reviews as potentially carcinogenic, including drinking coffee, using aloe vera, or working the late shift."
The groups charge that the findings of the IARC could be widely misunderstood, as they said happened in March when the IARC's decision on glyphosate was publicized.
Following the IARC report, the groups said, activists called for EPA to consider immediately pulling glyphosate from the market, though there was pushback from scientists that supported the product's safety.
According to the groups, IARC plans to release additional reviews of more crop protection products later this month, perhaps including 2,4-D and dicamba.
"These important herbicides – glyphosate, 2,4-D and others under review – have been the subject of hundreds of scientific studies and regulatory reviews," the groups said, noting that "no government in the world considers them carcinogens."
Farmer place a high value on the safety of the products used and the crops grown, Bowling and Gaesser said. "We urge IARC and all those interpreting its findings to take care: When groups with an activist agenda mislead the public on safety issues, they create confusion and panic that minimizes the time and attention that can be devoted to real health and environmental risks."
Learn more about IARC's March glyphosate announcement