Agricultural industry groups have strongly disagreed with the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) recently raising concerns over a common pesticide, dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), by calling it a potential carcinogen.
“No regulatory agency in the world considers 2,4-D to be a carcinogen,” epidemiologist and toxicologist Julie Goodman said in a statement. “This ranking does not mean that 2,4-D causes or is even likely to cause cancer in people.”
Goodman, who is a consultant to the 2,4-D Research Task Force, points out that among the 287 agents that share the “possible carcinogen” ranking with 2,4-D are aloe vera, pickled vegetables and coffee. Only one item is listed on the lowest tier of concern (“probably not carcinogenic”) by IARC.
Meanwhile, both the European Union and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have allowed use of 2,4-D. The EPA also classified the chemical as unlikely to pose a cancer risk. At present 2,4-D is used in over 90 countries with approval from their health and safety regulators.
“From the perspective of the retailers, our concern is making sure consumers don’t get confused by this announcement,” Brian Reuwee, director of communications for the Agricultural Retailers Association, said. “The product is safe and it’s an effective tool for farmers.”
ARA is concerned that being called a possible carcinogen by IARC despite regulators around the world disagreeing with the assessment will lead to panic among farmers or produce consumers that would be entirely unnecessary in light of the proven record of 2,4-D’s safe use.
“Regulatory agencies require these compounds to be tested for carcinogenicity, and their acute, chronic and sub-chronic effects are taken into account,” Janet Collins, senior vice president of science and regulatory affairs for CropLife America, said. “The IARC report contradicts established scientific consensus on this product and reaches inaccurate conclusions based on a flawed process."
2,4-D use remains at least as safe as a morning cup of coffee by IARC standards, which is part of why Collins thinks the sense of alarm over 2,4-D is overblown.