Statement on IARC's Carcinogenic Review of Active Ingredients

Today, the Lancet Oncology published the conclusions from a Working Group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) that categorised cancer hazards to humans of three active ingredients – 2,4-D, Lindane and DDT. As the European organization representing the crop protection industry, the European crop protection association (ECPA ) has issued the following statement in response.

ECPA director general Jean Charles Bocquet said: It is important to understand the difference between IARC’s work, i.e. the identification of a potential hazard of a product, and the work of the world’s regulatory bodies. Regulators conduct risk assessments, taking into account hazard and exposure, to ensure that crop protection products are only approved for use when shown to be safe for humans and the environment.

IARC recently clarified this distinction and the Agency published a Question and Answer document on its website in which it states:

“The IARC Monographs Programme evaluates cancer hazards but not the risks associated with exposure.”

IARC uses limited data to identify a potential hazard, not risk, associated with an active ingredient. This is in stark contrast to the world’s most robust regulatory bodies – such as the European Union and the United States – where crop protection products have undergone extensive reviews based on multi-year testing to assess risk and risk management in real world conditions. In the EU this process involves experts from European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), all Member States and the European Commission.

Potential calls for regulatory action based on IARC’s hazard identification are therefore unfounded – risk assessments carried out by the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) and by major regulatory agencies around the world remain valid in the absence of any significant new information.

Our partner organization, CropLife International has requested to meet with WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan and IARC Director Dr. Chris Wild to further discuss these issues and to better understand the process for selecting the products and the literature on which they base their categorisations. It is also important to highlight that the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) is the official regulatory body legally responsible for the classification and labelling of substances in the EU, and not IARC.

Human health and responsible use of crop protection products is and must always be our highest priority. As an industry we take pride in the extreme rigor by which we assess our products, our detailed submissions to regulators and the subsequent confidence this gives to crop protection product users and the public at large – we do not want to see this progress undermined.

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