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Is It Time to Reassess Current Safety Standards for Glyphosate-Based Herbicides?

ABSTRACT
Use of glyphosate-based herbicides (GBHs) increased ∼100-fold from 1974 to 2014. Additional increases are expected due to widespread emergence of glyphosateresistant weeds, increased application of GBHs, and preharvest uses of GBHs as desiccants. Current safety assessments rely heavily on studies conducted over 30 years ago. We have considered information on GBH use, exposures, mechanisms of action, toxicity and epidemiology. Human exposures to glyphosate are rising, and a number of in vitro and in vivo studies challenge
the basis for the current safety assessment of glyphosate and GBHs. We conclude that current safety standards for GBHs are outdated and may fail to protect public health or the environment. To improve safety standards, the following are urgently needed: (1) human biomonitoring for glyphosate and its metabolites; (2) prioritisation of glyphosate and GBHs for hazard assessments, including toxicological studies that use state-of-the-art approaches; (3) epidemiological studies, especially of occupationally exposed agricultural workers, pregnant women and their children and (4) evaluations of GBHs in commercially used formulations, recognising that herbicide mixtures likely have effects that are not predicted by studying
glyphosate alone.

INTRODUCTION
Glyphosate is an active ingredient in a number of commercially available herbicides, including several that are used in concert with genetically modified crops. The herbicidal action of glyphosate derives from its inhibition of a key plant enzyme, 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase, which is involved in the synthesis of aromatic amino acids. Since this enzyme is not present in vertebrates, it has long been believed that glyphosate would not affect non-target species, including humans. However, multiple lines of evidence suggest that this contention
is inaccurate.

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